As the NHL regular season winds down, many teams are trying to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If a team has already clinched a playoff spot, chances are that they’re competing for home-ice advantage in the first round of the postseason.
The Boston Bruins however, have done both of these, claiming a spot in the playoffs and clinching home-ice advantage. In his 79th game of the season, Bruins winger Brad Marchand scored his 100th point. The 2018-19 season has been a career year for the Bruins star, recording 36 goals and 64 assists for a total of 100 at the conclusion of the regular season.
Marchand became the first Boston Bruin since Joe Thornton during the 2002-03 season to record 100 NHL points. Thornton ended that season with 101 points and nearly identical stats to Marchand, recording 36 goals and 65 assists. Marchand also became just the tenth player in Boston Bruins history to have 100 or more points in a single season. These players include Bobby Orr, Johnny Bucyk, Phil Esposito, Adam Oates, Rick Middleton, Ken Hodge, Barry Pederson, Joe Juneau, Joe Thornton, and the “Rat” himself, Brad Marchand.
Marchand has set a career-high in assists with 64, but is still three goals shy of his career-best 39 goals, currently at 36. Only four other players in the NHL have reached 100 points with Marchand this season. Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning sits atop the list, boasting an impossible 128 points. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers sit in the second and fourth spots in the league, putting up 116 and 105 points, respectively. Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks has tallied 110 points throughout the 2018-19 NHL season, giving him the third overall spot on the points list. Marchand will most likely finish fifth on this list. Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins also ended his season with exactly 100 points.
Other elite players that weren’t far from reaching 100 points on the season were Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames with 99 points, Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche with 99 as well, and Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning with 98 points.
So, with all of these offensive superstars, how will the Stanley Cup Playoffs be effected? The Boston Bruins will see familiar faces in a first round matchup against their Atlantic Division rival, the Toronto Maple Leafs, for the second consecutive year. After hitting the 100 point mark, Brad Marchand has unintentionally put a spotlight on himself. With a battle against Toronto guaranteed in the first round, Boston has to anticipate stiff competition from Toronto head coach Mike Babcock.
Chances are this includes key player matchups in an attempt to shut down the red-hot combination of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak. Babcock’s plan cannot be taken lightly either, after trading to acquire top four defenseman Jake Muzzin from the Los Angeles Kings. This gave Toronto a lockdown defensive core including Morgan Reilly, Jake Gardiner, Ron Hainsey, and Jake Muzzin.
Jake Muzzin Image Via ASSOCIATED PRESS/si.com
Mike Babcock is a very intelligent hockey coach, and it’s almost certain he has devised a strategy to keep Boston’s offense at bay. This will give Toronto’s talented offense more chances on the breakout. Bruce Cassidy however, is known as one of the most assertive coaches in the NHL, juggling lines and defensive pairs on almost a nightly basis. So, with Marchand and his top-tier line mates as the primary target for Toronto’s defense, Cassidy will most likely depend on players like Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci for secondary scoring chances.
This is probably the only major aspect of the game that the Boston Bruins have to worry about in this first round face-off. Most NHL analysts and hockey gurus give Boston the advantage in defense, goaltending, and special teams. Toronto is given the favor offensively. Bruins backup goaltender Jaroslav Halak also finished the regular season with a higher save percentage than Maple Leafs starter Frederik Andersen.