The Bruins have tasted defeat in their last two appearances.  They dropped a 5-3 decision to the Capitals, a game in which the otherworldly play of Bruins goalie Tim Thomas got downright mortal until he was pulled in favor of tonight’s expected starter, Tuukka Rask.  In their most recent game the Bruins fell in a shootout, 2-1.

The Penguins (7-7-1 SU, -4.1 units) find themselves with a middling record, in the middle of their divisional standings and in the middle of a goaltending controversy.  If journeyman goaltender Brent Johnson’s name says stage actor then Stanley Cup winner and starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury’s name screams superstar.  And that’s pretty much the way it was supposed to go this year until Fleury forgot his lines and Johnson suddenly began quoting Shakespeare.   Johnson has been outstanding, sporting a 6-1-1 record with a nifty 1.62 goals against average while Fleury has been slumping with a 1-6 record and a 3.54 GAA. 

Injuries plague B’s superstars

Bruins center Marc Savard is still reeling from the devastating blow leveled by Penguins left winger Matt Cooke last season.  Savard was carried off the ice and has been dealing with the effects of a severe concussion ever since.  David Krejci was promoted to the top line and has performed admirably until he sustained his own head injury last Saturday night in St. Louis.  He will be on the shelf tonight and replaced by another talented player, Patrice Bergeron, who missed almost the entire 2007-2008 campaign with a serious concussion of his own.  JOFA, CCM, Bauer and any other company that manufactures hockey helmets, are you listening?

Pen’s Crosby leads the way

Penguins’ Sidney Crosby is the feature attraction for the Penguins with 9 goals and 10 assists already on the young season.  His 19 points trails only Washington’s Alex Ovechkin for the top spot in the NHL.  The Penguins as a team have been among the best in terms of scoring goals but their defense has suffered lapses which have led to losses this year.  They will need Crosby and his crew to come fully armed tonight as the Bruins defense has been stingy all year and their goaltending tandem of Thomas and Rask are among the league’s best.  It’s not often when a team has back to back Vezina Trophy winners minding the nets.

Road Warriors

Ironically, both the Bruins and Penguins have played better on the road than in front of their home crowd.  Boston is taking to the highway the way a group of frat brothers take to an open bar.  They are 5-1-0 on the road while Pittsburgh also enjoys touring the country with a 5-3-1 mark.  However, at home, both teams get a bit too relaxed and Pittsburgh is actually a sub .500 club with a 2-4-0 record at the Mellon Arena.

Who’s got the edge and what are the NHL Betting Odds?

While Boston has the sturdier defense there isn’t a player on the ice who is more talented than Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby.  But even Crosby will need assistance as Boston’s blueliners do not allow teams to pressure in their own zone.  It must also be noted that Boston has 2 aces in net while Pittsburgh has only one that is currently playing like a starter, although time will tell if Brent Johnson will return to form and Fleury will eventually win back the starting assignment.  For this game however, Rask will be between the pipes for Boston and looked sharp in a losing effort last time out.  Johnson will get the nod for Pittsburgh and look to continue his winning ways. 

That being said, I find it difficult to lean one side or another.  Pittsburgh is getting the edge as the home team tonight as virtually all the sportsbooks are installing the Pens as -125 favorites.  I will predict that outstanding goaltending will rule the night and play Under 5 ½.