January 30 saw a clash between two of the biggest playoff contenders from the Western Conference and the Eastern Conference, with the Winnipeg Jets meeting the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.
After a thrilling 60 minutes of everything that hockey fans could hope for, the game went through overtime and to the shootout, resulting in a Jets win to maintain their season record of not losing more than two games in a row. For the Bruins, they looked strong on their return from a ten-day break but ultimately came up short.
The first period of the game saw the Bruins dominate the play in front of their home crowd, with the first goal coming near the halfway mark, with Brad Marchand retrieving Patrice Bergeron’s saved shot to give it back to the star center for him to shoot and score. Four minutes later, Winnipeg’s powerplay quickly turned into a goal, with Josh Morrissey firing a slap shot from the blueline past Jaroslav Halak. With less than 90 seconds to left on the clock and only 28 seconds left on a shot-heavy, frustrating powerplay, Marchand found David Pastrnak who fired the puck past Connor Hellebuyck.
The second period saw the Bruins dominate the majority of the play, easing back into their preferred style of play while the Jets appeared somewhat disjointed. So, to spark their team into action, Adam Lowry dropped the gloves to take on Kevan Miller, who had just laid a hit on Brandon Tanev. Little over a minute later, Tanev fought Trent Frederic on his NHL debut, getting pummelled by the Boston rookie.
The third period saw an invigorated Jets team skate out onto the ice. They looked to utilize their speed and physicality to put the Bruins on the back foot. At 4:27 of the third period, Tyler Myers placed a superb tape-to-tape pass from his defensive blueline to release Kyle Connor, who found himself one-on-one to net the equalizer. Only 34 seconds later, Connor scored again. Mark Scheifele’s battling in the corner sent the puck around the boards to Blake Wheeler who cut a pass across the slot and back to the center down the left, who then found Connor just in front of goal to tap the puck past Halak. The Bruins answered back midway through the third, with Pastrnak punching through to the offensive end, finding Marchand, who then squared the puck to Bergeron for his second of the game.
Overtime passed with Hellebuyck adding to his impressive save count, stopping 36 of the 39 sent his way for a .923 save percentage. In the shootout, the Jets goaltender continued his strong play, stopping all three of Boston’s attempts, with Connor scoring to give the away team the victory.
Post-game reaction and odds movement
After the game, Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy saw much of the overtime loss coming from his team beating itself, with some of the goals being self-inflicted. For both of Connor’s goals, the two defensemen were well behind the play, with the defenseman on either of Halak’s posts being the only Bs in the vicinity for the 21-goal scorer’s second strike.
It was also noted that the goaltender Halak faded as the game progressed while his opposite number, Hellebuyck, managed to remain consistently strong. Luckily for the Bruins, Tuukka Rask is expected to return from his concussion soon. The Bruins did, however, appear to find a solution to their third line center hole with rookie Trent Frederic, who enjoyed a debut of two hits, two shots, and a fight. The Jets continued to collect wins without menacing defenseman Dustin Byfuglien and speedy sniper Nikolaj Ehlers.
The win put the Winnipeg Jets to the top of the Central Division and second in the Western Conference, placing them second only to the Calgary Flames in the odds to win the conference in the playoffs at +425. Being five points behind on the Flames but with a game in hand, winning the extra game might shorten those odds.
Boston sits in the top wild card place but only one point behind third in the Atlantic, the Montreal Canadiens, with a game in hand. If the Tampa Bay Lightning manages to maintain its incredible season, their +400 odds will only shorten to win the conference including the playoffs, which will keep the Bruins at their current odds of around +650. But, if the Bruins slip back into the Atlantic places, those odds will likely shorten.
Both the Jets and Bruins are poised to make it to the playoffs, with their matchup on January 30 improving Winnipeg’s hopes of winning the Western Conference while holding Boston out of a divisional spot.