The Boston Bruins host the Seattle Kraken for the first time this season on Thursday night.
So much has changed in the 11 months since the teams first played last February.
Boston has vaulted to the top of the NHL standings, using an active 11-0-3 run to pad its first-place lead.
The Bruins have been idle since Sunday when they concluded a three-game California sweep with a resounding 7-1 win at Anaheim in which David Pastrnak logged his 13th career hat trick and added an assist.
“Through the grind of the season, what I’m amazed at is their consistency in how hard we’ve been to play against,” coach Jim Montgomery said of his Bruins. “I don’t think we’ve been that dynamic offensively in the last 15 games, but how hard we’ve (worked) has been consistent throughout.”
Meanwhile, Seattle has climbed from 30th in the NHL in its inaugural year to currently holding a Pacific Division playoff spot in the midst of its second six-game win streak of the season.
The Kraken are playing the sixth of seven games on the longest road trip in team history, having remained perfect in 2023 with Tuesday’s 4-3 win in Buffalo.
Pastrnak is the NHL’s reigning First Star of the Week. Since a scoreless Winter Classic on Jan. 2, he has rattled off three straight multi-goal games for the first time in his career.
Pastrnak joined Connor McDavid and Tage Thompson as the only 30-goal scorers in the NHL this season. He is the first Bruin to reach that mark within his first 40 games of a season since current team president Cam Neely in 1993-94.
However, Boston’s play has hardly been a one-man effort.
“The whole team is playing unbelievable,” Pastrnak said. “Every line is rolling. We have two great goaltenders (Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman) who have our back every time we break. Every line is doing great and playing for each other, so that’s big.”
Joona Koppanen is slated for his NHL debut as the Bruins’ fourth-line center. Tomas Nosek will play wing as he is unable to take faceoffs due to an injury.
“He’s had a really good year in Providence and we really liked his last exhibition game,” Montgomery said of the 24-year-old Koppanen.
Seattle has outscored opponents 26-10 during its five-game trip, only the last of which was decided by one goal.
Tuesday was not a pretty game, but coach Dave Hakstol’s team’s winning ways continued.
“We just keep working, that’s all,” Hakstol said. “We are not quite halfway through the year. These guys work hard together. They care about having success together. … But that’s a great win for our group to stick together and find a way to get it done.”
Seattle, which has not lost since Dec. 30 against Edmonton, has scored power-play goals in five of its last six games.
“There’s nights where we were getting outworked on both power play and penalty kill, and that was losing us games,” forward Jordan Eberle said. “I think that’s been a big piece of why we’re starting to win again.”
Massachusetts native Matty Beniers scored for a Kraken-record fifth consecutive game and added an assist against the Sabres.
Beniers has nine points (five goals, four assists) during the streak. As of Wednesday, he led NHL rookies in goals by five (16) and points by eight (34).
“He’s got some dynamic ability in open ice and finding plays, but he’s also got that moxie and grit to go to some of those hard areas,” Hakstol said.
The Bruins earned two 3-2 wins in the teams’ 2021-22 season series, including the second in overtime.
–Field Level Media