On Nov. 10 in this space, we told you that the Vegas Golden Knights were -550 favorites for their home game that night against the putrid San Jose Sharks. It was the biggest money line spread of this hockey season and the biggest in Golden Knights history. We have another -550 line on Thursday night as the Sharks visit Boston, and it's the largest number in Bruins history as well.
What's really curious here is that both times this number was against San Jose, it entered on a two-game winning streak – and the Sharks only have five wins all season. They upset Vancouver 4-3 last Saturday and then Washington 2-1 on Monday. San Jose (which lost 5-0 in Vegas on Nov. 10) still has the fewest points in the league with 12 and the worst goal differential at minus-54. When the Sharks lose, it's usually by multiple goals. They are not just 0-9 on the road but also 0-9 on the puckline – the only team without at least two road covers.
Several key San Jose players remain on injured reserve, led by Logan Couture. The team's leading scorer is center Tomas Hertl with 16 points – the only player on the team in double digits – and he's questionable tonight after missing Monday's game against the Capitals because of a mid-body injury. Luke Kunin notched his first game-winning goal as a Shark and matched his goal total from 2022-23 (five) in that one. Mikael Granlund has six points (1G, 5A) in his last seven games.
Mackenzie Blackwood starts in net, and he's 3-9-2 with a 3.60 goals-against average and .902 save percentage. He's 0-6 on the road. Before this season, Blackwood was with New Jersey so he has faced Boston plenty of times, going 6-5-2 with a 2.55 GAA and .925 SV. Pretty good numbers, but he also had a lot more talent around him on those Devils teams, especially on defense.
Boston had been leading the league in points for most of the season but has fallen to third with 31 on a season-high three-game losing streak. It's the first three-game skid for the Atlantic Division leader since April 2022. On Wednesday, the team held its first full practice since Nov. 19 because the schedule and travel made it difficult to have many on-ice sessions. Coach Jim Montgomery switched up his forward lines in practice.
The B's have the best goaltending duo in the NHL in reigning Vezina Trophy winner Linus Ullmark and Jonathan Swayman, but both are in a bit of a funk. It's Swayman in net Thursday. He allowed two goals on 19 shots before being pulled early in the second period during Monday's 5-2 loss in Columbus. Swayman has been the better of the two thus far at 7-1-2 with a 2.38 GAA and .925 SV.
We might see a bit of history on Thursday as Bruins star forward David Pastrnak is one goal shy of 50 in the 2023 calendar year – he has played 67 games overall. No other player has hit 50 goals in 2023 yet, mainly because Edmonton's Connor McDavid isn't having one of his typical seasons thus far. McDavid beat out Pastrnak for last season's goal-scoring title and the Hart Trophy. Pastrnak, who is a -150 favorite for an anytime goal tonight, would become the third player in Bruins history to record 50 goals in consecutive calendar years. The others: Phil Esposito (1970-1974) and Cam Neely (1989-1990).
The most the Bruins had been favored previously was -500 at home vs. Detroit on Feb. 15, 2020, and they won 4-1. Last March, the B's were -450 in Chicago and lost. That's their only defeat in the past 10 times they were at least -400.
Boston goes for the season sweep as it won 3-1 in San Jose on Oct. 19. Pastrnak had one of the goals and Ullmark made 26 saves. Kaapo Kahkonen was in net for the Sharks, who have lost 12 straight against Boston for their longest losing streak ever against an opponent.
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