Fight involving Bruins’ Chara plays out exactly as one might expect

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Ever try to punch a giraffe in the face? Me neither, but New York Islanders forward Matt Martin has a story to tell.

Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara is a man few want to fight. He towers over everyone in the NHL and his reach is close enough to double that of his nearest opponent that the best you can often hope for is a good shadow boxing practice because the odds of connecting are so terribly low.

Martin got exactly that when he and Chara dropped the glove just four seconds into the second period off the opening faceoff.

The two exchanged rights before Chara threw a nasty, downward-directed bomb that caught Martin flush, knocking him to the ground. To Martin’s credit, he bounced back up and tried in vain to hit Chara. He had no such luck.

Chara ended the scrap by basically stiff-arming Martin to the ground followed by the congratulatory pat on the back from the 6-foot-9 man.

It’s respectable that Martin wanted to try and give his team a boost, although they were only down 1-0 at that point of the game. Ambitious, but respectable.

Chara, meanwhile, just turned 42 on Monday.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

WATCH LIVE: Bruins visit Penguins on NBCSN

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Sunday night’s matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Bruins have won 15 of their last 17 games, including each of their last six. They have earned a point in an incredible 19 straight games (15-0-4), the second-longest streak in team history (23 straight games in 1940-41). Their last regulation loss came on January 19 against the New York Rangers. It is the second straight season in which the Bruins had a point streak of 18-plus games, going 18 games without a regulation loss from December-January last season. The Bruins now have the second-best record in the NHL behind Tampa Bay.

After the Bruins’ last regulation loss on January 19, they sat in third place in the Atlantic Division, one point behind second-place Toronto and just one point above the second Wild Card in the East, which was held by the Penguins at the time. They currently sit in second place in the Atlantic, four points above third-place Toronto and 14 points above the second Wild Card.

The Penguins are coming off an important home-and-home against Columbus, which they split. After winning 3-0 in Pittsburgh on Thursday, the Pens lost 4-1 at Columbus on Saturday. With the Hurricanes winning on Saturday, Pittsburgh now sits in the first Wild Card in the East.

Despite losing against Columbus on Saturday, the Penguins have won three of their last four, and have earned points in 10 of their last 13 games (8-3-2). This is coming off the back of a run from January-February in which Pittsburgh lost eight of 11 games.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Boston Bruins at Pittsburgh Penguins
Where: PPG Paints Arena
When: Sunday, March 10, 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Bruins-Penguins stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BRUINS
Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronDanton Heinen
Peter CehlarikDavid Krejci – Lee Stempniak
Sean KuralyCharlie CoyleDavid Backes
Joakim NordstromNoel AcciariChris Wagner

Zdeno CharaCharlie McAvoy
Torey KrugBrandon Carlo
John MooreMatt Grzelcyk

Starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak

PENGUINS
Jake GuentzelSidney CrosbyDominik Simon
Zach Aston-ReeseEvgeni MalkinPhil Kessel
Jared McCannNick BjugstadPatric Hornqvist
Teddy BluegerMatt CullenGarrett Wilson

Brian Dumoulin – Zach Trotman
Jack JohnsonJustin Schultz
Marcus PetterssonErik Gudbranson

Starting goalie: Matt Murray

Mike Tirico (play-by-play), Eddie Olczyk (analyst) and Emmy Award-winner Pierre McGuire (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa. Pre-game coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside Keith Jones and Patrick Sharp.

NHL on NBCSN: Bruins looking to push point streak to 20 vs. Penguins

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Sunday night’s matchup between the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Boston Bruins are on an incredible run at the moment.

Fifteen wins in their past 17 games, including a six-game winning streak, and they’ve earned at least a point in 19 straight with a 15-0-4 record. They haven’t lost a game in regulation in nearly two months (Jan. 19), and the whole thing isn’t even all that new to Boston, who went 18 games last year without a loss in regulation. While no one is catching the Tampa Bay Lightning for the Presidents’ Trophy, the Bruins’ 93 points are good for second place in the NHL.

Boston is chasing history, with the 1940-41 Bruins’ 23 straight games with a point in the crosshairs.

Star Sunday will feature Brad Marchand for the Bruins, who is on pace for a career-year. He has already amassed 81 points (28 goals, 53 assists) and is four points shy of the career-best mark he’s set in each of the past two seasons. Marchand is on a heater at the moment, too, with four goals and six assists in a six-game point streak. He’s been a force during Boston’s 19-game point streak with 28 points during that time.

Boston beat Ottawa 3-2 on Saturday.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

Pittsburgh, too, played Saturday and enters Sunday’s game licking its wounds after a 4-1 defeat to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

A win Sunday would put the Penguins into third place in the Metropolitan Division, usurping the Carolina Hurricanes and, more importantly, creating some space from the two wild-card spots in the East.

The Pens will have some recent history on their side heading into this one having not lost to the Bruins at PPG Paints Arena since 2015. They scored at least four goals in each of those wins. Pittsburgh has won three of their past four games and has points in 10 of their past 13.

Evgeni Malkin will be featured on Star Sunday for the Penguins. He enters the game two points shy of the 1,000-point club and would become the 88th player — and just fifth active — to achieve the feat.

“I try to do my best,” Malkin said earlier this season. “Of course, I have great motivation. I look at my 1,000 points. Huge point, in my opinion. I want to finish this year. We want to play in the playoffs. We want to be a great team. We want the Cup back.”

Malkin has 28 points in 23 games since the beginning of 2019.

Mike Tirico (play-by-play), Ed Olczyk (analyst) and Emmy Award-winner Pierre McGuire (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa. Pre-game coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside Kevin Jones and Patrick Sharp.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Inside the Bruins’ 18-game point streak

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The Boston Bruins train kept rolling on Thursday night, even in the face of what appeared to be sure defeat. Boston trailed Florida 3-2 with under a minute to play, when Matt Grzelcyk tied the game with a power play goal from the point. Moments later, Patrice Bergeron scored with 6.7 ticks left on the clock. Two goals. Thirty seconds. Points in 18 straight games.

It’s so nice to see a Boston sports team doing so well.

The Bruins have not lost a game in regulation since January 19, a 3-2 defeat to the Rangers at TD Garden. Since then, they’ve been the hottest team in the league at 14-0-4, but remarkably have only made up two points on NHL-leading Tampa Bay, since the Lightning has gone 14-3-2 during the same span. Still, no team is playing with more confidence than Boston heading into the stretch run of the season.

As one would expect, especially with David Pastrnak (thumb) out of the lineup, Brad Marchand (27 points) and Bergeron (21 points) have led the way as the top two scorers on the team during the streak. After never scoring more than 61 points during the first seven years of his career, Marchand has now hit 80 points in each of the last three seasons. He is on pace to shatter his previous career-high of 85. Bergeron has been his Selke Trophy self, leading the team with a plus-17 rating over the past 18 contests while also winning 59.2 percent of his faceoffs. He also became just the fifth Bruins player in the last 30 years to score short-handed goals in back-to-back games and the first since Brian Rolston (Oct. 13-16, 2001). Only seven times in NHL history has a player had a short-handed goal in three or more consecutive games, the last being Mike Richards in 2009 with Philadelphia.

David Krejci (18 points) and Jake DeBrusk (16 points) have been the team’s two biggest X-factors. After this current tear – which included a goal against the Panthers – Krejci is flirting with a career season. He is on pace for 70 points, which would be three behind his career-high of 73 set in 2008-09. DeBrusk, meanwhile, did not play Thursday against Florida due to a lower-body injury. Bruce Cassidy said Friday he didn’t believe it was anything major. The Bruins will certainly hope not, since the 22-year-old has lit the lamp eight times in his past 10 games.

Boston’s power play has also gotten hot. They’ve scored at a 25 percent clip during their 18-game streak (13-for-52) and done so without Pastrnak, who still leads the team with 15 power play goals despite being out nearly a month.

Then there’s the last line of defense in Tuukka Rask, who does not have a regulation loss since the calendar turned to 2019. For the second straight season, Rask has been challenged by a backup at the start of the year. Last season there were calls for Anton Khudobin to take over the net for good. This year, there was more of the same for Jaroslav Halak. But Rask has once again proved doubters wrong with a big second half. Since the Winter Classic at Notre Dame Stadium on New Year’s Day, Rask is 14-0-3 with a .931 save percentage and 1.94 goals against average. Halak hasn’t been so bad himself, going 5-0-2 with a .941 save percentage and 1.77 goals against average over his past seven games.

Remember, the last three Stanley Cup champions needed contributions from two goaltenders. The Penguins’ repeat in 2016 and 2017 with Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury is well documented. But the Capitals also needed backup Philipp Grubauer to be clutch last March to assure Washington the top spot in the division. Braden Holtby would re-take the reins at the start of the playoffs and lead the Caps to the Cup.

The Red Sox are the reigning World Series champions in spring training and the Patriots have entered yet another offseason atop the NFL. There’s no reason to believe the Bruins can’t contend for the Stanley Cup this season and, especially with no LeBron James in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics could win the East in the NBA as well. What a time to be a Boston sports fan.

‘A master troll job’: Leafs GM enjoyed Marchand’s Tweet on Marner’s next contract

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Brad Marchand‘s elite pest skills don’t work just on the ice, and with a likely first-round matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs coming up next month, the Boston Bruins tried to stir the pot on Twitter Tuesday.

Responding to an NHL PR account Tweet about Mitch Marner reaching 80 points, Marchand put on his free agency speculation cap as the Leafs forward could be a restricted free agent on July 1.

The Leafs face an interesting off-season in trying to not only re-sign Marner, but also RFA Kasperi Kapanen, if they choose to do so, as general manager Kyle Dubas navigates a tight salary cap picture. But Marchand says he was just showing some respect to a great player.

“Some people really took that the wrong way,” Marchand said after Tuesday night’s win against Carolina. “You gotta give the kid credit. He’s a great player that’s all I was trying to get at. He’s having a great year. It’s a big milestone for him. Just giving some credit where credit’s due that’s all.”

Dubas was appreciative that the Leafs were on Marchand’s mind one month before the start of the playoffs, and he also respected the attempt.

“I think it was a master troll job, to say the least. You have to respect that element of it,” Dubas said from the NHL GMs Meetings. “From my end, I think the part that I liked about it was that there’s over a 90 percent chance we’re going to play them in the playoffs if you just take the probabilities of it, so that he woke up the morning of a game day and was thinking about the Toronto Maple Leafs. I thought was a positive thing for us.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.