The Boston Bruins continue their four game homestand as they battle their Eastern Conference rivals the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night at the Garden. When it comes to making your NHL picks on this match, are you willing to trust the Jets?

Boston Bruins (26-11-1)

Tim Thomas Boston BruinsThe Boston Bruins will be without the services of Brad Marchand as the pesky forward was suspended for a dangerous clip on Vancouver’s Sami Salo in a wild rematch of last year’s Stanley Cup finals. After seven grueling games in which the heavily favored Canucks were outhustled and outmuscled, the Bruins fought and clawed their way to the Cup. But Saturday matinees at home have historically not been kind to the B’s and the curse continued as the Canucks got a measure of revenge in a 4-3 victory that saw the referees blowing their whistles to the tune of 107 penalty minutes. 

Since shaking off their Stanley Cup hangover the Bruins have gone 23-5 since November 1st and doused the Calgary Flames 9-0 before Saturday’s melee in Boston. Second year forward Tyler Seguin has found his stride after a rather pedestrian rookie season and leads the team with 16 goals, 37 points and the all important plus-minus category with a +32. Due to Marchand’s absence, Seguin’s role will take on even greater significance.

The hallmark of the Bruins success has been defense and it’s no surprise they lead the league with a 1.9 goals against average. Tim Thomas continues to be a rock between the pipes but his understudy Tuukka Rask has been even more impressive. Though Thomas has a stellar 1.99 GAA to go along with a .938 save percentage in 26 appearances, Rask has been given an increased workload by coach Claude Julien and it has paid dividends. Rask leads the league with a micro 1.49 GAA and a sensational .949 save percentage. Julien realizes he not only has two starting goalies at his disposal but two All-Stars to boot.

Winnipeg Jets (20-16-5)

Rumors surfaced that the Winnipeg Jets big offensive defenseman Dustin Byfuglien would return to the lineup in time to meet Boston but those rumors have recently been squelched by coach Claude Noel who says Byfuglien won’t suit up until after they wrap up their 4 game road swing tonight. 

Winnipeg looked sloppy in two successive losses to the Montreal Canadiens (7-3) and the Toronto Maple Leafs (4-0) but rebounded with a hotly contested 2-1 overtime victory against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night. Johnny Odua got the game winner for Winnipeg who recorded only their third victory in 12 games.

Ondrej Pavelec will probably be in net for the Jets Tuesday night and looking to build on his impressive performance against the Sabres. However, Pavelec has struggled in Boston where he is 0-4-0 with a 4.68 GAA in five appearances. In their first meeting of the year the Jets, with Pavelec in net, bowed 4-2 against the Stanley Cup champs but only two weeks later on December 6th he stymied the Bruins’ top ranked offense when he turned aside 39 shots in a 2-1 victory at home. 

Analysis:

It’s impossible to advise any NHL picks in favor of the Jets even though the price tag is tempting. The Bruins are currently -255 NHL odds favorites, while a play on the Jets will get you a nifty return north of 2 to 1 on your money. However, Boston dominates Winnipeg in virtually every category.

Over their last 5 games Boston has averaged 4.4 goals while the Jets are stuck in neutral averaging only 1.8 goals per game. Though Boston will miss Marchand and the spark he brings, they will not lose because of it.

My Pick: Play the Bruins.

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