In sports, there exists “statement games” based purely on their name, which are rather self-explanatory. Many considered Monday night’s matchup between the Winnipeg Jets and Boston Bruins precisely that. Whoever emerged victorious between this clash of hockey titans would have a great sense of just how good they are.
Today, we have just that. During their most impressive victory of the season, the Bruins snapped Winnipeg’s insane 35-game streak where they allowed three goals or less. By virtue of an empty net goal, the final score reads 4-1, a fact Jets defenseman Dylan DeMelo pointed out, tongue in cheek.
But offense was not at a premium, akin to that of a pitchers duel in baseball, it was 2-1 Boston heading into the final period with just 25 shots between both clubs. Winnipeg threatened, but Jeremy Swayman bested Connor Hellebuyck head-to-head.
Moral victories aside, a few points surfaced in the wake of Boston’s fifth consecutive victory worth noting.
For starters, the newfound pairing of Parker Wotherspoon and Derek Forbort could be your new shutdown tandem. Wotherspoon, who began the season in the minors, has played himself into full-time service. His defense-first mindset and responsibility in his own zone are his strongest traits and warrant extended minutes. Adding Forbort to the equation can only spell headaches for opposing offenses.
According to Natural Stat Trick Wotherspoon’s 48.28, and Forbort’s 56 Corsi for percentage were the two highest amongst Bruins defensemen.
While it is impossible to predict whether the two will remain paired long-term, as evidenced by this morning’s practice lines, it’s certainly a viable option for head coach Jim Montgomery as the season progresses.
Jakub Lauko comes, as advertised, a spark plug bottom-six player with marginal offensive upside. But despite your designation, enduring over a half-season without chipping in offensively certainly takes a toll. “Sometimes it wasn’t easy,” Lauko said. “It’s frustrating. So it’s really hard to get through… I was just trying to stay positive as much as I could.”
Patience is a virtue. In two games prior to Monday, Lauko was a point-per-game player, tallying his first goal earlier this month against the Colorado Avalanche and adding a helper against the Montreal Canadiens. His reward? A bump up the depth chart.
Lauko found himself flanking Morgan Geekie and Trent Frederic on Boston’s third line, and he made his coach look brilliant. Just 2:20 in, Frederic feathered a back-door pass to Lauko, who brushed it past Hellebuyck for the game’s first goal.
Regardless of whether or not he’s contributing offensively, Lauko’s mere presence may be Boston’s good luck charm. According to the league’s Public Relations department, Lauko has played in 57 career games, and Boston has won 44 of them. Meaning Lauko holds the leagues highest winning percentage with a minimum 50 games played.