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Plenty to like about Sunday’s win over Rangers

The Bruins became the first team in the Eastern Conference to clinch their division, wrapping up the Northeast with their 2-1 win over the Rangers Sunday evening. The division win means they will hold the No. 2 seed when they begin the playoffs on April 12.

For the Bruins, Sunday was obviously about way more than clinching the division. In fact, you could take your pick when it comes to the positives that emerged from their victory at Madison Square Garden.

They finally did what they have often been unable to do by beating Rangers goaltender and Vezina favorite Henrik Lundqvist [1]. They only put two pucks past Lundqvist, but the win showed that when Tim Thomas [2] is on, two can be enough.

Thomas made 33 saves in the victory, and both the numbers and the eyeball test are suggesting that he’s getting right where he needs to be for the postseason.

No. 30 was far from himself for a pretty lengthy stretch during the regular season. In an eight-game span from Dec. 31 to Jan. 22, he allowed four or more goals four times. In early March, he allowed four goals in four of seven games. The Bruins were struggling, and they didn’t have a dominant Thomas to bail them out. That seems to be in the past now for both the B’s and Thomas.

Over his last seven starts, Thomas has allowed two goals or less in each game, a span in which he’s gone 5-1-1. Though he was coming off a shootout loss to the Capitals Thursday (his first shootout loss of the season), Thomas had to have been feeling pretty good about the way he’d been playing.

Sunday’s win means Thomas has beaten the Rangers for the first time in three tries this season (Tuukka Rask [3] got the other start). Thomas had allowed three goals in each of his two starts against the conference leaders this season (0-2-0), but on Sunday the reigning Vezina winner held Rangers to one goal on 34 shots.

Other good news for the Bruins Sunday came in the form of a rare power-play goal. Just as it did last season, the Boston power play has slowed down mightily of late, so much so that the B’s entered Sunday’s game without goals in their last six games. In the entire months of February and March, the Bruins managed only four power-play goals.

Patrice Bergeron [4] helped get April off to a better start when he outworked Dan Girardi and slid a puck past Lundqvist at 11:52 of the second period. Tyler Seguin [5] picked up the assist on the goal, and he remains second on the team in power-play points (14). Not bad for a player who couldn’t stay on one of the power-play units a year ago.

Then there’s the fact that Sunday’s win means the Bruins can afford to take it a bit easier this week. The B’s shouldn’t completely kick their feet up (they’ll likely have a first-round preview when they travel to Ottawa for Thursday’s game and they’ll host the Penguins [6] Tuesday), but if Claude Julien [7] wants to give one of his veterans one of the last games off (both Bergeron and Chris Kelly [8] have played in every game this season), he can afford to.

There was plenty to like about Sunday’s win for the Bruins. Now it’s about taking advantage about both the confidence they’ve gained and the opportunity to handle the final week of the season however they seem fit.