|Plenty to like about Sunday’s win over Rangers||04.02.12 at 12:26 am ET|
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. They only put two pucks past Lundqvist, but the win showed that when Tim Thomas 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 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.
|Bruins have something to prove vs. Rangers||03.31.12 at 8:13 pm ET|
Through the various highs and lows of the 2011-12 season, one thing has held true for the Bruins: They can’t beat the Rangers.
After losing their first three meetings (0-2-1) against New York — all of which have come in the second half of the season — the Bruins, who figure to hold the second seed in the East when the playoffs begin in about a week and a half, will have their final regular-season crack at the conference’s best team Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
Tim Thomas will have to deal with the lighting that he despises so much. [Side note: Thomas got criticized unfairly for that postgame comment after the March 4 game, as it wasn’t the first time he’s brought up the difficulty he has with the lights there. He answered a question last season about the pre-game festivities at Canadiens games by mentioning he didn’t like the lights at MSG.] And the Bruins will have to deal with a goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist (assuming he plays) who has dominated them (and many other teams) over the years.
This season, Lundqvist deserves not only the Vezina trophy but perhaps the Hart as well. That’s why the Bruins need to beat him Sunday. The B’s may not be considered a favorite to make it to the conference finals given how well the Penguins have played of late, but it wouldn’t come as a major shock to anyone if Boston and New York met later in the playoffs with a trip to the Cup finals on the line.
The B’s are a confident bunch either way, but they could use that piece of mind of knowing that Lundqvist, who is 3-0-0 with a 1.61 goals-against average and one shutout against Boston this season, doesn’t completely own them. Considering they’ve only beaten him once over the last two seasons, they could stand to remind themselves and everyone else that King Henrik can be defeated.
Both teams are clearly trying to make sure they’re playing their best hockey by the time the postseason starts. The B’s enter Sunday’s game with points in five straight games (4-0-1), while the Rangers, who lead the Bruins by 11 points, are winners of four straight. Though New York has beaten Boston three times and doesn’t have much to worry about as far as the standings go, the Rangers still have something to gain Sunday. They can officially clinch the Eastern Conference, and a win could give them a mental edge over the B’s should they meet later on down the road.
|Bruins’ depth makes them first team this season with six 20-goal scorers||03.31.12 at 4:34 pm ET|
There are 23 players in the NHL with 30 or more goals this season. None of them play for the Bruins.
With four games remaining in the season, it doesn’t look like the B’s will finish the season with a 30-goal scorer, a rather common occurrence. In Claude Julien‘s five seasons with the B’s, the team has had just two 30-goal scorers: Phil Kessel in 2008-09 and Milan Lucic last season. This season, both Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin are three goals short, making the feat possible, but not likely.
For as much as the 30-goal mark says about an individual player, it doesn’t paint an accurate picture of an offense as a whole. As of Saturday afternoon, the Islanders ranked 27th in the NHL in goals per game, though they boast two 30-goal-scorers in Matt Moulson and John Tavares.
While the Bruins might not have any members of the 30-goal club, they’ve been able to ice the league’s second-best offense using their favorite thing in the world: depth.
The B’s became the first team in the league this season with six 20-goal scorers ‘ Seguin (27), Marchand (27), Lucic (24), David Krejci (23), Patrice Bergeron (21) and Chris Kelly (20) ‘ with Saturday’s win over the Islanders. The Bruins’ top three lines all pack an offensive punch, so much so that there have multiple points this season in which it’s been Kelly’s line that has delivered the team wins.
Benoit Pouliot (14 goals) is the next healthy guy down on the list, and chances are you won’t see six more goals out of him over the last four games of the season. However, that doesn’t mean that the B’s have only six guys capable of burying 20. Nathan Horton had 17 goals through 46 games before going down with his latest concussion. Though Rich Peverley was not on pace for 20 goals when he suffered his knee sprain (he now has 10 goals through 53 games), he scored 22 a couple years ago for Atlanta, and his speed is enough to make opposing goaltenders keep an eye on him.
Six members of the 20-goal club is no small feat. Not only have no other teams done it this season, but the Bruins haven’t had six 20-goal-scorers in the same season since 1995-96. The B’s take pride in their offensive depth, and though individual numbers won’t jump off the page in this offense compared to other ones (see: Ryder, Michael — the man is ninth in the NHL with 35 goals after scoring 18 in each of the last two seasons with Boston), but when it comes to production, the B’s will always take quantity ‘ as in more scorers, which in turn means more goals ‘ over quality.
|David Krejci helps Bruins past Islanders||03.31.12 at 3:26 pm ET|
Four goals in the third period were enough give the Bruins two points Saturday, as they picked up a 6-3 win over the Islanders at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. With the victory, the Bruins now have points in five straight games (4-0-1).
David Krejci had a pair of goals for the B’s, with Boston also getting goals from Chris Kelly, Brad Marchand, Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron. The Islanders got two goals from P.A. Parenteau, as a well as a Kyle Okposo tally.
Marty Turco made the start for the Bruins, making 19 saves on 22 shots and picking up his second win as a member of the B’s.
The Bruins will stay in the state of New York and face the first-place Rangers Sunday.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– The B’s became the first team in the NHL to have six 20-goal scorers. Seguin (27), Brad Marchand (27), Milan Lucic (24), Krejci (23), Bergeron (21) and Kelly (20) make up that list, and it’s proof that though the B’s offense cooled off in the middle of the season, they have as deep a scoring attack as any team in the league.
– Speaking of 20 goals, Kelly became a 20-goal scorer for the first time in his career with his first-period goal. The tally also gave him his 38th point of the season, tying his career-best recorded back in 2006-07 as a member of the Senators.
– Krejci’s 23rd goal of the season helped him surpass his career-best total from 2008-09, and he still has four more games to add to it.
– Claude Julien flipped Seguin and Rich Peverley, and it worked for both lines. Marchand, Seguin and Bergeron all scored for their line, while the first of Krejci’s two goals came on a shift with Peverley and Lucic.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– Turco got a little too aggressive and took a minor penalty for tripping Okposo in the second period. The Islanders did not score on that power play, and finished the day 0-for-2 on the man advantage.
– Speaking of power plays, Saturday’s game marked the fourth contest in the last six that the Bruins had only one power play. The Bruins have not scored a power play goal over their last six games, with their most recent power play tally coming on March 19 against the Maple Leafs (if that game counts).
– The Islanders actually got some momentum out of the Bruins’ lone power play. Shortley after Mark Streit’s delay of game penalty was killed off, Parenteau scoring his second goal of the game to bring the Islanders within one.
|Bruins will have to wait to clinch playoff spot after shootout loss to Capitals||03.29.12 at 9:44 pm ET|
The Bruins climbed their way out of a 2-0 hole in the third period Thursday to earn a point before falling to the Capitals, 3-2, in a shootout. Brooks Laich broke a 2-2 tie in the shootout in the fourth round, giving the Capitals the win. The one point was not enough to clinch a playoff spot for the Bruins.
Former Bruins defenseman Dennis Wideman broke a scoreless tie 7:59 into the third period to give the Capitals the lead, and Marcus Johansson made it 2-0 less than two minutes later. David Krejci tipped a Zdeno Chara shot from the point with 3:10 remaining. Then, Andrew Ference tied the game with 1:16 left.
The Bruins lost Adam McQuaid early on after the defenseman was hit from behind and into the boards by Capitals forward Jason Chimera at 14:00 of the first period. McQuaid left the game holding his face and did not return, while Chimera was given a five-minute major for charging as well as a game misconduct.
Capitals starting goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who was making his return from a groin injury, left the game late in the first period. He was replaced by Michal Neuvirth, who stopped everything but Krejci’s goal the rest of the way.
The Bruins will head to New York this weekend to face the Islanders Saturday and the Rangers Sunday.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– Losing McQuaid would obviously not be optimal for the Bruins. They were already playing without Dennis Seideneberg because of an infected cut on his right leg, though Claude Julien said prior to the game that the team was being cautious with the German blueliner and that he was day-to-day. Luckily for the Bruins, they do have a good amount of depth on the back end, with Joe Corvo and Mike Mottau available to step in if need be.
– Brian Rolston’s point streak ended at seven games. The third-line forward had three goals and nine assists over that span.
– The Bruins didn’t manage much on the five-minute major that followed Chimera’s hit on McQuaid, and that proved to be Boston’s only power play of the game. Each team went 0-for-1 on the man advantage Thursday night.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– For the first two periods, Thomas was having an incredibly easy night — the Capitals had only two shots on goal in the first period and added seven more in the second period. Thomas averaged only five shots against over his previous eight periods at TD Garden. The bad part of that is that the Capitals finally woke up in the third period, and Thomas wasn’t able to stop them.
– Krejci had a hand in both Bruins’ third-period goals, tipping Chara’s shot to make it a one-goal game and keeping the puck in the zone to create the sequence that led to Ference’s game-tying goal.
– Seguin did not take a minor penalty after taking four in his previous three games.
|Bruins-Capitals Live Blog: B’s look to clinch playoff spot||03.29.12 at 7:02 pm ET|
|Desperate Capitals stand in Bruins’ way of clinching playoff spot||03.29.12 at 12:46 pm ET|
At this point of the season, it’s somewhat of a cliche to say that every game will have a “playoff intensity,” but when you look at the Bruins’ remaining schedule, you can understand why.
Of the Bruins’ remaining six games, only Saturday’s tilt with the Islanders is against an opponent not in or fighting for the playoffs. Some teams, like the Bruins themselves, will be looking to nail down their divisions, while other teams such as the Capitals, will be trying to squeeze into the postseason picture.
That’s why Thursday’s game between the B’s and Capitals should be worth the price of admission. With a victory, the Bruins will clinch a playoff spot, while the ninth-place Capitals would take over eighth place in the conference with a win Thursday.
“Every single team in the league, they’re playing playoff hockey right now,” David Krejci said after Thursday’s morning skate. “It’s a good preparation, that’s for sure, but there’s so much to play for right now. We’re battling for home ice advantage, for second place in our conference, and Washington is battling for a playoff spot, so it should be a really interesting game tonight.”
The Capitals, who are coming off a 5-1 loss to the very Sabres team they’re fighting for the eighth spot with, will have to bring the fire they lacked Tuesday against Buffalo. Washington is still playing without center Nicklas Backstrom, who is working his way back from a concussion, but given their situation and the fact that the Capitals have taken two of three meetings between the teams so far this season, the Bruins see enough talent and desperation to make Thursday’s opponent a tough one.
“They’re battling for a playoff spot right now, and we’re going to obviously expect their best,” Adam McQuaid said. “They’ve played us hard this year, and even without Backstrom, they have a lot of offensive firepower. We’ve got to make sure we’re on our toes.”
As for the Bruins’ situation, the team knows that it needs a pair of points to go in, but their main focus is continuing to build on their improved play of late. The team has won three games in a row, something they hadn’t done over their previous 41 games, but playing well for the remainder of the season and going to the playoffs confident is more important to them than clinching a spot a spot and feeling accomplished.
“It would be nice, but I think our main focus is on playing well and making sure that we’re being consistent and going into the playoffs feeling good about ourselves and about our game,” McQuaid said of clinching. “I guess it would be a bonus to be able to clinch as soon as possible, but at the end of the day, we just have to worry about playing good hockey.”
Added McQuaid: “It’s only the beginning of where we want to get to. You have to make the playoffs in order to give yourself a chance to win the Cup. ‘¦ [We can] get that first step, and then shift our focus to what we’re really working towards.”