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Bruins beat Flyers in shootout to extend road win streak to nine games 03.30.14 at 3:22 pm ET
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Reilly Smith

Reilly Smith

The Bruins won their ninth straight road game and increased their point streak to 16 games Sunday with a 4-3 shootout win over the Flyers.

Reilly Smith scored the winning goal in the shootout after the Flyers had come back to tie the game late in the third period.

Vincent Lecavalier scored with 25 seconds left in regulation to even the score. With Flyer goalie Steve Mason pulled, Johnny Boychuk missed on a clearing attempt in front of Tuukka Rask, with Rask going after the puck and Jakub Voracek sending it across to Lecavlier, who sent it into the open net. The play came after Loui Eriksson had failed to get the puck out of the offensive zone.

Lecavalier scored the game’s first goal on a wrist shot that sunk and fooled Tuukka Rask, but former Flyer Andrej Meszaros scored against his former club to tie it at 10:43 of the first. Meszaros was in the lineup in place of Torey Krug, who was a healthy scratch.

Philadelphia regained the lead late in the first period on a goal from Kimmo Timonen, but second-period goals from Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron gave the B’s a 3-2 lead that they would hold until Lecavalier’s goal.

Rask made a career-high 49 saves between regulation and overtime.

The Bruins will next play Wednesday in Detroit. They have seven games remaining in their regular-season schedule.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS

- Bergeron now has goals in seven straight games and is creeping up on his second career 30-goal season. He may not be this season’s Hart winner, but he’s going to get votes.

- When Chara cleared the puck over the glass from the defensive zone early on in a third-period Dougie Hamilton penalty, the Bruins were forced to kill a 1:47 5-on-3. The B’s used Kevan Miller and Johnny Boychuk the entire time, with Patrice Bergeron and Chris Kelly taking turns as the third man. Miller and Boychuk held their own as they prevented the Flyers from tying the game.

- Rask came up with a big save on Scott Hartnell on a third period breakaway. With the game 3-2, the Flyers had taken advantage of a Bruins turnover in the offensive zone turnover and had Hartnell on a break, but his backhand bid was stopped by Rask with Dougie Hamilton giving chase. He also stopped Luke Schenn on a partial break in overtime.

- Chara’s goal was his 10th power-play goal of the season, which trails only Shea Weber for tops among NHL defensemen. The tally was also his 17th of the season, which gives him a shot at tying or surpassing his career-high of 19 goals, which he scored in 2008-09 with the B’s.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS

- The Flyers’ game-tying goal would have never been scored were it not for a bad hand-pass call against the B’s moments earlier. Had there been no whistle, David Krejci would have scored an empty-netter.

- Brad Marchand hustles like no other, so Timonen beating him up the ice and sneaking past him wasn’t something you’ll see every day. Marchand appeared furious with himself on the bench after the goal, slamming the door on the bench and letting a word he usually saves for opponents fly.

- The Bruins are in the business of fighting players over clean hits, and that isn’t a smart move with not much more to be accomplished in the regular season. Jarome Iginla didn’t like a hit Zac Rinaldo threw on him in the first period, and the ensuing fight saw Rinaldo pound Iginla in the head multiple times. There’s nothing to be gained there, which the Bruins learned last year when Nathan Horton fought Iginla late in the season and suffered a shoulder injury that hurt him throughout the playoffs.

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Bruins clinch Atlantic Division as Jarome Iginla hits 30 goals 03.29.14 at 3:07 pm ET
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Jarome Iginla

Jarome Iginla

The Bruins clinched the Atlantic Division Saturday with a 4-2 win over the Capitals at the Verizon Center.

Jarome Iginla had two goals in the win, making him the Bruins’ first free agent signing to ever score 30 goals in a season.

Iginla first got the B’s on the board when Carl Soderberg exited the penalty box in the second period and sent a pass ahead to Iginla, who beat Braden Holtby to make it 1-0. Later in the period, Soderberg scored his 15th goal of the season when he tipped a Patrice Bergeron shot on the power play past Holtby. Forty-one seconds later, Iginla made it 3-0.

The Capitals got a goal back in the form of a Jason Chimera tally with 10 seconds left in the second period, but Bergeron made it a three-goal lead for the Bruins again with a power-play goal in the third period. Washington scored again in the final minute, but Boston was able to hold on.

Bergeron’s extended his streak to six games with a goal and left open the possibility that he could hit 30 himself this season. Bergeron’s current total makes for the second-most he’s had in a single season, as he scored 31 goals in the 2005-06 season.

Chad Johnson picked up the win for the B’s, making 31 saves in the victory.

For more Bruins coverage, visit weei.com/bruins.

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Adam McQuaid isn’t skating and Claude Julien isn’t set on Bruins’ playoff defensemen 03.28.14 at 1:26 pm ET
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Adam McQuaid

Adam McQuaid

WILMINGTON — Adam McQuaid is still not skating, and it’s unclear when the defenseman, who was shut down three and a half weeks ago to rehab a quad strain, will be an option for the Bruins this season.

B’s coach Claude Julien said Friday that though McQuaid remains off the ice, he is doing more and more in his workouts.

“He’s being ramped up right now off-ice. He’s going in the right direction as we speak,” Julien said. “I don’t know exactly when we’re going to see him on the ice, but right now things are going well for him.”

Asked then whether he would expect to see McQuaid back on the ice before the end of the regular season (McQuaid was supposed to get back on the ice after two-to-three weeks), Julien said he didn’t know.

“I don’t know. I just change lines and I put my lineup together,” he said with a grin. “When those guys are injured they belong to somebody else. Until they tell me he’s going on the ice, I really can’t answer that.

“All I know is they’ve told me he’s doing well off the ice, and at one point they’re going to tell me ‘within a few days we’re probably going to put him on the ice.’ I’m certainly not going to hold that back. When I find out that [he's] going to go on the ice soon, I’ll certainly let you guy know.”

So, with the playoffs nearing and McQuaid still not in the picture, it becomes increasingly likely that Kevan Miller or Andrej Meszaros will stick in the lineup for the Bruins to begin the postseason. The B’s currently have eight healthy defensemen, but with all due respect to Corey Potter, there are seven players legitimately contending for spots. That number will increase to eight once McQuaid is healthy.

The B’s have rotated players in and out of their blue line since acquiring Meszaros, with Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski and Meszaros seeing time in the press box. Julien said his opinion of who will be in and who will be out come playoff time has yet to fully form.

“I’m not there yet. I don’t like to look too far ahead,” Julien said. “Right now I’m looking at whatever we have left in the regular [season] schedule. We’ll deal with that stuff. We always do it that way. As time comes along, you hear, you find out more things and you just deal with the situation as it comes, because you never know. You may not even have to deal with it, so I’m not going to waste time dealing with it right now.”

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Patrice Bergeron again showing he’s best two-way player in hockey 03.28.14 at 8:06 am ET
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The last time Patrice Bergeron scored 25 goals in a season, he was a 21-year-old sensation out of Quebec Junior hockey, with lots of speed, playing for a Bruins team out of the playoffs. It was the 2005-06 season and the Bruins under Mike Sullivan finished 29-37-16.

A lot has changed and evolved since.

The 28-year-old won two Olympic gold medals, one Stanley Cup, reached another Stanley Cup final, won the Selke trophy as the best defensive forward in the game.

After watching him put on a two-goal display Thursday night against the team he faced in the finals last season, it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that he is in line to win another Selke Trophy this season. He finished second in the race last season and has finished in the top-5 in voting for the award in each of the last four seasons. This will be the fifth straight. As DJ Bean points out, it will be a race between Bergeron and Chicago’s Jonathan Toews, who was a minus-1 in Thursday’s 3-0 Bruins win at TD Garden.

Not only did Bergeron score twice, he won 15 of 21 face-offs and helped lead a defense that shutout the highest-scoring team in the NHL for just the third time this season. He has an NHL-best plus-38, two better than when he won the Selke in 2012. The Bruins have given up just nine goals in their last nine games.

“It’€™s not something you really are always thinking about,” Bergeron said. “It is something that is part of our game as a team as a whole. We are a defense type of team and we get some offense with playing defensively sound and stuff like that. So I think we have to keep that going.”

Listen to Bergeron and you get a glimpse of what makes him so special – a two-way player who doesn’t take a shift off.

“Every shift is important,” he said. “You can’€™t really sit back or take a breather because obviously they’€™re going to turn it up against you. They’re a team that relies a lot on speed I think and their transition as well. I thought once we played a little tighter in the neutral zone and also in our fore check, it gave us some success.”

All of the above was great before but now he’s scoring at a Sidney Crosby pace, at least for the last five games, in which he has six goals, at least one goal in five straight.

“The puck’€™s going in I guess,” Bergeron said, showing his typical humility. “There’€™s not much to say about it. It’€™s just you get those chances sometimes during the year and it doesn’€™t go in and now it is. Obviously it’€™s great any time I can chip in offensively and keep my two way game, I’€™m happy with it.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Mike Petraglia, DJ Bean break down red-hot Bruins, Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron 03.28.14 at 12:21 am ET
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WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and DJ Bean assess the chances of the Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks getting back to the Stanley Cup final, one year after Chicago won the Cup on Boston ice in Game 6. They also discuss the best strategy for resting Zdeno Chara and how to keep Patrice Bergeron hot.

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Tuukka Rask continues to strengthen Vezina Trophy candidacy 03.27.14 at 11:32 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask is back on top of the Vezina Trophy race. (AP)

Tuukka Rask appears to be the favorite to win the Vezina Trophy. (AP)

There was a time this season when it looked like Tuukka Rask‘s Vezina Trophy chances may have been slipping away. From Dec. 14 through Jan. 14, he posted a subpar .911 save percentage and got pulled three times in 12 starts.

Since then, Rask has registered a .938 save percentage in 16 starts and re-emerged as the Vezina favorite. On Thursday night, he stopped all 28 shots the Blackhawks threw at him to pick up his league-leading seventh shutout.

“I think he’s one of those guys who keeps getting better,” Patrice Bergeron said. “I think he always steps up for the big game. I think he feels that, with this time of the year coming up, he wants to get even better.”

The case for Rask to win the NHL‘s top goaltending honor is pretty simple. In addition to leading the league in shutouts, he also ranks first in save percentage (.931) and first in even-strength save percentage (.943) among goalies who have made at least 40 starts.

(Even-strength save percentage is important because it creates the most level playing field. In general, the quality of 5-on-5 chances are going to be fairly even across the board, while the quality of chances a goalie faces while his team is shorthanded can vary greatly depending on how good his team’s penalty kill is.)

Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop is second in overall save percentage at .926, while Toronto’s Jonathan Bernier is second in even-strength save percentage at .935. Bishop has played 200 minutes more than Rask and faced 109 more shots (they’ve faced a nearly identical number of shots per game), but it would be tough to argue that a relatively small advantage in workload is enough to overcome the edge Rask has in the rate stats.

Bernier has played 200 minutes fewer than Rask, but has actually faced 162 more shots thanks to the Maple Leafs‘ horrific defense. But again, it’s hard to argue against Rask’s lead in the most important stats.

Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov (.924 overall, .930 even-strength) and Montreal’s Carey Price (.924 overall, .929 even-strength) are having stellar seasons as well, but those splits don’t really stack up against .931/.943.

And so, it isn’t a stretch at all to say that with nine games to go, the Vezina is Rask’s to lose. It would be his first, but the third by a Bruins goalie in the last six years, following Tim Thomas‘ wins in 2009 and 2011. As far as his teammates are concerned, Rask’s 2013-14 season is right there with Thomas’ best work.

“It’s pretty impressive,” Chris Kelly said. “He’s got my vote. I know I’m biased, but like I said, he’s been our best player all year long. And the team is having success, so I don’t know what else you can ask for.”

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Bruins beat Blackhawks behind Patrice Bergeron’s two goals 03.27.14 at 9:30 pm ET
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For the first time in their last five meetings, the Bruins beat the Blackhawks Thursday at TD Garden with a 3-0 victory.

In the Blackhawks’ first game in Boston since scoring two late goals in 17 seconds to win the Stanley Cup, the Bruins were the ones to turn in two quick third-period goals. Carl Soderberg and Patrice Bergeron scored 13 seconds apart in the third to provide the Bruins insurance. Bergeron’s tally was his second of the game.

The Bruins got on the board in the first period when Bergeron tipped a Matt Bartkowski point shot past Corey Crawford. The game remained 1-0 until the third period, when Soderberg scored his 14th goal of the season. Thirteen seconds later, Bergeron fired a loose puck into the empty net with an out-of-position Crawford trying to knock the goal off its moorings. The play was reviewed and ruled a good goal.

Tuukka Rask, meanwhile, picked up his league-leading seventh shutout of the season. The Blackhawks outshot the B’s in the game, though their Grade-A chances were limited.

The win was Boston’s 50th of the season, making them the first team this season to amass 50 victories.

The B’s will next play Saturday in Washington.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS

- With a two-goal performance, Bergeron now has 25 goals on the season for the second time in his career. Bergeron had 31 goals in the 2005-06 season.

- Bergeron’s five games in a row with a goal is the longest such streak of his career. He has scored Boston’s first goal in all five of those games.

- Chris Kelly turned in some pretty nifty work in front of the net on Soderberg’s goal. In a fraction of a second, Kelly blocked a Johnny Boychuk point shot while battling in front and passed the puck to Soderberg, who sent it past Crawford. Kelly also created a scoring opportunity in the second period by intercepting a pass in the Chicago zone.

- With seven shutouts, Rask might be jumping atop the Vezina leaderboard. Rask is top-three in the league in both save percentage and goals-against average and he leads the NHL in shutouts by two. Rask has never been a Vezina finalist in his career, but should certainly be one this season unless he has a disastrous final few starts.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS

- This actually worked in Boston’s favor, but spectators of Bruins-Blackhawks games should be accustomed to seeing really good hockey. The Blackhawks’ sloppy showing in the second period made for anything but that. Chicago struggled in its own zone the neutral zone, committing multiple turnovers and giving the B’s a boatload of chances. The Bruins weren’t able to capitalize on them.

- The Bruins were back to their old not-drawing-penalties ways. David Krejci drew Chicago’s lone minor penalty, a trip late in the first period, with the B’s going 0-for-1 on the power play.

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