|The Bruins entering the postseason: a look at how records over the last five years compare||04.03.12 at 11:53 am ET|
Back in November and December, it seemed as if the Bruins were poised to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions. Boston went 21-3-1 over those two months, outscored opponents by a 101-43 margin and did not lose a game in regulation throughout all of November.
The second half of the season, however, has not gone quite as well. The Bruins went two months without putting together back-to-back wins, lost a few key players (Nathan Horton, Rich Peverley, Tuukka Rask) to injury and admitted to reaching a doldrums in effort-level that put their playoff positioning into question.
With just three games remaining in the season, however, the Bruins have secured a spot in the playoffs and clinched the Northeast Division, thereby ensuring themselves of the No. 2 seed entering the postseason. Although their postseason position is set, questions remain about how the sluggish second half might affect the team in the playoffs.
A glance at the team’s performance since February 1 over the last four seasons revealed that although this season’s Bruins have come back to earth since their early-winter success, they still are not far off from the team’s typical pace at this time of year. Here’s a quick look at how the Bruins have fared in February and March during their string of five consecutive postseason appearances.
Final record: 41-29-12 94 points
Record since February 1: 14-10-7
Final 10 games of regular season: 4-2-4
Playoff result: Lost in first round to Montreal (4-3)
Final record: 53-19-10, 116 points
Record since February 1: 17-11-4
Final 10 games of regular season: 8-2-0
Playoff result: Swept first round series against Montreal, lost in second round to Carolina (4-3)
Final record: 39-30-13, 91 points
Record since February 1: 16-10-3
Final 10 games of regular season: 6-4-0
Playoff result: Beat Buffalo in six-game first round series, lost in second round to Philadelphia (4-3)
Final record: 46-25-11, 103 points
Record since February 1: 18-10-4
Final 10 games of regular season: 6-3-1
Playoff result: Won Stanley Cup
Current record: 47-28-4, 98 points (could finish with as many as 104 points)
Record since February 1: 15-14-2
Last 10 games: 5-1-1 (three games remaining)
Playoff result: ?
Based on these results, the Bruins are still in good shape entering the playoffs. They are putting together wins now, and when they have had a winning record in their last 10 games, they have advanced to the second round. The Bruins also average about 16 wins in the last two months of the regular season over the last four years, and they are on pace to hit that mark this season.
They are in the middle of where they have been the past few years in point totals, and have won the second-most games of any Bruins team in the last five years with three games left to play.
The one difference between last year’s Stanley Cup championship team was its win differential since the beginning of February, which at a plus-4, was higher than it will be this season and better (albeit very slightly) than any other Bruins team in this five-year string of consecutive playoff appearances.
Of course, there are many other factors that translate into playoff success. Injuries will be an issue for the Bruins this season, as neither Horton (concussion) or Rask (groin) have been able to return to the lineup yet. Teams go on hot streaks while others suddenly go cold (think Bruins collapse in the second round of the 2010 playoffs). Sometimes, playoff favorites suffer stunning upsets and other times, Cinderella stories change a team’s fortune in the blink of an eye.
But in terms of records and win-loss trends at least, the Bruins are right on track to at least put up a fight in their campaign as defending Stanley Cup Champions.
|Tuukka Rask hopes to return in time for playoffs||03.28.12 at 3:19 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask told ESPNBoston and other outlets Wednesday that his recovery from an abdominal strain/groin strain is going well and that he hopes to be ready for the postseason.
“I want to be back as soon as possible,” Rask said. “The playoffs was, and is, the goal.”
Rask said that he hopes to return to the ice at some point next week, with him hopefully being ready for game action following the soon after. The B’s will play their last game of the regular season next Saturday against the Sabres.
“It’s tough to speculate,” Rask said. “You never know. We’ll see how it goes. Maybe I’ll hit the ice next week if everything goes good and go from there.”
Rask leads the Bruins with a 2.05 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage. He had an 11-8-3 record with three shutouts in 23 games before suffering his injury against the Islanders on March 3.
If Rask is not ready in time for the first round of the playoffs, the B’s would likely go with Providence starter Anton Khudobin as the backup to Tim Thomas. The Bruins signed veteran goaltender Marty Turco following the injury to Rask, but Turco would not be eligible for postseason play because he was signed after the trade deadline.
|Looking at the Bruins’ goaltending after the Marty Turco signing||03.05.12 at 10:55 pm ET|
The Bruins did what they had to Monday evening, signing Marty Turco to a deal that will land the longtime Stars netminder in Boston as long as he passes through waivers.
The 36-year-old Turco hasn’t been a particularly good NHL goaltender since 2008, and he allowed 12 goals in four games in Austria this season. Still, the Bruins were smart to recognize that without Tuukka Rask (out 4-6 weeks with an abdomen strain/groin strain), they aren’t in a position to give important minutes on a team trying to get its mojo back to an AHL backup (no offense, Michael Hutchinson).
First Turco, who had a 3.02 goals-against average and .897 save percentage in 29 games for the Blackhawks, must pass through waivers before joining the team Wednesday. Given that Craig Anderson is out for the Senators, Ottawa could claim Turco to make the Bruins’ lives a little more difficult, so keep an eye on whether Turco ends up making it to Boston.
If all goes according to plan and Turco isn’t claimed, it’s a good move. The Bruins could still have a race for the division on their hands and they want to be playing better-than-.500 hockey going into the postseason, so they need to start winning games without exhausting Tim Thomas. For that reason, picking up a veteran goalie who’s won games in this league makes a lot more sense than giving Rask’s starts to an AHL guy or adding them onto Thomas’ workload.
Because Turco signed with the Bruins after the trade deadline, he won’t be eligible for postseason play, assuming he clears waivers and gets to the B’s in the first place. That means that if Rask isn’t ready for the start of the playoffs, the B’s might head into the playoffs with either Anton Khudobin (assuming he’s healthy by then) or Hutchinson between the pipes. This goes without saying on every level, but the sooner Rask can return the better.
If Turco does get to the Bruins and is at the very least serviceable, it will have been a good signing, because this team might have been in trouble if Michael Hutchinson was getting trotted out there for eight or nine games down the stretch. Turco won’t be asked to single-handedly win games for the B’s, but as long as a Turco start isn’t an automatic loss, it’s better than the alternative.
As far as Rask’s situation goes, don’t kid yourself: Losing Rask is a big one. After all, when Rask was at his best this season, he was every bit as good as Thomas was last October, the best month of Thomas’ Vezina-winning season. Rask has struggled in recent games (0-4-2 over his last seven starts), but if he had found a way to return to his November and early December form (four goals allowed over seven games with three shutouts) the Bruins could have entered the playoffs with, as they love to say, two No. 1 goalies. And for all the talk of “keeping Thomas fresh,” the team’s No. 1 concern should be returning Thomas to what he was last year, because what he’s been since late January (a 2.92 goals-against average since Jan. 22) isn’t it.
When Rask was at his best and blanking teams left and right, it was only natural to wonder: If the Bruins fell down two games to none this season, like they did to begin the playoffs last year, would Rask end up getting a game? That question was an easy no last year, but it was at the very least worth pondering in November. If Thomas picks it up again, nobody will need to worry about that, but not having Rask there certainly changes the look of the goaltending situation, even if he isn’t the No. 1 guy.
|Tuukka Rask out 4-6 weeks||at 7:19 pm ET|
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli announced Monday that goaltender Tuukka Rask will miss the next 4-6 weeks with a lower abdomen strain/groin strain.
Rask, 24, was injured in the second period of Saturday’s loss to the Islanders. He leads the Bruins with a .929 save percentage and 2.05 goals-against average.
Given that the season’s last game is on April 7, Monday’s news should mean that Rask will miss the remainder of the regular season, and possibly some of the playoffs. The Bruins are also currently without Nathan Horton (concussion) and Rich Peverley (knee).
With Rask out, the B’s recalled Providence backup Michael Hutchinson Saturday.
|UPDATE: Tuukka Rask injured, won’t travel with Bruins||03.03.12 at 4:28 pm ET|
The Bruins are already without Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley for the foreseeable future, so things went from bad to potentially much worse when goaltender Tuukka Rask left Saturday’s game against the Islanders with an apparent lower-body injury suffered in the second period.
After the game, coach Claude Julien said that neither Rask nor defenseman Andrew Ference will make the team’s trip to New York and Toronto.
After the game, the Bruins recalled Providence goaltender Michael Hutchinson and forward Lane MacDermid. Julien did not offer an update on Daniel Paille, who left the game after getting tripped by Steve Staios, but the MacDermid callup is seemingly to fill Paille’s spot should the fourth-liner be unable to go.
Rask hurt himself stretching out to make a save on Islanders forward Matt Martin. He went down after the play, at which point defenseman Joe Corvo got the attention of the officials and the play was blown dead. Rask remained down on the ice while examined by trainer Don DelNegro before eventually being helped off the ice by Corvo and Greg Zanon. He did not put any pressure on his left leg as he was being helped off.
Tim Thomas came into the game following the play. Rask had allowed one goal on 12 shots from the Islanders. For the season, Rask has an 11-8-3 record leads the Bruins with a 2.05 goals-against average, which is fifth in the NHL. His .929 save percentage is tied with Thomas for fifth in the league.
Providence starting goaltender Anton Khudobin is currently out with a wrist injury, Hutchinson, who missed Friday night’s game with the flu, was the next best option. Hutchinson is 6-11-0 this season with a 2.62 GAA and .920 save percentage.
|Bruins lose Tuukka Rask, then game to Islanders||at 3:40 pm ET|
The Bruins lost more than a winnable game against a non-playoff team Saturday, as they lost goaltender Tuukka Rask to injury and fell to the Islanders, 3-2, at TD Garden.
Rask left the game in the second period with a lower-body injury and was replaced by Tim Thomas. For more on the injury, click here.
The Bruins got on the board in the first period when Milan Lucic scored on the power play, a goal assisted by Brian Rolston for the veteran forward’s first point since returning to the Bruins. The Islanders tied it late in the first on a Josh Bailey goal.
After Thomas took over for Rask in the second period, Matt Moulson gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead on the power play. Tyler Seguin tied the game 7:29 into the third period, but the Islanders would regain the lead in the final five minutes on John Taveres‘ 26th of the season.
The Bruins will return to action Sunday when they face the Eastern conference-leading Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
- After defeating the Devils Thursday, the B’s blew their latest chance at winning back-to-back games, and have still not one consecutive games since Jan. 10 and 12, a span of 23 games.
- The B’s are in trouble if Rask’s injury keeps him out for a while. After Sunday’s game against the Rangers, the Bruins will still have games on back-to-back days three times for the remainder of the season. Given that Providence goaltenders Anton Khudobin (wrist) and Michael Hutchinson (flu) are out, the B’s could be looking at Adam Courchaine, who was called up to Providence from the ECHL and has played only five career AHL games.
- Rask wasn’t the Bruins’ only injury scare. Daniel Paille left the Bruins’ bench and headed down the tunnel after getting tripped by Steve Staios in the third period. Paille did not return to the game. Staios was the same guy who hit Paille in the face with a slapshot back on Nov. 7.
- Greg Zanon got beaten for the first time in a Bruins uniform. After playing early in the first period on a pairing with Joe Corvo, Zanon went back to playing with Adam McQuaid. Late in the first period, Anders Nillson sent a pass through Zanon to Bailey, who beat Rask to tie the game at one goal apiece.
- There was a pretty bad non-call late in the first period, as P.A. Parenteau got Brad Marchand in the face with a high stick that appeared to cut the Bruins forward. Marchand remained down on the ice for a few moments, but got back up and played the rest of his shift. Of course, a high-stick that draws blood should yield a four-minute double-minor. Overall, the officiating wasn’t great, as Shawn Thornton was given a questionable roughing call when both he and Travis Hamonic were shoving after Hamonic hit Thornton.
- That pesky second period got to the Bruins again, as the Islanders took the lead on Moulson’s goal. The Bruins have outscored their opponents in the second period only once over their last eight games.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
- The B’s got Johnny Boychuk back after he missed the last two games with a concussion sustained last Saturday on a hit from Senators forward Chris Neil. Boychuk didn’t seem to take much time getting back to his usual self, as he led all players with four hits in the first period.
- Seguin is heating back up for the Bruins, and it’s no coincidence that his output has increased since being teamed with David Krejci and Milan Lucic. Seguin had gone 10 games without a goal leading into Thursday night’s game against the Devils, but he now has goals in two straight. On the season, Seguin has 22 goals, which doubles last season’s total of 11.
|Barry Pederson on M&M: Bruins ‘built to be good for a number of years to come’||02.27.12 at 2:55 pm ET|
With the NHL trade deadline just hours away, NESN Bruins studio analyst Barry Pederson joined Mut & Merloni Monday afternoon to talk about what the Bruins need to improve and what kind of moves they should make, if any.
Very few major moves have been made by any teams, but Pederson said that he would be more surprised if the Bruins made no move than if they made a major trade.
“I think they need some depth, especially when Andrew Ference went down, that really showed me that you needed another left-handed defenseman,” Pederson said. “I would look for them to try to add that because I know that Dennis Seidenberg can play the right side, he showed that and then some in the playoffs what he could do when he’s with [Zdeno] Chara, and I think they’ll want to do that come playoff time again.
“I think you want to get some depth up front for the reasons we just talked about — you’re not sure what’s going to happen with Nathan [Horton], you’re hoping he can come back, and Rich Peverley with that knee injury, you never know what they’re going to be like.”
That being said, Pederson noted that the Bruins would be wise to not jeopardize the promising future that they have with their current roster.
“They’re still in great, great shape,” Pederson said. “They’ve got a great core, they’re well-positioned salary cap-wise, they’re young, they’re talented, they’re physical, they’re packing the building over here.
“The Bruins fans are excited not only because of last year’s win, but if you look ahead and you go, ‘You know what? Barring any major injuries, this organization is built to be good for a number of years to come.’ ”
Part of the reason the Bruins should be weary of a major trade, to Pederson, is that trades often come with a wide array of variables and can often backfire.
“The difficult part with that, and it’s the same thing I’m sure the Rangers are kind of talking about and Pittsburgh with [Sidney] Crosby, is you have concussions and you also have great chemistry, and that’s something that you can’t take for granted,” Pederson said. “One of the major reasons for the Bruins to be so successful in that Cup run last year was they had each other’s back.
“It was an all-for-one, one-for-all type of mentality. The Rangers, I think, have that right now, I think Pittsburgh’s getting that. That, to me, is so important.”
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