Thursday, April 10, 2014

Game 80: Flying High One Last Time

Oh boy, do the titles get anymore cliche than that? Probably not. Either way, let's be open to the fact that it is very true. 

Thursday night marked the last time this season that the Boston Bruins played a weeknight game, and this was a solid way to end their brief two-game road trip. They were in action against the Winnipeg Jets. Even though the Jets are eliminated from playoff contention, they had no problem playing the role of spoiler on this night.

The Bruins are in control of their own destiny when it comes to the Presidents' Trophy. They held a nice cushion over the Anaheim Ducks and the St. Louis Blues for bragging rights as the NHL's best regular-season franchise. All they have to do is play their game and they will walk home with the trophy. With the downward spiral the Blues and Ducks have been on recently, three points seems insurmountable. Anyway, it all lies in the hands of the Bruins. 

Their focus was on the Jets for Thursday. The Bruins snagged a 4-1 victory against Winnipeg in their only other meeting of the season back in January. However, teams with nothing to play for are often the most lethal. The B's needed to be on guard and play a heavy game before heading into the final weekend of the season. 

Chad Johnson got the start between the pipes in this one. Jarome Iginla, Kevan Miller, and David Krejci all made their returns to the lineup. However, Chris Kelly (back spasms), Zdeno Chara (rest), and Patrice Bergeron (rest) did not play. Ryan Spooner got some game action instead. 

Even though the first period was rather uneventful, it still had its moments of flash. Aside from Brad Marchand scoring his 24th goal of the season, Johnson came up with some big saves and Matt Bartkowski led all Bruins with three hits in the first 20 minutes. 

In the second period, the Jets certainly upped the ante. They were clearly the more physical squad, but the Bruins were a force to be reckoned with in the offensive zone. If it were not for Jets goaltender Michael Hutchinson, the B's lead would have been untouchable. Instead, he stopped all 15 shots he faced in the period and kept Winnipeg within shouting distance. 

The Bruins started out playing really sloppy in the third period. The Jets began to rack up shots on Johnson, but it took that to happen for the B's to wake up. They didn't necessarily control the puck, but they held sturdy in the neutral zone until Evander Kane (WPG) blasted the tying goal home after a big rush up ice.  

After a scoreless overtime, the Jets did just enough in the shootout to overtake the Bruins and capture the 2-1 victory. However, the B's earned another point to move them one step closer to the mountain top. 

The Bruins will return home for the final time this season for an afternoon game against the Buffalo Sabres.

Gold Star: Chad Johnson (36 saves on 37 shots, 1 goal allowed, .973 save percentage)...He could not get the shutout, but he kept the Bruins in this game the entire time. 

Black Star: Jordan Caron...It is safe to say that this experiment has run its course. He is definitely expendable once the offseason rolls around.

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