Thursday, April 3, 2014

Games 76-77: Two Weeks Left

The Boston Bruins made history in all forms during the month of March. For a betting man's money, this past month strung together by this team could go down as one of the most dominating 30 days put forth by any team in league history. 

The Bruins went 15-1-1 in 17 games during the month, outscoring their opponents 59-27. In the midst of this awe-inspiring run, they won 12 straight games against teams from all divisions across the NHL. For the last full month of the regular season, Boston was the best team in the league. 

We are now in April, which means that there are two weeks left in the year. Specifically, the Bruins need to wrap up the last seven games remaining on their schedule. Up next, they skated against opponents that they could very well see in the opening round of the playoffs.

To begin the week, the B's endured a back-to-backer against the Detroit Red Wings (Wednesday), followed by the Toronto Maple Leafs (Thursday). You have to love those "Original Six" matchups!

The Red Wings, who have made the inevitable switch back over to the Eastern Conference, leads the season series against the Bruins. However, the Red Wings have been decimated by injuries throughout the year, and the Bruins are peaking at the right time. Speaking of which, Pavel Datsyuk and Daniel Alfredsson were both out of the lineup for Detroit. This had the making of a lopsided contest. Would the B's continue their epic road winning streak? 

Ryan Spooner was recalled from Providence on Tuesday and traveled with the team on this trip. For the game, Tuukka Rask opposed Jimmy Howard in the goaltender duel. In the first effort to rest some players, the Bruins made that choice on Jarome Iginla, who did not skate in this one (lower-body injury). Loui Eriksson moved up to the first line while Jordan Caron took his spot on the third line. 

The Bruins found themselves in one interesting game with the Wings. They controlled the puck possession and scoring opportunities, but Howard kept his team in it long enough to smell victory. In the third period, Carl Soderberg put the B's back on top after netting a sweet power play goal. 

Unfortunately, there are sixty minutes in a hockey game. The Red Wings scored two unanswered goals in the final 20 minutes to secure the victory to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Bruins streak of consecutive road victories ended at nine games. 

For Thursday's game, Soderberg returned home to Boston in anticipation for the birth of his child. Also, Chad Johnson got the start in goal-no surprise there. It is worth noting that the Bruins are still experimenting with the defensive parings among the seven d-men prior to the playoffs. Anyway, let's see what a very desperate Toronto team brought to the ice on this night.  

Aside from their usual sloppy defensive play, the Leafs brought their offense early on. They pressured the Bruins after withstanding an early rush, and beat Johnson for two goals with a heaping helping of lucky bounces. After falling behind 3-1, the Bruins found new life.

They ended up tying the game at three after goals from Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron. The Bruins absolutely dominated the Leafs in the final period, outshooting them 17-5 and imposing their will whenever they saw fit. That valiant effort was all for not because Toronto ended the game in overtime to stay afloat in the postseason chase. The B's will have to wait another day to clinch the Eastern Conference. 

The Bruins will play another afternoon game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, this time at the TD Garden. 

Gold Star: Johnny Boychuk...He had a goal to accompany his countless hits on Wednesday. He was the best defenseman on the ice for the Bruins in both games. 

Black Star: Matt Bartkowski...Wow, he had some bad giveaways and was not very physical along the boards. His availability for the playoffs could be in jeopardy.

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