Sunday, March 8, 2015

Games 64-65: Afternoon Back-To-Back

Over the course of the next month, the Boston Bruins will certainly have their work cut out for them. Last week, they enjoyed four straight days off. For the next few weeks, they will never have consecutive hockey-free days.

What does that entail? A grueling home stretch for the Black and Gold. 

The Florida Panthers (two points) and the Ottawa Senators (three points) were right behind the Bruins in the Atlantic Division heading into the weekend. The wild card is now within reach of the competition, a reality that was not even fathomable two months ago. 

This back-to-back set to conclude the homestand was absolutely important, almost to the point where both contests were must-win scenarios. Up first on Saturday afternoon were the Philadelphia Flyers. The Bruins wanted nothing more than to sweep the season series with Philly and to further increase their lead for the final playoff spot. 

On Friday afternoon, the news broke that the Bruins re-signed Torey Krug and Reilly Smith to contract extension. Details of the deals and the official press release can be read here:

Release on Krug and Smith

Gregory Campbell made his return to the lineup for Saturday's game after missing the last week with an upper-body injury. Brian Ferlin was the odd man out. In the goaltending matchup, Tuukka Rask opposed Steve Mason. 

Of course, huge physical battles are commonplace whenever these two teams get together. This game was no different as both sides played with a playoff mentality. Although the leniency with the officials was at a bare minimum early on, the B's got on the board first with a power play tally by Zdeno Chara. Shots were even at 10 in the first 20 minutes. The Flyers (who possess the third-best power play percentage in the NHL) were 0-for-1 with the man advantage. 

In the second period, the Bruins had excellent offensive zone time. The Flyers were scrambling early on, but they regained their composure and got back into the game the best way that they know: on the power play. Jakub Voracek netted his 20th goal of the season to tie the game. The "good kind of nasty" meshed with the high-tempo play produced a very entertaining second half of the game.

The third period belonged to Philly. The Flyers completely wore down Boston and possessed nearly two minutes more of offensive zone puck possession in the final 20 minutes. It looked as if the Flyers were going to steal the win in regulation after netting a goal with five minutes left, but the Bruins ended the game with a six-on-four man advantage, a spot where Brad Marchand deflected home a Dougie Hamilton wrist shot to send the game into overtime. 

Just like in regulation, the hero in the extra period was Marchand. He broke the defense and slid a back hander past Mason to give the Bruins the full two points with the 3-2 win. Maxime Talbot recorded his first point as a Bruin when he assisted on the game-winning goal. 

Coming off Saturday's epic victory, the Bruins hosted the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday afternoon.

Niklas Svedberg got the start for the Bruins in this one. For the team in front of him, they picked up exactly where they left off from Saturday. Marchand opened the scoring by netting a short-handed goal. David Pastrnak also joined in on the scoring by recording his eighth goal of the year on the power play. The Bruins owned the Red Wings in scoring opportunities; there was a seven-minute span in the first period where Boston out-shot Detroit 12-1. 

Detroit, who scored a soft goal within the first 20 minutes, started to play better in the second period. The Bruins could not stay out of the box throughout the game, and giving the Red Wings that many power play chances (five) was risky business. Luckily, the penalty kill came through on all but one chance. For Detroit, they were sloppy as heck. Daniel Paille produced a great forecheck that led to two goals for himself, one of them was the second short-handed goal for Boston. 

The Bruins possessed a 5-2 lead in the third period. The Red Wings produced a huge surge near the end of the game, but Svedberg made some key stops near the end of regulation. Boston took this game by a score of 5-3. Four points on the weekend. 

The Bruins will play their next game on Tuesday night in Ottawa against the Senators. 

Gold Star (combined): Brad Marchand...He is carrying this team right now from a production standpoint. His energy is unmatched. Two goals on Saturday and one on Sunday will continue to improve the stats. 

Black Star (combined): Reilly Smith...So far, he has done nothing major to earn that new contract. When the Bruins needed him in crunch time, he did not produce at all. He cannot seem to break out.

Game Sixty-Four Box Score

Game Sixty-Five Box Score

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