Saturday, April 11, 2015

Game 82: Another Season In The Books

Several seasons have come and gone, but the 2014-15 campaign has been a roller coaster to say the least. 

From a roster that contained the youngest player in the league to being decimated with season-ending injuries, and from fraudulent contract extensions to jabbing at each other to the media, the Boston Bruins is not the same franchise that we used to know.

With all of that being said, the Bruins still had one last gasp of hope entering Saturday night because if certain miraculous events unfolded, they would still make the playoffs.  

Since the Pittsburgh Penguins fells to the New York Islanders on Friday night, that made things a little bit more interesting heading into the final day of the regular season. The Ottawa Senators won their game in the afternoon, clinching a playoff spot. So, the Bruins or the Penguins would be heading to the postseason. Earlier in the night, Pittsburgh knocked off the Buffalo Sabres and eliminated the Bruins from playoff contention. 

Who would have thought that this team would miss the playoffs? After eight seasons at the helm, Head Coach Claude Julien and General Manager Peter Chiarelli could be out of Boston come Monday morning. 

In the meantime, Boston played its final game of the season against the Tampa Bay Lightning to end the week.

Once again, the B's got off to a sluggish start in the neutral zone. The back-and-forth action normally would favor a team like Tampa Bay due to the speed and young guns that they have up front, but the Bruins got more chances to climb ahead and pull away. 

After a scoreless first period, the teams traded goals in the second period. The score ended up tied at two goals a piece after regulation. In the shootout, the Lightning took the full two points by netting the only goal. Not a very eventful game from either side despite what was on the line. Boston ended the year on a three-game losing streak and emerged up with only one point on the road trip. 

With 96 points on the year, the Bruins failed to make the postseason. This is going to be a very interesting offseason. It is too bad that is comes two months early this year. We will see what happens. Enjoy the playoffs and we will see everyone in October. 

Gold Star: Brad Marchand...He showed the heart and fortitude to play hard until the very end. His goal at the end of regulation gave the Bruins a burst of energy, even though it was short lived. 

Black Star: Tuukka Rask...It is time to hold him accountable. He looked lazy in the shootout when his team still had a chance to win, but this whole road trip was forgettable for the netminder.

Game Eighty-Two Box Score

*This will be the last season of the game-for-game blog. Everything else will be through Inside Hockey going forward. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Games 80-81: Final Week Of The Regular Season

The race for the final two playoff spots could not be more convoluted than it is at this point in time. Over the course of the past week, the Eastern Conference has broken down to officially only nine teams competing for eight spots. 

Welcome to the push for postseason positioning. 

The Boston Bruins got launched into seventh place (third in the Atlantic Division) on Sunday night without even playing a game; the Detroit Red Wings dropped two points to the Washington Capitals. After the Ottawa Senators knocked off the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday, the B's were right back to where they entered the week (eighth place). 

Speaking of the Caps, that was the team that the B's faced off against on Wednesday night to begin this final three-game road trip to end the year. This was also the first game of their 16th back-to-back set of the season. 

Not only were the B's looking for their first win of the season against Washington, but also their first goal; they were shut out in the previous two meetings. This was going to be a herculean task for Boston on this night, but there was no more room for letting up. The Black and Gold could easily fall out of the playoff picture if they do not take care of business this week.

Dougie Hamilton skated before practice all week since suffering an "upper-body" injury on March 21. However, he did not make the trip. Joe Morrow was recalled from Providence on an emergency basis. 

With shuffled lines and tweaked defensive pairs, the game started off sloppy for the Bruins. There were turnovers galore and multiple defensive breakdowns in front of Tuukka Rask. The Caps blasted in two quick goals as a result of the B's play. The second period was a little bit more like the B's as they broke down the Caps defense with some great scoring chances. However, Braden Holtby continued to be a B's killer. 

After the Caps recorded another goal in the second period, that was more than enough for them to hold on. It was easily forgettable that Washington was playing for playoff positioning, so the intensity that was brought was justified. Patrice Bergeron, Brett Connolly, and Milan Lucic all had golden opportunities to put the puck in the goal, but nothing to it. The puck possession and face-offs won were in the B's favor (39-24), but that does not translate to goals or points. The Capitals took this game by a final score of 3-0. Holtby became the first goaltender to shut out the Bruins for the entire season, stopping all 27 shots he faced on this night. 

Boston's five-game winning streak was snapped with this loss and it also signified a season sweep by the Capitals. 

The Bruins were also in action on Thursday night against the Florida Panthers, a team that was recently eliminated from playoff contention. Their mission? Spoiler. On a side note, Boston and Ottawa entered Thursday tied with 95 points each and two games remaining on the schedule. 

Boston came out on fire to begin the game. The Panthers did not get a quality scoring chance on Rask until after the midway point of the opening 20 minutes. Even though the first period was scoreless, the B's clearly came out with a purpose. Both sides got a chance on the power play and both sides were in rare form with the man advantage.

The B's and Panthers entered the second period playing four-on-four hockey due to matching minors at the end of the previous period. At that point, Florida was the team in control...which was absolutely baffling. The physical aspect of the game was definitely there, so much so that we witnessed a lengthy fight between Adam McQuaid and Alex Petrovic. We finally did manage to get some scoring in this game. Bergeron and Aleksander Barkov--two fine young top-line centers--each recorded a power-play goal for their respective teams, setting up a wild third period. 

Even though the B's showed signs of life, the Panthers just wanted the two points more. They scored three goals in the final 20 minutes while Roberto Luongo had a solid night in net for Florida. In stunning fashion, the Bruins fell by a final score of 4-2 to the Panthers. 

Since the Senators knocked off the New York Rangers earlier in the night, they leapfrogged the B's right into the playoff picture. There is so much on the line with one game left on the schedule. 

The Bruins will play their regular-season finale on Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Gold Star (combined): Adam McQuaid...He actually put together a decent start to the road trip. He took meaningful shots as well as shutting down the best players on the opposition. Above all else, he was consistent. 

Black Star (combined): David Krejci...He was down on the fourth line for Thursday after being invisible on Wednesday. The knee injury has clearly taken its toll on the veteran center and messed with his confidence out on the ice.

Game Eighty Box Score

Game Eighty-One Box Score

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Game 79: Last Home Game

It is already that time of year. The Boston Bruins played their final home game of the regular season on Saturday night. 

At the TD Garden this year, the B's posted a record of 23-10-7 (not including Saturday), a very modest record on home ice. They would have loved nothing more than to send the Boston faithful home happy one last time this year, and they had an excellent chance to do just that.

On Saturday night, the Bruins played host to the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

What an awful disaster that has gone on north of the border this season. But shockingly enough, the Maple Leafs own two victories over the Black and Gold this year--one of them being a 6-1 shellacking up in Toronto. It was just tough to reminiscence about this team because these two teams last met back in December. With a team that has as many skilled players as the Maple Leafs, they had no problem attempting to play spoiler against the Bruins.

Max Talbot was back in the lineup for Boston as Gregory Campbell was the healthy scratch. Tuukka Rask got his 67th appearance between the pipes. 

The first period was scoreless, but what we took from the opening 20 minutes is that the Bruins were not productive on the power play. However, the B's were the dominant team during five-on-five play. Boston out-shot Toronto 19-6 over the course of the first period.

In the second frame, the Leafs were forced to play defense early...and that is something that they never were able to do. Patrice Bergeron opened the scoring just 19 seconds into the second period. From there, Toronto seemed to stand up to the Bruins from a physical standpoint. The Maple Leafs worked their way back into it by tying the game on the stick of James van Riemsdyk. Similar to how Rask was dominant in period one, Leafs netminder James Reimer was the man in period two as he stopped all 12 shots he face. 

The third period was a stalemate, even though the B's racked up 47 shots on goal in regulation. This game eventually went into overtime and then into a shootout. Bergeron ended up coming through yet again by scoring the only goal in the shootout while Rask stopped all three Leafs. Boston defeated Toronto by a final score of 2-1 and improve its winning streak to five games. 

The Ottawa Senators also played simultaneously with the B's on this night as well. The Sens were three points behind Boston for the second wild card spot. They knocked off the Washington Capitals in overtime, so the lead is still three points for the Bruins in the Atlantic Division. 

The Bruins will begin a three-game road trip to end the season next week, starting on Wednesday when they take on those very same Capitals.

Gold Star: Patrice Bergeron...He totaled six shots on net. At least one of them ended up going in the net. In all seriousness, this guy in money. We should expect nothing less.

Black Star: Torey Krug...Not a very effective game for the young blue liner. The size of the Leafs forwards did not bode well for him when it came time to hit.

Game Seventy-Nine Box Score

List of Boston Bruins Team Awards

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Game 78: Chasing The Teams Ahead

Thursday night was actually a more important night than this past Tuesday. Yes, the Boston Bruins completed the comeback in the third period of the game against the Florida Panthers to take two points and increase their lead in the wild card hunt.

With the win, the B's put themselves in a spot to do more than just settle for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. 

The Detroit Red Wings were on the slate for Thursday, the final meeting of the regular season between these two "Original Six" squads (Boston leads the season series 3-1 with Thursday being the fifth game of the year). Only two points separated Detroit and Boston heading into this game, so the winner could jump to third place in the Atlantic Division. 

The Bruins were heading into this one poised to face an incredibly hot goaltender in Petr Mrazek, but unhealthy players like Pavel Datsyuk were watching from the press box. To counter that, Brett Connolly finally made his B's debut after missing four weeks with a broken finger. David Krejci moved to his natural position at center between Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson. The stakes were high and both sides were prepared to reap the results. 

Joe Morrow was recalled from Providence and joined the team in Detroit. He did not end up playing in this game. Tuukka Rask was in goal yet again for Boston while Maxime Talbot was a healthy scratch. 

In the first period, Detroit came out with a purpose. Despite being undermanned, the Red Wings were just too quick for the Bruins in the opening 20 minutes. The B's had a couple of bad turnovers and Rask saw way too many pucks thrown his way--the Red Wings racked up 14 shots on goal. The bottom line here is that the Bruins were lucky that the period was scoreless...especially when the Red Wings got two chances to demonstrate the second-best power play in the league. 

Boston switched up all four lines in order to get something going in the second period. They did get an opportunity on the power play, but failed to capitalize even with four shots on net. After strong pressure in front of Rask, Detroit was able to poke the puck into the goal to start the scoring. The Red Wings targeted David Pastrnak all night long with the physical play. During that time, Patrice Bergeron left the game with an apparent head injury, but later returned. Thank goodness. Nothing was going right for Boston at that point in the game.

In the third period, Detroit added another goal on the power play to increase the lead. The Bruins managed to get the next two tallies to tie the game. The final 20 minutes was such a back-and-forth affair that nothing was predictable. In fact, what was unbelievable is that Zach Trotman scored the game-winning goal (his first career NHL goal as well) late in the period in front of his home state of Michigan. What a feel-good story this game turned out to be for the Bruins. 

With the win, Boston and Detroit are tied at 93 points for third place in the Atlantic Division. Connolly and Reilly Smith each racked up two assists. 

The Bruins will be in action on Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Gold Star: Tuukka Rask...He made 35 big saves throughout the game. He was vital to keeping his team in the game until the very end. 

Black Star: Zdeno Chara...He took two penalties in the opening period and was sloppy with the puck in the defensive zone. Usually his heavy shot can make up for his lapses, but not on this night.

Game Seventy-Eight Box Score