Bruins looking for breathing room vs. Sens
The Boston Bruins, a playoff club since 2008, are almost home free. By way of their four-point weekend and with wins in five of their last seven games, the Bruins currently hold a four-point edge over the Florida Panthers (with a game in hand, too), five-point edge over Ottawa (though the Senators have played one less game), and a seven-point lead over the Philadelphia Flyers (with two games in hand). The Masked Men: Tuukka Rask vs. Craig Anderson
Everything, after a near 60-game stretch of nothing going right, seems to be working for the B’s. Their fourth line is chiming in with some much needed offense, while their power play is clicking, going 4-for-9, including two goals from each unit, this past weekend. The bounces are going their way.
“Since we've turned the page on the trades and all that stuff, it just seems, ‘Okay, this is our group here and this is what we’re gonna go with,’” Claude Julien said on Sunday. “And they seem to be really close knit and determined at the same time. I see a real strong focus right now.”
The wins have come when the Bruins have needed them most, too, with separation an absolute must and the Black and Gold entering a critical stretch that features 11 games in 18 days.
“I think that everyone kind of breathed a little better knowing that the trade deadline is over and this is our team for the rest of the year,” Brad Marchand, who now has four 20-goal seasons in his NHL career after a strong weekend, said. “I think we all have a lot of confidence with the group that we have and we know that anything can happen as long as we all put in our best effort and come together.
“It seems like everyone right now is feeling it and you can see every line is making plays and we are all getting opportunities so it’s something that has been a long time coming.”
But before gaining any more ground on the teams on their heels, the Black and Gold must go through another one of them, as they square off with the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Center. With a win, the Bruins could push their wild card lead out to a daunting seven points over the Senators (though, again, the Sens have played one game fewer than the B’s), with just 16 games to go.
And that’s really where the Bruins would like to be, of course.
When you take a look at the teams on the Bruins’ back, I don’t really think that anybody besides these Sens have a legitimate chance at catching the Bruins. Both the Panthers and Flyers have come across as teams that can’t get out of their own way when it comes to gaining ground in the conference, while the Sens are a team that’s rolling with solid contributions and even stronger goaltending.
But the Bruins, gaining nine of a possible 10 points in their last five games, seem to realize the importance of finding ways to earn the two points, be that in 60, 65 minutes, or longer.
“Every point is huge in the league. You see how many, how many three-point games do you see?” Chris Kelly said after Sunday’s win over Detroit. “Teams are trying to get as many points as they can. We want to keep building and try to keep getting points.”
Boston has won just one of their three head-to-heads with the Senators this season.
After getting a rare day off in Boston’s win on Sunday, Tuukka Rask is celebrating his 28th birthday in the crease as the B’s starter for tonight’s contest. The Finnish netminder put forth a dynamite effort last Saturday, stopping 29-of-31 in an overtime win over Philly, and comes into play with six wins and a .927 save percentage in 11 career starts against Ottawa. Rask has started all three of the B’s previous games against the Sens in 2014-15, allowing seven goals on 86 shots against.
The Senators will counter with Craig Anderson for the second straight game. The 33-year-old Anderson stopped 42-of-46 and survived a late Calgary rush (they overcame a 4-0 deficit to force overtime) in a Sunday shootout win against the Flames, and comes into action with five wins and a .924 save percentage since Jan. 3. Anderson has six wins, a 3.39 goals against average, and a .900 save percentage in 15 career games against the Bruins.
Stats of Note
- Patrice Bergeron has seven goals and 15 points in 17 games since the All-Star break.
- The Bruins are 4-1-1 when David Pastrnak scores at least one goal.
- Boston forward Chris Kelly has just two goals in his last 22 games played.
- Erik Karlsson has four goals and 15 points in his last 16 games.
- Ottawa’s Bobby Ryan has 11 goals and 32 points in 29 home games.
Other news and notes
The Bruins enter this one without David Krejci (knee) and defenseman Kevan Miller (shoulder). Expect Brian Ferlin to sit as Boston’s healthy scratch once again.