(Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski/USA Today Sports)
By Mike Cratty Twitter: @Mike_Cratty
To say the Boston Bruins are rolling is an understatement. After winning 18 of their last 23 games, the Bruins are continuing to show they are a bonafide threat in the NHL. To put things in perspective a little more, they are in the second place in the NHL and the Atlantic division.
They have plenty of skill, but it’s not always flashiness that wins games. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it yet again, they find different ways to win by wearing teams down. Their scoring attack has become so balanced and their team defense has risen to become the NHL’s best. Not to mention Tuukka Rask has played better than any other goalie in the NHL since late November. Anton Khudobin has continued to back Tuukka up sufficiently during that time period, which never hurts.
Following a 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs last Saturday, a back-to-back against two Eastern Conference foes, the Detroit Red Wings, and the New York Rangers lied ahead. Being two struggling teams, the Bruins took advantage of their deficiencies enough to win both games. Their record now stands at 33-11-8, with 74 points.
Tuukka Rask started in Detroit, in a game where Austin Czarnik and Torey Krug were in familiar territory. A 3-2 victory came out of it in a game where the excitement was saved mainly for the later portion. Two rookies, in particular, shined in Danton Heinen and Sean Kuraly, who both picked up a goal and an assist. David Krejci tallied the other goal, his 10th of the season.
Things almost got out of hand when Wings forward Frans Nielsen made it 3-2 off a rebound with 1:24 remaining in the third period. Luckily the Bruins held on for the win after Charlie McAvoy pinned the puck in the corner after what went on to be the final faceoff.
It’ll be tough for teams like the Red Wings and the Panthers to make up much ground in the Atlantic, seeing as there is currently a 17-point gap between the third and fourth place teams, in Toronto and Florida. The Bruins made it a little tougher and made things a bit more interesting for themselves, setting up for an important contest at Madison Square Garden the next night.
With the Tampa Bay Lightning dropping five of their last 10 games, now is a great time for a leapfrog attempt into first place in the Atlantic, and possibly the NHL, for the Bruins. Their 6-1 throttling of the struggling New York Rangers will help out with that. After an early goal from Rick Nash to make it 1-0, the Bruins woke up and potted six unanswered goals, eventually chasing Henrik Lundqvist from the crease. There is one point separating the Bruins and the Lightning and first place.
Tim Schaller, or Pavel Datsyuk? You tell me. One of the highlights of the night and honestly the season. The New Hampshire native, former Providence Friar, and fourth-liner, Tim Schaller, undresses Anthony DeAngelo and Brendan Smith and puts in an off-balance beauty.
The other five goals on the night came from Patrice Bergeron, who had two, building on his case for the Hart Trophy, Zdeno Chara, Riley Nash, and Sean Kuraly. Sean Kuraly is getting his offensive game going a little bit over the past two games, which is never a bad thing to see from a fourth-liner. Anton Khudobin made 21 saves in net, partly thanks to the defense flustering the Rangers offense for the good majority of the game.
63+37=100. Marchand picked up a lone assist on this goal after returning from his five-game suspension. Shorthanded goals like that shouldn’t be allowed.
The Bruins get some rest before taking on the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden, followed by the New Jersey Devils on the road in the Prudential Center, the next day. Who doesn’t love back-to-back weekend games? As long as the Bruins keep the tempo up, they’ll be hard to play against and make teams have to fight for two points. No one is making it hard to do so in the NHL right now than the Bruins.