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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

At 20-2-4 In The Last 26 Games: You Can't Stop the Bruins, You Can Only Hope to Contain Them

It's tough to guess how long this will last for but at this moment, it is time to embrace the fact that your Boston Bruins (35-12-8) are the best team in the NHL. What does this mean on Valentine's Day? Well nothing tangible but as they rack up all these wins (8-2-0 in their last 10 games) and own the best goal-differential in the league (+52), the expectations for what they can ultimately do this spring (which is all that really ever matters) likewise start to burst at the seams. Calgary (29-20-8) is a good team from the rugged Pacific Division that is fighting for every point that they can get just to sneak into the Western Conference playoffs. Boston spotted them an early 2-1 lead in the first period tonight at TD Garden but proceeded to reel off four straight goals en route to the somewhat misleading 5-2 victory.

Calgary's usual starting goaltender Mike Smith (23-16-6) got hurt in Sunday's 3-2 win against the Islanders (27-25-6) which meant that something named David Rittich (5-2-2) blessed us with his presence. I was hoping to see PC's own Jon Gillies (recently called up from the minors) between the pipes for the Flames but alas it wasn't meant to be. For awhile, this nameless character stood on his head (35 saves) as Boston scored first 28 seconds into the contest then tied it at two late in the second period. The Flames are the second-best road team in the league (16-7-5; behind the Bruins of course) but they predictably fell apart in the third period as the B's improved to 19-7-4 at the Garden.

Riley Nash and Patrice Bergeron both scored a pair of goals for the home team while David Backes (who moved up to the top line after David Pastrnak was temporarily demoted for his silly slashing penalty) had two assists. Nash gave the B's the 1-0 lead right off the bat by putting in a pass from Backes. Matt Grzelcyk had the second assist on Nash's ninth goal of the season. Grzelcyk returned the favor by coughing up the puck a few minutes later, leading to an easy tally for Calgary's Sam Bennett (his 8th of the season), assisted by Brown alum and Maine native Garnet Hathaway. It was a big night for local college hockey products since BC's Johnny Gaudreau gave the Flames their only lead of the entire game at 9:12 of the first period. Tuukka Rask (28 saves; 23-9-4) made two saves before Johnny Hockey was there to deposit a rebound for his 19th goal of the season (7-game point streak). Did you know that Gaudreau is the second-leading scorer in the league? I'd say that he's been a great pro thus far in his young professional career North of the border.

Nash tied his career-high with his 10th goal of the year at 16:20 of the second (he also had 10 for the Hurricanes in 2013-14). Tim Schaller and Charlie McAvoy assisted on the pretty goal for the Bruins who doubled up the Flames for shots on goal (16-8) in that frame. Bergeron is putting together the best season that he's ever had in his storied career so it was only fitting that he potted a power-play goal 1:15 into the third. Torey Krug had the stretch pass that sprung him on the breakaway that resulted in his 26th goal of 2017-18. A little over eight minutes later, he gave Boston a two-goal lead which basically equals curtains for the opponent. Bergeron tipped in a shot from Brad Marchand with Backes picking up the other helper. Zdeno Chara put the proverbial cherry on top of this delicious black and gold sundae with a 200-foot empty netter for his sixth goal of the season.

The Bruins' next home game isn't for two weeks (Feb. 27 vs. Carolina) so it was nice to see them head off on their long journey with another two points in their travel bags. Who knows, they could have a new player or two (pray that it's Rangers stud defenseman Ryan McDonagh) by the time that they get back to town since the NHL Trade Deadline is on February 26. Their upcoming five-game road trip doesn't begin until Saturday night (10, NESN) in Vancouver (22-28-6). From there, they work their way back from Western Canada with a President's Day matinee (4, NESN) in Calgary on Monday followed by a visit to Edmonton (23-28-4) the next night (9, NESN). They are in Toronto (34-19-5) on Saturday (7, NESN), February 24 and the road trip mercifully ends in Buffalo (17-30-10) on Sunday (5, NESN). Who needs to go to the West Coast or down South in the middle of the winter when you can go to all of these lovely places?

Tampa Bay (38-16-3) surprisingly lost 5-3 in Buffalo this evening which leaves Boston just one point behind the Lightning for the best record in the NHL with two games in hand. Vegas (37-15-4) still paces the Western Conference with Nashville (34-12-9) a point behind the Golden Knights for the best record in the West. Think about it: this is the lofty company that the Bruins currently keeps. The postseason remains off in the distance (still 2 months away) but this stuff has to be noted while we pass the time through the marathon that is known as an NHL regular season. The Celtics (40-18) rightfully got plenty of attention for the early part of their season as they were the best team in the Eastern Conference. Now that they have come back to Earth a bit-dropping to second in the East behind Toronto (40-16)-you can reasonably conclude that the B's actually present more of a threat in terms of championship contention this summer in their respective sport. This is something to keep in mind while you figure out which team to devote more of your precious attention to the rest of the way.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Bruins Finally Solve the Maple Leafs, Thanks In No Small Part to Their Ageless Captain Zdeno Chara

Right now, there probably isn't a team in the NHL that the Bruins (31-11-8) should be fearful of. I say that with tonight's 4-1 win vs. Toronto (30-19-5) at TD Garden still within sight of their rear-view mirror. The B's had been winless in their last six games with the Leafs (0-5-1) including losses on back-to-back nights in November. That was then and this is now as the Bruins are a remarkable 16-1-4 in their previous 21 contests. What's more, Tuukka Rask (18-0-2) extended his own point streak to 20 games while he works his way up the franchise list (still the 4th best mark in team history) for goaltenders.

There was more historical context to this regular season meeting as Bruins captain Zdeno Chara played in his 1400th career NHL game. Tomorrow will most likely be all about Tom Brady (who picked up yet another NFL MVP award this evening) but the Black and Yellow 40-year-old has proven over and over that he still has plenty left in his super-sized frame. He was a game-high +2 vs. Toronto, skated a game-high 24:00, had an assist, five hits and he blocked two shots. What is the Slovakian translation for "are you not entertained?" I know that many Bruins fans (not to mention radio hosts, cough cough Felger) had begun to write him off years ago but what can you say now when he's still performing at such a high level-he should have been an All-Star last weekend in Tampa?

Boston had it's 18-game point streak (14-0-4) snapped on Tuesday in their 3-1 loss to Anaheim (25-18-10) but since then, they've immediately bounced back with a solid 3-1 victory against St. Louis (32-19-3) on Thursday followed by this strong performance versus the only club that can realistically catch them for second-place in the Atlantic Division. The two points means that they are five points ahead of Toronto with four games in hand. After allowing the first goal in eight straight games, the B's have begun to make things easier on themselves by striking first on Thursday and tonight. Patrice Bergeron hammered in a pass from Danton Heinen at 4:29 of the first period. That play started after a ferocious forecheck by the rookie led to a turnover by the Maple Leafs (they had 12 more than the Bruins in the entire tilt). Bergeron's goal was his team-leading 22nd of the season, Brad Marchand has 21 but one game remains on his suspension.

It was a great sight to see Charlie McAvoy back on the ice since he missed the last four games following a heart procedure. He was noticeably rusty as you would expect, never more so than when Mitch Marner's shot (that was going wide of the net) was deflected in by McAvoy's stick. Tuukka Rask (23 saves in his 21st win of the season) consoled him after the play and it was knotted at one after the first period. Boston used a pair of power play tallies in the second period to take control of things: David Pastrnak's shot slipped by Frederik Andersen (26 saves) at 9:22 and Torey Krug smoked a one-timer at 16:47 for the 3-1 Bruins lead. Pastrnak's goal was his 21st of the season, assisted by Krug and Heinen. Krug's eighth goal of the season featured helpers by Austin Czarnik (making his first appearance for Boston since Nov. 8) and David Krejci.

Boston outshot Toronto 30-24 and while the Leafs owned the third (10-6), the B's still potted the only goal in the final frame-an empty-netter by Tim Schaller that was assisted by Rask (!) and Chara. These are heady times for the Bruins since they have the second most points in the Eastern Conference (trailing only Tampa Bay) and fourth most in the NHL (Winnipeg and Vegas are also in front of them) which is sort of mind-blowing. Nobody wants to be the Washington Capitals-regular season heroes that turn into pumpkins every spring in the playoffs-and Boston is showing early signs of what should be a tough out in the postseason. Tonight felt like a game that you'd see in April or May, not early February and these teams will meet one more time in the regular season (Feb. 24 in Toronto) and perhaps again when it really counts. The B's have been great at the Garden (18-6-4) and also very good on the road (13-5-4) which should come in handy with a back-loaded second half schedule.

The Bruins visit two struggling teams in the East this week that currently sit outside the playoff picture: they are in Detroit (21-22-8) on Tuesday (7:30, NESN) followed by a back-to-back at the Rangers (25-21-5) the next night (8, NBC Sports). The next home game is a week from tonight (7, NESN) vs. wretched Buffalo (14-29-9). Since he's in such a groove and because the Red Wings are in the Atlantic Division, I'm betting that Rask will get the start in Motown and then Anton Khudobin appears on Broadway. As New England sports fans, we are insanely lucky these days: the Patriots could win their sixth Super Bowl tomorrow night, the Celtics are the best team in the Eastern Conference (and they seem like the only team in the East capable of pushing the Warriors in a potential NBA Finals) and the Bruins are the hottest team in the NHL. Go Pats!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Bruins Better Hope That They Don't Meet the Ducks In the Stanley Cup Final This Summer

They sadly dropped the Mighty part from their team name ages ago but whenever the Ducks (25-17-9) have met the Bruins (29-11-8) in recent years, they still resemble that youth hockey juggernaut from the Disney movies of our youth. Anaheim kicked off the second half of the regular season with a 3-1 win at TD Garden this evening that laid to rest Boston's remarkable 18-game point streak (14-0-4) which was tied for the second longest in franchise history. The Ducks swept the two-game season series with Boston, outscoring them 7-2 so I'd say that neither result was what you would call a fluke. In fact, the B's are winless in their last eight games against the Ducks (0-7-1) with their last victory coming on October 21, 2013 (3-2 in Boston).

In many ways, the Ducks are a throwback to a bygone era in the NHL: they play what everybody and their mother terms a "heavy game" meaning that they have many bigger players that like to be physical. Besides them the Kings (27-18-5) and Blues (31-18-3) are two other notable clubs to favor that style that used to be so ingrained into Boston's DNA. There is a reason that no team in NHL history has ever earned a point when they have allowed the first goal in eight straight games. That was the mountain that the Bruins built for themselves right off the bat as they allowed a pair of goals in a lifeless first period for the home team. Oddly enough, the B's had a power play 27 seconds into the contest (slashing on Ryan Kesler) but couldn't generate any shots on goal from it (their PP was 0-for-4 in the game). Anaheim's first goal was downright ugly as Anton Khudobin (24 saves) dropped a routine backhand flip into his glove which allowed the puck to bounce in the net off of Zdeno Chara's skate at 9:04. Jakob Silfverberg was credited with his 12th goal of the season (which had to be the easiest of his life), from Cam Fowler and Rickard Rakell. Adam Henrique (6-game point streak)-who has been a great pickup for the Ducks-made it 2-0 with a power play tally at 13:59, an absolute snipe (his 14th goal of the season) that was assisted by Rakell and Fowler once again.

After they were outshot 15-5 in the first period, Boston flipped a switch and outshot Anaheim 13-4 in the second but they simply couldn't find the back of the net as they missed some of their top-end talent. The same was true for much of the third period as John Gibson (25 saves) didn't allow any goals but left late in the frame (for the 2nd straight contest) with an injury. Backup goaltender Ryan Miller allowed a goal to birthday boy Ryan Spooner with 40.7 seconds left in regulation when Khudobin was off for an extra skater but Henrique sealed it with an empty-netter from deep in his own end. Spooner's goal was his eighth of the season, assisted by Torey Krug and David Pastrnak (6-game point streak). The point streak had to end at some point for the Black and Gold but they had nobody else to blame for such an uninspired start that ultimately cost them two points.

Brad Marchand was serving the second game of his five-game suspension, Charlie McAvoy remains out after his heart procedure (the good news was that he skated this afternoon for the first time since last week's surgery) and Noel Acciari (lower-body injury) is also sidelined. Boston lost two more guys during the game as Anders Bjork (upper-body injury) left early in the first after a slight cross-check by Anaheim defenseman Francois Beauchemin to what I guess was a vulnerable spot in his back. Late in the third period, Ducks left wing Nick Ritchie caught David Backes up high with a shoulder right to the face that dazed Backes. It was a dirty hit that should be looked at closely by the NHL's Department of Player Safety. That set off a chain of events that included Zdeno Chara crushing Henrique with a borderline check in the neutral zone followed by Ryan Getzlaf slashing Chara in the legs. Both captains barked at each other as they went to their respective penalty boxes. For what it's worth, you rarely ever see Chara that fired up about anything. He was clearly upset with the officials for the no-call on Ritchie.

Coming directly off of the All-Star break, the Bruins are well-rested since only Marchand was a part of the festivities in Tampa Bay this past weekend. They'll need that extra reserve of energy as two more quality teams visit the Garden later this week: St. Louis is here on Thursday (7, NESN) before Toronto (28-18-5) stops by on Saturday night (7, NESN). The Maple Leafs game is especially important since they are really the only team that can realistically catch the B's in terms of second place in the Atlantic Division: Toronto is five points back with two more games played. Plus the Leafs swept the home-and-home with the Bruins way back in November. Tuukka Rask will make the start in both games which is always a good thing, Khudobin was noticeably rusty against Anaheim particularly in the early going.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Rask (37 saves) Stands On His Head as the Bruins Extend Their Point Streak to 17 Games (13-0-4)

This point streak for the Bruins (28-10-8) which dates back to well before Christmas 2017 (a 5-3 loss to Washington on Dec. 14) is beginning to border on the absurd. It makes you wonder if they'll ever lose again in regulation. Haha clearly that's a bit of a lie but a Patriots like confidence has enveloped this club as they have cobbled together a 17-game point streak (13-0-4) thanks to their 3-2 survival type win tonight vs. New Jersey (24-15-8) at TD Garden. That is the third best mark in club history (16-0-1-0 in 1929-30, 15-0-2-0 in 1977-78 and 15-0-2-0 in 1982-83). With any type of point(s) on Thursday (7, NESN) at wretched Ottawa (15-22-9)-their last game before this weekend's All-Star break-Boston would tie its second best run (13-0-5-0 in 1968-69) ever. The gold standard is the comical 23-game streak in 1940-41 (15-0-8) which I know that I'll never forget for the rest of my life.

Through this lengthy stretch of fine play, the B's have often outworked and frankly dominated their overmatched opponents. That wasn't the case against the Devils who were blanked 4-0 at home on Monday vs. Detroit (19-20-8) but showed plenty of pride as they outshot the Bruins 39-24 overall. As you would expect with the final result, Boston's goaltender Tuukka Rask (37 saves in his 18th win of the season) was their best player as he extended his personal point streak to 17 games (15-0-2). New Jersey scored first which apparently means nothing to the Black and Gold since they have now allowed the first goal in six straight games while they became the first team in over eight years to earn at least a point in six contests in a row when they allow the first tally (Minnesota from Nov. 25-Dec. 5, 2009).

After a scoreless first period where New Jersey blitzed Boston with 11 more shots on goal (20-9), Manchester-By-The-Sea native and BC alum Miles Wood made it 1-0 Devils at 2:05 of the second with his 13th goal of the season. He tipped in a shot by rookie defenseman Will Butcher with the second assist going to No. 1 overall pick from last summer Nico Hischier. Riley Nash (7th goal of the season) tied it up less than five minutes later as only he can: his shot deflected off Devils defenseman Sami Vatanen and lost almost all its speed, allowing the puck to knuckle past Cory Schneider. The teams continued to trade goals as Damon Severson jumped up on a 3-on-2 and slammed in a sweet shot by Rask two minutes later. Marcus Johansson and Pavel Zacha assisted on Severson's seventh goal of the season. Patrice Bergeron knotted it at two with a power play goal at 12:53: his patented one-timer from the slot, his 20th goal of the season (joining linemates Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak as the Bruins became the 1st team with a trio of 20-goal scorers), from Marchand and Torey Krug. Finally, Marchand scored a filthy goal with 32.8 seconds left in the frame as he fooled Schneider on a 2-on-1 and used his backhander to shovel it in for his 21st goal of the season, assisted by Pastrnak.

Star forward Taylor Hall is out with a hand injury and New Jersey is predictably fading (2-6-2 in last 10 games) after an unexpectedly great start to this campaign. Oh and the Metropolitan Division is insanely tight with eight points currently separating seven quality clubs. It didn't help matters that Schneider (17 saves, 3 goals allowed) left after the second with a lower-body injury, perhaps caused by Marchand basically undressing him before the Garden crowd and a TV audience around the world. Down 3-2 heading into the third and playing in the second part of a back-to-back, you would have expected the Devils to continue to fall apart but instead they outshot the B's 12-4. They just couldn't solve Rask who stopped Severson on a breakaway. Marchand nearly scored on a shorthanded bid but good old Ken Appleby (making his 2nd NHL appearance) was equal to the task. Marcus Johansson left after that play as Marchand caught him with an elbow right to the face, oops!

Bergeron missed an empty-netter in the final minute (his 1st mistake in weeks) which caused an icing call on Boston but it hardly mattered. Marchand appeared to score on the vacant net in the closing seconds but the refs correctly ruled that it hadn't crossed the line before time expired. Sorry degenerate gamblers that had the Bruins winning by two goals! It's been a spectacular first half for Boston and they can put a final bow on it with a win against the hopeless Senators on Thursday in Canada's capital. After that, the team will split for a few days with Marchand going to the All-Star festivities in Tampa Bay while the rest of his teammates travel around the globe for some well-earned rest and relaxation. They return to action next week on Tuesday vs. Anaheim (22-17-9) at the Garden, the start of a tough three-game homestand as they meet the Blues (29-18-3) next Thursday (7, NESN) and Maple Leafs (26-18-5) the night (7, NESN) before the Super Bowl-next Saturday.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Nearly A Year Later, The B's Are One of the Top Teams in the NHL & The Habs are One of the Worst

Remember when it felt like the Bruins (25-10-8) could never quite seem to catch up with the Canadiens (18-21-6) both in terms of overall team speed up and down the ice and more importantly on the scoreboard? My oh my how things have changed recently as now Boston has won four straight games against lowly Montreal following tonight's easy 4-1 victory at TD Garden. Of course for Bruins fans, they'll never grow tired of seeing the Habs become a complete dumpster fire like this. After beating them 4-3 in a wild shootout at the Bell Centre on Saturday night, the B's let the Canadiens score the first goal before they slowly made them submit to another defeat. Even better, Boston can beat these jokers three times in eight days since they meet this Saturday night (7, NESN) in Montreal as well. Thanks, NHL schedule makers!

Faster than you could say Handsome Ralph, the Canadiens were up 1-0 as rookie defenseman Jakub Jerabek threw the puck at the net and it deflected in off Zdeno Chara just 31 seconds into regulation. Jerabek's first career NHL goal was assisted by Charles Hudon and Paul Byron. Montreal led the entire game for a grand total of 6:19 as Boston tied it up on a sweet passing play from Brad Marchand to Patrice Bergeron to David Pastrnak for the goal. Marchand was actually on his knees when he flung the puck to Bergeron who quickly dished it to Pastrnak (get it?!) for his 18th goal of the season. Against Isaiah Thomas and Paul Pierce's wishes, the Bruins showed a nice tribute video for Claude Julien that drew a huge ovation from the Garden crowd. See NBA, these things can be done with minimal drama and whining.

In soccer terms, both clubs enjoyed the benefit of an own goal as Ryan Spooner put the Bruins ahead 2-1 at 2:37 of the second period when his attempted pass went off the enigma known as Jonathan Drouin, by Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (28 saves; 13-15-4) and into the net. Spooner's sixth goal of the season was assisted by David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk. Not only is Montreal a terrible team but they are also boring to watch (unless you hate yourself) which is about the worst combination that you can be in sports. They were only down a goal going into the third period but once Marchand bagged a power play goal at 3:40 of the third period, it was basically over. His 19th goal of the season was assisted by Bergeron and Torey Krug. The final score actually could have been way more lopsided as three Bruins hit the crossbar or post (Noel Acciari, David Backes and Krejci) over the course of 60 minutes. Julien pulled Price for an extra attacker with a few minutes left since what the hell right? It predictably backfired immediately as Krejci (8th goal of the season) scored an empty-netter at 16:46 from Backes.

All in all it was a great day for the Black and Gold as they honored former Bruin Willie O'Ree on the 60th anniversary of his first NHL game (he broke the league's color barrier). PS how is he not already in the Hockey Hall of Fame? Boston mayor Marty Walsh declared tomorrow "Willie O'Ree Day" and the city is opening a street hockey rink in his honor which will be completed by this summer in Allston. The B's extended their point streak to 14 games (10-0-4) which is the longest in 2017-18 in the NHL and goaltender Tuukka Rask's (21 saves; 16-8-4) personal point streak reached 15 games (13-0-2) as well. Finally, after missing 36 games recovering from the broken leg that he suffered vs. Vancouver on October 19, veteran defenseman Adam McQuaid returned to action subbing in for Kevan Miller who has the bird flu or something.

The B's are right back at it tomorrow night (7, NESN) against the Islanders (23-19-4) at Barclays Center. New York is one point out of both Wild Card spots in the Eastern Conference so unlike the Canadiens, they have plenty to play for. That figures to be another start for Anton Khudobin (9-2-4) with Rask getting the Canadiens once more on Saturday. If it ain't broke, don't fix it right? So while we chuckle at Julien circling the drain in Montreal (again), realize that these Bruins under head coach Bruce Cassidy are a real force in the East. This is probably looking too far ahead (but what else do you want to hear in mid-January?) but with a few breaks going their way, the Bruins could make this spring a real memorable one for Boston sports teams and I'm not just talking about the Celtics.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Whatever Happened to Tyler Seguin? Oh That's Right, Now He's a Perennial All-Star in Dallas

It didn't take a genius to know back on that fateful July 4th (in 2013) when the Bruins traded Tyler Seguin to the Stars, that he would soon become one of the best offensive players in the NHL. No doubt the change of scenery was a good thing since Seguin will never be the main story in a town dominated by the Cowboys and Mavericks (when they're at least somewhat relevant). The Bruins (24-10-8) now only get to see their former No. 2 overall pick in 2010 once or twice a season but somehow, he seems to usually find a way to make B's fans wish that things could have worked out better here for him. In an afternoon matinee at TD Garden on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Dallas (25-17-3) skated off to the rest of their six-game Eastern Conference road trip with a 3-2 overtime victory thanks to the eye-popping talent of Seguin who (of course!) bagged the highlight-reel game-winning goal.

Seguin's tally was obviously a punch to the collective nuts for the Bruins but before that, there were plenty of reasons to be content with this result from their perspective. Boston rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the second period and earned a point for the 13th game in a row (9-0-4). Remember that they had come into today's tilt as the hottest team in the NHL: 8-0-2 in their past 10 games. With the overtime victory, the Stars jumped over Minnesota (24-17-5) for the first Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. They are a good team with a decent shot to make the playoffs in the always loaded West especially with head coach Ken Hitchcock behind the bench, bringing stability since he's one of the NHL's all-time winningest coaches.

With three more games left this week (Wednesday vs. Montreal, Thursday at Islanders and Saturday in Montreal), this was an Anton Khudobin (9-2-4) joint for the Bruins. He made 29 saves which was fine but Dallas backup goaltender Kari Lehtonen (30 saves) edged him in his first start in exactly a month (a 5-2 loss at New Jersey on Dec. 15). Lehtonen's most recent win was on Dec. 13 (at Islanders). Dallas' usual goaltender Ben Bishop (former University of Maine standout) had made 11 straight starts which seems like a death wish approved by Canadiens head coach Claude Julien but I digress.

Boston is awful in overtime this season (1-6) while Dallas improved to 3-2 in the extra session. The Garden always lacks noise in afternoon starts (sorry kiddos) but still the team is 3-2-1 in them so far in 2017-18. Finally, the B's are 3-2-2 in game 1s (when they have 3 games in 4 days) and they allowed the first goal in consecutive contests for the first time in nearly a month (Dec. 13, 14 & 16).

After a scoreless 1st period, the Stars woke up before the Bruins as they bagged two goals less than five minutes apart. Stephen Johns sniped in a shot at 3:49 for his 5th goal of the season, assisted by Remi Elie and Brett Ritchie. Haha I swear those are all real people and not assumed names made up by the FBI. Former Canadiens bust Alexander Radulov doubled Dallas' lead at 8:15 after Jamie Benn shot the puck via the face-off then the burly Russian was there to pop in the rebound with a backhander for his 17th goal of the season.

Boston's power play was 0 for 4 on the day so they were no help whatsoever. Zdeno Chara got his team back into it though with a patented blast at 16:28 of the 2nd period, cutting it to 2-1 Stars. Charlie McAvoy & Riley Nash assisted on the Captain's fourth goal of the season. Happily this time around, he didn't send anyone to the hospital when they were hit by one of his wayward shot attempts.

Dallas was 20-1-1 when leading after two this season while Boston was 1-9-2 when trailing after two so the home team obviously had their work cut out for them. Ryan Spooner of all people tied it up at 11:21 when his shot in traffic deflected in off a Stars defenseman's skate. Spooner's fifth goal of the season was assisted by David Krejci and Matt Grzelcyk. I thought that the puck had gone off of Jake DeBrusk's body but the ruling never changed, sorry rookie.

Seguin's goal was pretty brilliant as Dallas had an extra skater on the ice during a delayed penalty call. He skated around multiple Bruins who all futilely dropped to the ice to block his shot before he snuck it between Khudobin's stacked pads. His team-leading 22nd goal of the season was assisted by John Klingberg (who paces the league with 35 assists) and his buddy Benn.

Boston beat Montreal (18-20-5) 4-3 in a thrilling shootout that probably few but the true Bruins hardcores actually saw on Saturday night since it was on at the same exact time as the Patriots' blowout of the Titans. With two more games against the Habs this week, the Black and Gold have a real opportunity to bury their biggest rival for good well before the spring is even here. With the back-to-backs, I'm confident that Tuukka Rask will see Montreal again before Khudobin starts against the Isles (22-18-4). After that who knows if Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy would want Rask to play the same club three times in eight days? That's clearly above my pay grade, haha I'm just a lowly blogger that's lucky to be out of my mother's basement.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

I Am Calling It: 2018 Will Be the Year of Bergy

Sometimes in sports, like in everyday regular people life, you just don't have it. Conversely, there are other magical times where you can literally do no wrong. Tonight was one of those latter such times for Bruins icon Patrice Bergeron. He set a career-high with four goals and tied another personal mark with five points as Boston (23-10-6) pillaged Carolina (19-14-8) 7-1 at TD Garden. When you have an unforgettable performance such as that, there are many statistics that you can highlight: Bergy notched his second career hat trick just 5:36 into the second period and his fourth goal a little over five minutes later tied the club record also matched by 16 others. You might not know anything about them, neither do most people in North Carolina (why are they still there?), but the Hurricanes had been playing really well (7-2-1) and they were coming off of a 4-0 shutout in Pittsburgh (21-19-3) on Thursday.

Carolina goaltender Cam Ward got to play 5:43 which is quite impressive when you consider that he started and wasn't forced out of action with an injury. Nope, Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters (which sounds like the name of your dad's boss) had seen enough after Bergeron flipped a shot by his glove side at 3:14 of the first period. Bergeron's 13th goal of the season was shorthanded and assisted by Brad Marchand (4 assists) who must of fooled Ward into thinking that Bergeron was going to pass it to him? Former Carolina great Riley Nash made it 2-0 at 5:43 when he roofed a shot over Ward's (say it with me kids!) glove side. Nash's fifth goal of the season was assisted by Kevan Miller and David Backes. Ward finished with two goals allowed on two shots against which is really remarkable when you think about it for a guy that's won a Stanley Cup.

For a freezing cold second, the Hurricanes had one last breath of life as Jordan Staal tipped in a Teuvo Teravainen shot for a power play goal at 7:09 which cut it to 2-1 Bruins. Norwood native and former BC star Noah Hanifin had the second assist on Staal's 11th goal of the season. This came right after Marchand had a shorthanded breakaway bid stopped by Scott Darling (no relation to Ron, I think). No problem though, Boston's unstoppable offense roared back with a pair of goals at 9:04 and 10:22 of the first period. David Pastrnak whipped in a one-timer (his 1st goal in 11 games) for his 16th goal of the season, assisted by Bergeron and Danton Heinen (2 goals, 5 assists in his last 7 games). Jake DeBrusk tipped in Ryan Spooner's shot for his ninth goal of the season, assisted by David Krejci. The B's weren't done though in the first as they polished off their first five-goal frame in nearly 7 years (Jan. 13, 2011 vs. Flyers). Bergeron pumped in a one-timer from Marchand for his 700th career point, how cute!

Even the Chiefs couldn't blow that type of lead, oh wait.... Just in case the Hurricanes had any thoughts of making it competitive, they passed out in a snowbank outside the Garden and collectively froze to death. Bergeron got his hat trick, complete with plenty of hats thrown on the ice (props to the Bruins marketing team for saying hats were 30% off in the team store, America!), thanks to another assist from Marchand at 5:36. Finally, Bergy wrapped it up with one last tally from his uber-talented linemates at 10:45 of the second period. It would have been fun to see Boston score double-digit goals but with another game looming tomorrow night (7:30, NBC Sports) in Pittsburgh, what was the point? There was nothing left to prove against a beaten opponent.

The Bruins improved to 8-0-2 in their last 10 games, the longest point streak since they went 15-0-1 from March 2-30, 2014. They are 11-1-2 in their last 14 games and 17-3-2 in their last 22 games which last time I checked is pretty damn good. The back-to-back champion Penguins have been a mess this season and believe it or not, if the playoffs started today (I know, I hate those hypothetical statements too.....), they would be left out of the mighty Eastern Conference playoff race. Of course, nobody in the world (probably not even the Hurricanes) would pick Carolina to hold off Pittsburgh for the second Wild Card. This is a proud club with a ton of great players so it's a little early to be writing them off, however the B's have a nice opportunity to inflict more damage on the Pens on national TV on a Sunday night, what could be better than that?

Anton Khudobin (27 saves, 9th win of the season) had the honor of facing his former team today so that Tuukka Rask (14-8-3, 2.09 GAA) will be well rested (remember that Boston's game with Florida on Thursday was cancelled on account of the Bomb Cyclone) for the showdown with Pittsburgh. You'll need to get your Black and Gold fix tomorrow since after that, they are off until Saturday (7, NESN) when they travel to see hapless Montreal (17-20-4) coached by some guy named Handsome Ralph I mean Mr. Potato Head, no it's Claude Julien. The NHL schedule makers were clearly tripping on acid when they put together this upcoming slate for the B's after the mandatory break as they play the Habs three times in eight days. Haha WTF? Boston's next home game isn't until a week from Monday (1, NESN), a Martin Luther King Jr. day matinee vs. Dallas (24-16-3).