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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).

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Where Were You On Dec. 27, 2017? Aka The Night That Riley Nash Had the Game of His Life

As you were understandably paying more attention to (in no particular order) the holidays, the Patriots, the Celtics or your family, significant other and friends, the Bruins (20-10-5) have become one of the hottest (/best?) teams in the NHL. No worries if you are a little late to the Black and Gold party, they still have 47 games left in the regular season plus playoffs which looks pretty certain so there is plenty of time to get (back) on the bandwagon which should be filling up if we ever survive this upcoming deep freeze throughout New England. Anyways Boston met Ottawa (11-16-8) tonight at TD Garden for the time since last spring's first-round playoff series, won by Ottawa in six tightly-contested tilts (4 in OT where the Sens were 3-1). The B's had dropped six straight regular season games (0-4-2) vs. the Senators as well but you wouldn't know that by the 5-1 post-Christmas beating they dropped on them this evening.

Riley Nash (2 goals, 1 assist) recorded the fourth career two-goal game of his vaunted NHL life and he also tied his career-high in points which he last did on March 2, 2013 vs. Florida (1 goal, 2 assists). Tuukka Rask (25 saves, 12-8-3) continued his amazing in-season turnaround as he has earned his team valuable points in 10 games in a row (9-0-1). His goals against average during that stretch is 1.41 and his save percentage is a whopping .946. Who predicted this when he couldn't buy a win to save his life earlier this campaign? Boston is 8-1-1 in its last 10 games by the way, only Tampa Bay (26-7-2) has been better (9-1-0) lately. Two more good signs that this team is for real: their top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak combined for a grand total of zero points and likewise their power play produced nothing (0-for-2) yet they still pumped in five goals for their home fans (they are 13-5-3 at the Garden).

The Senators look nothing like the (lucky?) team that pushed the Penguins to seven games in the Eastern Conference Final last spring. They are 12 points out of a Wild Card spot in the East and 15 points behind Toronto (22-14-1)-who was leapfrogged by Boston (that still has 2 games in hand) this evening-so what are they waiting for? It's time to start figuring out who they want to keep and build around and which guys can get a decent return in a trade to a contending team. The Bruins got off to a fast start as they led 2-0 just 8:28 into the action: Kevan Miller jumped into the offensive zone for a juicy Craig Anderson (18 saves, 9-12-4) rebound for his first goal of the season (assisted by David Backes and Nash) and then rookie Danton Heinen continued his great stretch (3 goals, 6 assists in his last 9 games) with his 9th goal of the season after a sweet passing sequence by Ryan Spooner and Matt Grzelcyk.

Fredrik Claesson hit Noel Acciari with a dirty head shot (that I bet he'll hear from NHL player safety about in the near future) later in the first period but never fear because Tim Schaller came to the rescue of his former PC and current Bruins teammate. Schaller fought Claesson who was tagged with two majors (for fighting and a check to the head) and he also received a game misconduct. Schaller had no problem getting his second fighting major of the season and he also got a 10-minute misconduct along with a two-minute instigator penalty which was a bit of a head-scratcher. No worries though since Acciari surprisingly returned to Boston's bench to start the second period and ended up playing the rest of the game which was shocking since the hit looked like a textbook place to get a concussion. Maybe not.

Nash broke things open early in the second period as he got in on a breakaway (the 1st of his life?) and beat Anderson with what looked like a routine wrist shot that somehow eluded his glove hand for his third goal of the season, unassisted. Ottawa's only highlight of the proceedings came when Thomas Chabot banged in a one-timer at 3:49 of the second period to cut Boston's advantage to 3-1. Nash scored his second tally on a nice power move that showed off his sneaky decent hands. Anders Bjork had the lone assist on that one. Anderson was never pulled so he had the honor of giving up the last Bruins goal with 1:20 left in garbage time: Backes took a shot that deflected off the end boards and pushed it in the net, nice and easy for his fifth goal of the season. Grzelcyk and Heinen provided the helpers so each had multi-point performances which is swell.

For many reasons (mental and physical), tomorrow night's game in Washington (7:30, NESN) will be infinitely hard than this glorified exhibition. The Capitals (22-13-2) have won their last 11(!) games vs. the Bruins and Boston head coach Bruce Cassidy had already announced this afternoon that backup goaltender Anton Khudobin (8-2-2) will get the start vs. star netminder Braden Holtby after Washington started its backup Philipp Grubauer tonight in a 1-0 shootout loss at the Rangers (19-13-4). Both teams are in the second half of a back-to-back so neither should have much more energy than the other (Charlie McAvoy was the only Bruin to play over 20+ minutes vs. Ottawa but he's Captain America so who cares?), especially after the mandatory three-day break for Christmas. At some point, the B's are going to beat the Capitals again so why can't it be tomorrow night in our nation's capital? Basically everything is going right for the Bruins at the moment so that would be a nice albatross for them to get out of the way before the New Year.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

McAvoy Celebrates His 20th Birthday the Only Way He Knows How: By Winning a Hockey Game

I find it hard to fathom that many people have had a more memorable 20th birthday on this Earth than Bruins rookie stud Charlie McAvoy. He is not only one of the best young defensemen in the NHL but also one of the most electric players in general so it made perfect sense that he would play a key role in tonight's 2-1 shootout win vs. Winnipeg (20-10-6) at TD Garden. With the game on his stick in the fourth round (after Winnipeg's Nikolaj Ehlers hit the post), McAvoy calmly fired a low shot past former UMass Lowell legend Connor Hellebuyck (32 saves).

The Jets have been one of the pleasant surprises in the NHL this season and even with this shootout loss, they are still tied with Nashville (21-8-4) and St. Louis (20-10-6) for first place in the Western Conference's mighty Central Division. Winnipeg's captain and leading scorer is old friend Blake Wheeler (9 goals, 32 assists) who unbeknownst to probably most of his haters in Boston has completely transformed his game into one of the top American players in the league. Tuukka Rask (season-high 37 saves, 10th win of the season) and Hellebuyck had the hockey equivalent of a pitcher's duel going as they went through the first two periods without allowing a goal.

Winnipeg superstar Patrik Laine hit the post in the first period with one of his patented snipes and you'll here more from him in a moment. Bruins defenseman Torey Krug finally broke the ice with an unassisted goal (his 6th of the season) at 8:16 of the third period. A loose puck was flung in his direction by a silly Jets defenseman and Krug made him pay with a blast from the point that finally eluded Hellebuyck. Less than a minute later (9:13 to be exact), Laine tied it up with his team-leading 18th goal of the season. Boston was in scramble mode and that's never a place you want to be in with Laine in your vicinity. He beat Rask top-shelf, assisted by Ehlers and Thrasher/Jet for life Bryan Little.

When it was officially going to overtime, you had to laugh since Boston was 1-4 in the extra frame this season which was a better record than Winnipeg's stinky 0-5. Both teams had some golden opportunities in overtime (Winnipeg outshot Boston 6-4 then and 38-33 for the entire contest) but ultimately this had to be decided by that cheesy format. Little went first for the Jets and scored while Marchand (playing through a nasty flu virus that forced teammates Riley Nash and Ryan Spooner to sit out tonight's action) was stopped. Laine couldn't find the back of the net again vs. his fellow Finn and David Pastrnak tied it up. Mark Scheifele and Patrice Bergeron couldn't convert in round three which sent it to round four.

The B's have a good thing going right now-7-2-1 in their last 10 games-and they have pulled within two points of the Leafs (21-14-1) for second-place in the Atlantic Division with a whopping three games in hand. Boston has one more tilt before Christmas break (when every club gets 3 days off) as they host sputtering Detroit (13-14-7) on Saturday afternoon (1, NESN). A win there would be the perfect way to send the team into the holidays. David Krejci missed his third game in a row which meant that rookie center Colby Cave was an emergency recall from Providence this afternoon and he became the third Bruin to make his NHL debut this season (joining Anders Bjork and Jake DeBrusk). It's a tough call which Bruins goaltender should get the start against the Red Wings since Rask is 7-0-1 in his last eight games and backup Anton Khudobin is coming off a 36-save shutout of the pitiful Sabres (8-19-7) on Tuesday. Anything can happen in wacky Saturday afternoon games but whoever Cassidy chooses, shouldn't find it too difficult to get another two points for the Black and Gold.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Bruins Rookies Combine for 9 Points (3 Goals, 6 assists) As Boston Hangs a TD & PAT on Columbus

All season long, we've heard about how many standout rookies that the Bruins (16-10-5) possess in their lineup for every game. Tonight at TD Garden was a collective explosion for this very talented group of youngsters as they posted nine total points (3 goals, 6 assists) in a 7-2 blowout of Columbus (20-13-1). As you would expect, defenseman Charlie McAvoy was the headliner as he recorded Boston's first Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist, fight) since Zdeno Chara did the deed over four years ago (Nov. 29, 2013 vs. Rangers). Danton Heinen and Jake DeBrusk both notched three points on a goal and two assists.

Boston never trailed as they jumped out to a 3-0 lead midway through the game and they scored four goals in the third period to complete the lopsided final result. Brad Marchand made it 1-0 B's at 14:48 of the first period as he jumped on a loose puck for his 14th goal of the season (1 behind David Pastrnak for the team lead), assisted by Patrice Bergeron and Chara. The Bruins' power play has heated up recently with goals in six of their last seven contests (8 for 28, 28.6%). David Backes and McAvoy scored this evening's power play strikes just 3:30 apart in the second period to extend the Boston lead to 3-0. DeBrusk had the primary assist and Heinen the secondary assist on both special team markers-Backes' third of the season and McAvoy's fifth of the season.

Sergei Bobrovsky (38 saves) came in with rough numbers vs. Boston (now 2-5-2 in his career) and they only got worse as that old scrooge Blue Jackets head coach and Masshole supreme John Tortorella kept him in net for the entire whitewashing. Season's Beatings! After McAvoy fought your boy Pierre-Luc Dubois early in the third period-the first NHL fight for both guys-Columbus' Josh Anderson made sure that Tuukka Rask (16 saves, 9th win of the season) didn't get a shutout although he did extend his point streak to 7 games (6-0-1). In garbage time of the third, the Bruins pumped in four goals and it could have been even more since Tim Schaller of all people earned a penalty shot (Boston's first in over a year) but was predictably stopped on a weak backhander.

Heinen (8th goal of the season), Torey Krug (5th goal of the season), Patrice Bergeron (8th goal of the season) and DeBrusk (7th goal of the season) turned it into quite the romp with padding the stats type goals. Also of note from the full box score by the B's: Ryan Spooner had two assists, Anders Bjork added a helper after being a healthy scratch on Saturday vs. New York (for the 1st time in his young career) and David Pastrnak set a new career-best point streak (12 games, most in the NHL at this moment) with an assist.

This was a start of a busy week for the Bruins as they have four games in six days: they are in Buffalo (8-18-7) tomorrow night (7:30, NESN) to face Jack Eichel and the worst team in the Eastern Conference. David Krejci was a late scratch tonight with an upper-body injury and Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said that he won't travel with the team to Upstate NY. Anton Khudobin (7-2-2) should be between the pipes as he bids for his first win in nearly a month (Nov. 24 vs. Pittsburgh). Boston has a chance to put some pressure on Toronto (20-13-1) who is in second-place in the Atlantic Division and four points ahead of the B's (who have 3 games in hand on them).

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Don't Look Now Gang but the B's Improved to 8-2-0 in Their Last 10 Games After a 3-1 Win vs. NYI

Now that the Bruins (14-9-4) finally have close to a full roster back, something is becoming abundantly clear: they are actually a good team. They hosted a quality opponent at TD Garden tonight-the Islanders (16-10-3)-and came away with a playoff-like 3-1 win. Boston is 8-2-0 in its last 10 games, tied with Washington (18-11-1) and Vegas (18-9-1) for the best current stretch, keep in mind that Los Angeles (19-8-3) has won seven games in a row and they just began their game this evening vs. Carolina (11-10-6) so they could top all of them by the end of the night.

Bigger picture, none of this would have been possible without Tuukka Rask (7-8-2) remembering who he was and how he could still consistently perform in the NHL. He was named the first star of the game after making 30 mostly routine saves. He has won his last four starts and in the last five games (he appeared in relief for Anton Khudobin on Monday in Nashville), he has allowed just five goals with a 1.10 goals against average and .955 save percentage. As Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy alluded to after the contest, the Black and Gold are at their best when Rask brings his A-game.

After a sleepy and scoreless first period, Bruins rookie Jake DeBrusk brought some energy to the Garden as he dropped the gloves for his first NHL fight with Islanders forward Casey Cizikas. Charlie McAvoy had been rocked by a clean Cizikas hit which still led to DeBrusk taking exception to it. Somewhere his dad-former NHL goon Louie DeBrusk-must have smiled and cracked his burly knuckles. New York had come in 10-0-0 when they scored the first goal so the Bruins were smart to grab the first tally. Brad Marchand (5-game point streak) scored a somewhat weak power play goal that Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak (30 saves) should have squeezed his pads tighter on. Torey Krug and David Pastrnak (8-game point streak) assisted on Marchand's 11th goal of the season.

Between an instigator penalty, not to mention his fighting major and 10-minute misconduct, DeBrusk had to ride an exercise bike in the Bruins' locker room for an excessive amount of time. No worries though as he potted a huge insurance goal at 6:45 of the third period. With his back to the Islanders goal, he spun around and fired a hard, high shot for his sixth goal of the season. Just like before, Krug and Pastrnak had the helpers. All that was missing from a Gordie Howe hat trick was an assist but sadly, it would have to wait for another time. Rask looked poised to notch his second shutout of the week but New York scored right after a power play had ended for them. Anders Lee (17th goal of the season) tapped in a feed from Josh Bailey (27th assist!) & gifted rookie Mathew Barzal at 16:52 to cut it to 2-1 B's. Rookie Danton Heinen sealed it for Boston with an empty-netter at 19:18, his sixth goal of the season was assisted by Patrice Bergeron (5 assists in his last 4 games).

There were two interesting penalties called on the Bruins in the third period: Marchand was tagged with a five-minute major for interference on his Team Canada homie John Tavares and David Backes apparently head-butted Andrew Ladd which also resulted in an obscure five-minute major. Marchand's hit was high and pretty iffy so given his checkered past with dirty plays, I wouldn't be surprised if he hears from the league about it. As far as Backes, nobody (outside of the refs) really noticed what had transpired along the boards and needless to say, that would be very out of character for a tough but honest player like himself.

This is a very favorable stretch for the Bruins in terms of tons of home games (6 of their remaining 10 tilts in December are here) where they currently own a 9-4-2 record. They earned a day off from practice tomorrow and they'll be back at Warrior Ice Arena for practice on Monday as they get ready for Wednesday's (8, NBC Sports) "Rivalry Night" matchup in Detroit (11-13-5). The Red Wings are still the definition of mediocre so that's a contest that they should win. On Thursday (7, NESN) they host the Capitals which promises to be a much harder battle. They close out next week against the Rangers (16-11-2) on Saturday (5, NESN) at the Garden. After such a turbulent start to the campaign, the B's are settling in nicely as a team and the mix of so many young guys and notable veterans is beginning to yield many positive results.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

When You Need an Easy Win In the NHL, You Can Always Count On the Coyotes to Roll Over

It's a shame that the world will likely never get what it secretly desires: a Bruins-Coyotes matchup in the Stanley Cup Final. Boston (13-9-4) swept the season series with lowly Arizona (7-19-5)-the worst team in the Western Conference-with a 6-1 drubbing tonight at TD Garden. When you add up Boston's 6-2 beating at Arizona on October 14, the B's outscored the Coyotes 12-3 in their two meetings this season. Other than the lopsided score and Boston extending their win-streak vs. Arizona to 12 games (!), this one will likely be most remembered for David Backes scoring two goals.

In case you haven't been paying attention (and who doesn't love the NHL in October, November and December?), Backes had colon surgery and returned way sooner than anyone could have reasonably expected. His assist in Monday's 5-3 loss at Nashville (18-7-3) was the 500th point of his NHL career and his pair of goals tonight were his first of the season (his last one was on March 28 vs. Nashville). Backes is a very likable guy to begin with so this admirable return gives you even more reason to root for him. Did I mention that he loves animals and does tons of charity work for dogs?

The Coyotes were 5-3-2 in their last 10 games coming into this tilt but they couldn't be bothered to put up much of a fight this evening. What else can you conclude when Brad Marchand made it 1-0 B's just 15 seconds into the contest? David Pastrnak (7-game point streak) and Patrice Bergeron assisted on Marchand's 10th goal of the season. Thanks to Brandon Carlo's rough turnover, Christian Dvorak (4th goal of the season) tied it for Arizona at 17:07 of the first period.

Backes' goals came in succession in the second period: first he tipped in Riley Nash's shot from the point with Matt Grzelcyk picking up the other helper at 13:54. Alex Goligoski saw Carlo's error and matched it with an equally egregious mistake that led to Backes' unassisted goal with 54 seconds left in the frame. The veteran American skated in on a breakaway which needless to say, doesn't happen too often for a slower player like him. This marked the second time this season that Boston hasn't been called for a penalty (also Nov. 15 at Anaheim) and Arizona faced the brunt of four whistles.

David Krejci put it out of reach 45 seconds into the third as he finished a pretty passing sequence with Marchand and Bergeron for a power play goal (his 4th tally of the season). Poor Scott Wedgewood (26 saves)-great name!-had no friends that wanted to help him out as he was continually under fire by the Bruins' normally average offense. Two rookies rounded out the scoring for Boston as Danton Heinen (5th goal of the season) put in a juicy rebound at 17:56 from Nash and Kevan Miller than Anders Bjork was on the end of a rush that looked straight out of practice or better yet a preseason game with 1:09 left in garbage time. Bjork's fourth goal of the season was also assisted by Zdeno Chara.

You never talk about the goaltender in a 6-1 victory but Tuukka Rask (20 saves) won his third start in a row, remember when there was a legitimate goalie controversy a few weeks ago? Unlike the miserable Coyotes, an actual living, breathing NHL team visits the Garden on Saturday night (7, NESN) as the Islanders (16-9-3) come for their first game against the Bruins in 2017-18. Highly coveted free-agent-to-be John Tavares (17 goals, 14 assists) is playing the best hockey of his life and we'll also be able to see some old friends in Johnny Boychuk and Dennis Seidenberg who are defensemen for New York. The Isles lost 4-3 in Pittsburgh (16-11-3) tonight but they are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games while Boston improved to 7-3-0 in their last 10.