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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Anybody But Blake Wheeler, I Beg Of You

The Bruins pissed away a chance to be tied for first place in the Northeast Division tonight in Winnipeg. Boston (19-6-3) held a shaky 1-0 lead in the third period but the Jets (16-12-2) scored three times (including an empty-netter) in the final 8:16 for a 3-1 win at the MTS Centre. The Jets had 16 more hits than the Bruins (33-17), a disparity that never happens to the B's in that manner.

In not even three weeks, Boston has somehow managed to blow leads in the third period four times. For comparison's sake, they didn't do that once last season (32-0-0) when leading after two periods. Ugh. Well at least former Bruin Blake Wheeler scored twice for Winnpeg, oh wait that just makes me more depressed since he was a complete stiff in Black and Gold.

Offense was a real struggle for the B's with David Krejci out and their defense wasn't helped by the fact that Adam McQuaid hurt his shoulder in the first period and never returned. Boston had been lucky for the first month plus not to suffer any injuries but now they are coming nearly every game (Kelly, Krejci, McQuaid). Ryan Spooner, playing his second NHL game, couldn't coax anything out of Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic while the third line continued to exist solely on the side of milk cartons (they still have those right?).

Boston's lone goal was truthfully a gift since a pass around the boards ended up on Brad Marchand's stick alone in front of the Jets' goal. He deposited his team-high 13th of the season in eight seconds, the fastest goal to start a period for the B's all season. After that, Ondrej Pavelec (27 saves) put the clamps on while Tuukka Rask (22 saves; 14-4-3) allowed a tip-in by Wheeler at 11:44 to tie it. Jordan Caron's bonehead hooking penalty made him the goat on that play. Rask had to do better on the game-winner when he couldn't squeeze Grant Clitsome's (poor guy) shot and Evander Kane was there for the rebound 57 seconds after Wheeler's goal.

This is the first time in 2013 that Boston has lost consecutive games in regulation. They will look to regroup in Ottawa on Thursday (7:30 p.m., NESN) against the Senators (16-8-6, 3rd in Northeast Division) who continue to defy the odds by hanging in there despite all their calamitous injuries. Ottawa only trails Boston by three points heading into that game and the B's have won the first two games (in OT and a shootout) but then again, they had won the first two meetings with Winnipeg before this evening.

UPDATE 3/21: McQuaid has a left shoulder strain and he's expected to miss 3-4 weeks. I suppose it could have been worse but that's another obstacle for the Bruins to overcome in the injury department. That means Aaron Johnson will be on the third defensive pair with Andrew Ference.

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