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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Bruins Give Their Fans The Best Possible Present Heading into Christmas Break: Hope

Believe it or not, we are almost halfway through the 2014-15 NHL regular season and if the playoffs started tomorrow (I know, I hate these too) the Bruins would be left out since they are currently in ninth place in the Eastern Conference. However, Boston (18-14-3) has shown some much needed signs of life lately, capped off by tonight's 5-3 win over Nashville (22-9-2) at TD Garden.

The B's lost 3-2 in a shootout at Nashville last Tuesday so this had to feel especially good given that and the fact that the Predators are one of the better teams in the entire league. Boston heads into Christmas break with back-to-back wins thanks to an offensive explosion led by Patrice Bergeron (3 assists), Brad Marchand (2 goals) and Loui Eriksson (2 goals).

Boston played really well in the first two periods, despite blowing two different leads. Marchand roofed one past UMass-Lowell's Carter Hutton (20 saves) 2:01 into the contest. Bergeron assisted on Marchand's team-leading ninth goal of the season which also gave him the lead in helpers (18). A little over 5:30 later, BU's Colin Wilson beat Tuukka Rask (22 saves) with a backhander from James Neal and Mattias Ekholm for his eighth goal of the season.

Another sign of good things to come is that Boston scored a power play goal in back-to-back games for the first time in a month and a half. David Krejci did the honors at 9:43, a one-timer from Torey Krug and Milan Lucic that was also his first goal (4th overall) since he returned from his troublesome hip injury. Nashville took even less time to respond (1:48) as something called Calle Jarnkrok put a weak wrist shot by Rask that he needs to stop 10 times out of 10. Ekholm and Taylor Beck assisted on his fourth goal of the season.

On the surface, the second period sounds like a bore since Boston outshot Nashville 5-3 but the B's made the most of it as they scored not once but twice to take a 4-2 lead into the third. Eriksson finished off a sweet give and go with Matt Bartkowski and Chris Kelly at 5:53 for his eighth goal of the season (5th in his last 8 games). Marchand bagged his second goal at 10:51 after a pretty deflection by Bergeron right to him on the doorstep, Kevan Miller had the second assist via the original shot from the point.

The Predators had every reason to pack it in, playing on the second night of a back-to-back (both away) and third game in four nights but they showed how good they are by dominating for most of the third period. It felt like they had a man advantage the entire time, well after they killed off a four-minute power play for Boston (two minors on Neal who shortly thereafter earned a 10-minute misconduct). When Beck cut it to 4-3 at 6:48, you could feel the air go right out of the Garden. Almost every Bruins game lately has been decided by one goal so you knew it would be tight. For once, they held on though and Eriksson clinched it with an empty netter at 19:22. Merry Christmas indeed.

The entire NHL is off for the next three days (which I think is a great thing, sorry NBA) so Boston returns to action on Saturday (7, NESN) at Columbus (14-16-3). The Bruins' next home game isn't until next Monday (7, NESN) vs. Detroit (18-8-9). Boston won 4-3 in a shootout at Columbus on November 21. The Blue Jackets got smoked 5-1 by Nashville last night but they are one of the hottest teams (8-1-1 in their last 10) in the NHL. Plus like the Bruins, they are scrapping for every point that they can get after a nightmare start to their campaign.

Happy Holidays everyone!

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