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Monday, December 29, 2014

B's Have Figured Out How to Play Well At Home, Consistency & The Road are the Next Steps

It's impossible to explain how a team that could beat Nashville 5-3 last Tuesday then Detroit 5-2 tonight (both at TD Garden) could be the same one that no-showed on Saturday in Columbus (a 6-2 loss that was the lowest point of the season). That's what makes the Bruins (19-15-3) so frustrating in 2014-15; when they are motivated and pulling in the same direction, they are capable of beating anyone. Then they have these frequent bizarre lulls where they are awful and get blown out by non-playoff teams.

Boston came into this evening without the services of Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic, who are both "day-to-day" with injuries picked up from the Blue Jackets debacle. They also lost Matt Fraser as he was picked up off waivers by his hometown Oilers. No problem, they've got Jordan Caron and Matthew Lindblad. Haha ugh. Therefore, it was shocking when the B's played their best first period of the season. They pumped in three goals (season-high) and took 19 shots (also a season-high). They got out to a 3-1 lead as Reilly Smith scored on a blast from the point at 2:44 then Gregory Campbell got a hustle goal on a rebound at 16:12 and Carl Soderberg (3 points) tapped one in from Loui Eriksson (2 assists) behind the net 1:13 after that.

Detroit's (19-9-9) opening goal came on Justin Abdelkader's diving backhander when he was falling down at 11:21 that tied it at one. Smith's goal was his ninth of the season, Campbell's was his fourth (first in over a month) and Soderberg grabbed his seventh. The Red Wings have the No. 3 power play in the league so it made sense when they cut it to 3-2 on Tomas Tatar's screened shot at 15:50 of the second period.

The B's bounced back though with a very solid third period of their own. Seth Griffith potted a sweet power play goal at 5:11, his sixth of the season, assisted by David Krejci. The youngster capped it off with a sweet celly but even cooler than that, he had showed off his skills by ripping a snap shot top shelf by Jimmy Howard (40 saves). Boston's season-high 45 shots came in handy and they clinched it with Chris Kelly's empty-netter at 17:34. Tuukka Rask made 28 saves, a much better effort than his sorry relief work on Saturday.

The stupid cliché that the next game is the most important one for the Bruins is actually true. Doubly so when they meet an Atlantic Division rival like the Red Wings or Maple Leafs on Wednesday (7, NESN) aka New Year's Eve. This mini three-game homestand is capped off by the Senators on Saturday afternoon (1, NESN). So while you're waiting for the ball to drop either at a bar or some friend's house, make sure to tune in what should be an interesting contest. Each team has a blowout win to their credit: Boston won 4-1 on Oct. 25 at the Garden then got smoked 6-1 in Toronto on Nov. 12. With tonight's results (Toronto lost 3-2 at Tampa Bay), the B's are only two points behind the Leafs and they have each played 37 games so a win by Boston would tie them up.

For the B's, a spot in the top eighth of the Eastern Conference should be all they are thinking about as the regular season nears the halfway point. They have thrown away too many points already to worry about anything bigger than that.

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