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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Just As We All Predicted, The Bruins Picked Up Their Best Win of the Season vs. Blackhawks (4-2)

Just when you think that you have the 2015-16 Bruins (36-23-6) figured out (well sort of), they pull a really impressive 4-2 victory against the Blackhawks (40-21-5) out of thin New England air. Chicago (bandwagon) fans will undoubtedly use the excuse that they were playing in the second game of a back-to-back (after winning 3-2 last night in Detroit) and their average backup goaltender Scott Darling (21 saves) got the start but such are the breaks in a laborious 82-game regular season.

Boston picked up consecutive home wins for the first time since December 18 and 20 while head coach Claude Julien tied Art Ross for the most regular season wins in franchise history (387). Finally, Patrice Bergeron's assist was the 606th point of his Bruins career, tying him with Boston legend Terry O'Reilly for eighth-place on the team's all-time points list. The B's led basically from start to finish as the defending Stanley Cup champs lacked their usual jump and could only knot it at one before Boston put it out of reach with three goals in a row.

It has only been two games but Lee Stempniak's Bruins career has begun on a high note as he had two assists tonight. He adds the veteran experience and all-around game to the excellent Bergeron-Brad Marchand line that was lacking when they had to carry the useless Brett Connolly for much of the season. Bergeron opened the scoring only 1:18 into the contest as he wrapped around Chicago's net and roofed a shot past Darling. Marchand and Stempniak assisted on Bergeron's 25th goal of the season.

Rookie Noel Acciari was called for two bogus hooking calls in his second NHL game (Welcome to the Show!) and the Blackhawks took advantage of the first one when captain Jonathan Toews popped in a rebound at 14:14 of the first period on the power play. Some of Chicago's newest players-Andrew Ladd and Christian Ehrhoff-had the assists on Toews' 23rd goal of the season. Like a good team, Boston closed the opening frame with an important goal by Marchand. His snipe from some distance beat Darling with 22 seconds left; Torey Krug and Stempniak had the helpers on Marchand's team-leading 33rd goal of the season.

For once at home, the Bruins took some momentum and seemingly carried it over to the following period as Ryan Spooner scored a power play goal at 2:31. His screened shot (nice job by Eriksson) beat Darling for his 12th goal of the season. Krug and Bergeron picked up multiple points with those particular assists. Loui put it out of reach with a gorgeous goal at 15:24 of the second. The other new Bruin John-Michael Liles tossed a beautiful saucer pass that Eriksson redirected with his backhand. David Krejci had the second assist on Eriksson's 24th goal of the season.

Chicago's final tally came from former Canadien Tomas Fleischmann who shot a rocket over Tuukka Rask's (25 saves) shoulder at 19:10 of the second. Teuvo Teravainen and Niklas Hjalmarsson had the assists on Fleischmann's 11th goal of the season (1st point as a Blackhawk). The Blackhawks put plenty of pressure on the Bruins in the third, outshooting them 11-2 but Boston blocked 17 shots and Rask did the rest. It was nice to see them show that they can still put together a successful defensive game-plan from time to time that mostly shut down one of the league's truly elite teams.

Speaking of top-notch clubs, the one with the most points-Washington (47-12-4)-will be here on Saturday (7, NESN) to serve as another playoff-like test for the Black and Gold. It will be the third straight time that a visiting team comes to TD Garden in the second night of a back-to-back. The Capitals host the Rangers tomorrow before getting into the Hub late night on Friday, perhaps hitting last call at The Harp before they tuck themselves in? Alex Ovechkin is having an MVP-type campaign and Braden Holtby has been the best goaltender in the NHL so it's well worth your time to tune in to see Washington. Boston will bid for that elusive .500 mark at the Garden (15-16-3), something simple which they stil haven't tasted so far in 2015-16.

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