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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Bruins Have Picked a Bad Time (mid-March) to Lose 3 Very Critical Games In a Row

Halfway through their most important week of the entire 2016-17 regular season, the Bruins (38-29-6) are in a funk. They dropped their third game in a row tonight, losing 3-2 to the Senators (40-24-8) at TD Garden. Not only did Ottawa improve to 3-0 vs. Boston this season (5 wins in a row dating back to last season) but they went up six points on the B's with a game in hand. The two teams meet one more time (April 6 here, their 2nd to last game of the regular season) but they could also collide in the first round of the playoffs if Ottawa stays in second in the Atlantic Division and Boston hangs onto third-place.

Playing in the second half of a back-to-back, the Bruins deserved at least a point after falling 4-2 in Toronto (33-23-15) last night. Boston outshot Ottawa 36-22 as Senators goaltender Craig Anderson rightfully earned the No. 1 star of the game with 34 saves in his 22nd win of the season. The Senators came in 0-2-2 in their last four contests but they never trailed this evening as Tom Pyatt deflected in Cody Ceci's shot (that then also went off Colin Miller) at 4:09 of the first period. Mike Hoffman had the second assist on Pyatt's eighth goal of the season.

David Krejci quickly answered for the Black and Gold with a power play tally at 8:57 of the first period. He was posted up near the blueline and crushed a one-timer from Ryan Spooner. Torey Krug set a new career-high in assists (41) with his helper on Krejci's 21st goal of the campaign. Ottawa's power play came through early in the second period as Kyle Turris banged in a one-timer from Erik Karlsson and Hoffman at 1:34. The Senators were 26-2-2 when leading after two periods while the Bruins were 3-21-3 when trailing after two periods so neither statistic was a good omen for the home team. Still, things looked up when Krug made a sweet move to score a Bruins power play goal 17 seconds into the third to tie it at two. It was an abbreviated 4-on-3 so he was able to take advantage of all that open ice for his seventh goal of the season.

It doesn't matter how you do it but getting no points in Toronto then no points tonight when you are tied in the third period both times is unacceptable. The Bruins blitzed the Senators in the first two frames (outshooting them 18-8 in the 2nd) but they trailed 2-1. Turris was the hero for Ottawa as he bagged his second goal and the game-winner of the tilt at 4:04 of the third. At the end of the second, Ottawa's forever overrated captain Dion Phaneuf was called for unsportsmanlike conduct which led to Krug's highlight-reel goal. Elisha Cuthbert's husband (damn him!) exacted his revenge in the third by providing the shot that Turris tipped past Tuukka Rask (19 saves). Chris Wideman had the second assist on Turris' 26th goal of the season.

The Garden crowd made it feel like a playoff atmosphere (you can tell how badly they want some playoff action in their hockey-loving lives) and you thought maybe the B's would tie it late with another power play goal when Senators goon Mark Borowiecki (who leads the NHL in penalty minutes) was called for holding Frank Vatrano or more like he gave him a Jake Roberts style DDT on the ice. However, Ottawa's No. 12 ranked penalty kill got the job done and Anderson continued to stand on his large head until the final buzzer sounded. In fact, Patrice Bergeron whistled a shot off Anderson's mask that barely rattled him, he was that dialed in.

The Bruins fell to 12-6-0 overall under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy and 7-2-0 at the Garden. There is still time to turn this around though with nine games left in the regular season and only two of those on the road (at Islanders and at Blackhawks). In other words, there is no excuse for them to not make the playoffs for the third year in a row-don't blame the messenger! Boston hosts Tampa Bay (34-29-9) on Thursday (7, NESN) in a must-win for both teams. The Lightning lost 5-3 at home tonight to the lowly Coyotes (27-37-9) so a regulation loss to the Bruins would likely be a fatal blow to their dwindling playoff hopes. As the Raiders late great/insane owner Al Davis famously used to say, "just win baby!"

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