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Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Bruins Have Picked the Wrong Time of the Year to Have a Season-High 4-Game Losing Streak

There is a reason that sequels rarely ever live up to the original: nobody prefers to see the same story, jokes, predictable ending, etc. Apparently the Bruins (38-30-6) don't subscribe to that common theory with movies as right now, they are heading into a tailspin that is eerily reminiscent of the springs of 2015 and 2016. With everything to play for, once again they fell flat on their already bruised faces, losing 6-3 tonight to Tampa Bay (35-29-9) who looked far more desperate to make the postseason despite an array of serious injuries up and down their talented roster. The crazy part about Boston's fourth straight regulation loss (a season-high) is that they actually led not once, not twice but thrice. That's right, of course their combined time in front of the Lightning was 2:43 which hardly seems humanly possible except it really happened before our own eyes.

Toronto (35-23-15) beat New Jersey (27-34-12) 4-2 tonight which means that the Leafs are now up three points on the Bruins with a game in hand. The B's are clinging to the second Wild Card spot in the East aka getting the honor of being swept by the top seed Washington (48-17-8) in the first round. After a scoreless first period that was akin to watching paint dry, things really got more interesting in the second as Boston kept scoring goals, only to be quickly answered by Tampa Bay every time. Special teams were a huge factor for the Bruins (in a positive way early then a negative manner later) as David Pastrnak opened the scoring with a power play goal at 1:33. His one-timer (32nd goal of the season) was assisted by Patrice Bergeron and Ryan Spooner. Before the PA announcer had even said anything about that tally, Tampa Bay's Brayden Point put in a rebound at 2:17 for a 1-1 tie. Ondrej Palat and Jake Dotchin had the assists on his 13th goal of the season.

Boston started to take too many needless penalties but Zdeno Chara temporarily quelled that pain with a shorthanded goal at 7:50. It was the second shorthanded goal of his long, storied career (both coming this season) and eighth overall in this campaign, assisted by Riley Nash and Dominic Moore. Still on the power play, Tampa Bay tied it as their young star Nikita Kucherov hit a one-timer that might have gone wide of the net but it deflected in off of Tuukka Rask's (23 saves) back skate for his 35th goal of the season, assisted by Jonathan Drouin and the beast known as Victor Hedman. No worries, Nash tied gave the Bruins their final lead at 13:18 after Peter Budaj (28 saves) was way too slow to react on a wraparound attempt then to compound things, Nash's pass out front bounced in thanks to Hedman's skate. Nash's fifth goal of the season was assisted by Moore and Kevan Miller.

Tampa Bay was relentless from there as Anton Stralman roofed a shot over Rask's shortside to tie it one last time at 14:53. His third goal of the season was assisted by Palat and Point. You would think that the Bruins might finally react in the third period to their season slipping away but nope, they didn't one bit. In fact, it turned into a laugher as Drouin put one by Rask that he needs to save then Kucherov completed his third career hat trick with another power play goal and then an empty-netter that sent the Garden crowd all scurrying for the exit. No matter how many times head coach Bruce Cassidy or the players shoot it down, you can tell that the pressure (and wretched memories from the last 2 years) are starting to get to them at the worst possible time.

There are eight games left for the Bruins and only two of them are on the road. They face another playoff contender on Saturday (7, NESN) as they go to Brooklyn to take on the Islanders (34-26-12) who are two points back with two games in hand. Furthermore, New York is at Pittsburgh (46-17-9) tomorrow night so if the Isles can win that, they would go into Saturday's showdown with not only a chance to overtake the B's for the second Wild Card but it would also take Boston's control out of their own hands. Yeesh. Rask played in his 59th game of the season tonight and just like the last two collapses, he seems to be fading down the stretch (3-4-0 in his last 7 decisions) after playing with crappy backups year after year. That leaves the team in an impossible position because it's not like you are going to sit your franchise goaltender now. All we can hope is that they can put this recent malaise behind them starting this weekend. If not, well I'd rather not go to that rather dark place at this very moment.

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