In terms of on-the-ice performance, it was a down-and-up past eight days for the Bruins, stretching back to the Islanders game. Nonetheless, with two wins in a row and five points out of six in the current homestand, the Bruins, despite some well-documented struggles, sit at 10-5-1, with 21 points. That's good for fourth in the Atlantic, three points back of the division leader, Tampa (Monday's opponent), and a point back of the Leafs and Red Wings with games in hand. There are definitely some positives to take out of the Bruins' play, not limited to the two victories.
And in terms of off-the-ice excitement...well, thank goodness that week's over. Looking forward to seeing if some of the writers for Boston's esteemed sports publications can weave a revenge narrative into the Bruins-Lightning match-up. Uh, well, we beat them in a Game 7! Three seasons ago! When Guy Boucher was the coach! And they signed Benoit Pouliot last year! And Valtteri Flippula has a funny name! Seriously, let's just talk about Hockey.
Islanders 3, Bruins 1
A shortage of former Bruins on the other side didn't stop the Pile on the Isle game from feeling like a reunion, as our old frenemy Thomas Vanek picked up a goal and an assist against the Bruins. One of my favorite sightings on twitter during this game was, "Bruins, it doesn't matter how hard you try, the team with Thomas Vanek will win." Vanek's a very good player overall, but he has been truly magical against the Bruins in the past few years.
The Islanders have been a weirdly inconsistent team, possession-wise, this season. They had a strong showing in the final two-thirds of last year, outchancing Pittsburgh in the first round of the playoffs but going out mainly thinks to the Heraculean struggles of Evgeni Nabokov, who put up a Fleury-esque .836 for the series. They're a team with questions that haven't been answered yet, and the biggest ones are on the goaltending/defensive side.
For all of the Islanders question marks, however, they're a team that's got an amount of talent and skill that should be taken seriously -- while a lot of people I talked to wanted to put the B's loss on Chad Johnson, it bears remembering that Isles outchanced the Bruins, both in Fenwick Close, 27-23, and overall, coming in at 47-43 in Fenwick and 67-62 in Corsi. No doubt, the Islanders goalie had the better game, but Taveres, Vanek and company controlled the run of play for more of the game than the B's did.
It's worth noting, of course, that said goalie was Kevin Poulin. Makes one wonder if going forward, the Isles would be better off giving him more starts, and in the long run, whether they make a play for a goalie around deadline time, especially with the Metro playoff spots quite attainable.
Stars 3, Bruins 2 (SO)
The Bruins started very strong before the Stars began to slowly even out the possession battle. By the time the third period started, the play was about even. You guys already know how the story ends. Fiddler scores on a penalty shot, Seguin and Bergeron scored in the SO, and then Peverley sent the Stars home with extra point. It was an even enough game that it was somewhat fitting that the Bruins got the overtime point - they had a higher Corsi than the Stars, 44-39, but a lower Fenwick, 30-34. so the Stars compensated for the Bruins slight possession edge by (probably) clogging the shooting lanes more.
One point aside, this wasn't a bad game for the Bruins overall. For those who might be wondering, Seguin's and Bergeron's line basically neutralized each other for much of this game, as the former Bruins winger saw 9 minutes of TOI against St. Patrice.
Bruins 4, Panthers 1
The analysis after a game versus a subpar, snakebitten team such as the Panthers are always pretty amusing. As Servo noted, Shawn Thornton had the best CF% on the team, suggesting that he always gets motivated to play against longtime nemesis Krys Barch. Just kidding, I think it actually tells us that the Panthers are A. not good and B. in the biggest PDO sinkhole of any team in the league.
You already know that the Bruins dominated the play in this game, with the only frustrating aspect of it being that they didn't really begin to run away with it until the third. And so, a quick word on Dineen and the Panthers - if Tim Thomas finds some degree of health, the Panthers new coach should start looking good soon. The Panthers are dead last in PDO, which is shooting percentage + save percentage, at 95.5. That number tends to regress towards 100 over the course of the season, unless you're getting, say, Rask-level goaltending.
The Panthers are shooting only 6.9% as a team, unsustainably low. You can call that bad luck, bad shooting, flawed system, what have you, but the fact is that a SH% that low will come up over the course of a season. It's also extremely unlikely that the Clemmensen/Markstrom/Thomas goaltending monster will continue to put up an .886. All of this is to say that while the Panthers are not a good team, Dineen was fired during an unsustainable cold streak, by the guy who built the team in the first place. Paging Lavy!
And also, apparently Reilly Smith is Panthers kryptonite -- both goals have come against them, so that's fun. And Winchester was deservedly suspended for his "dear god what an awful hit" on Kelly.
Bruins 3, Leafs 1
The similarities between this game and the Stars' game are pretty heavy, except for the final result. The Bruins walloped the Leafs in the first period, played probably their worst period of Hockey this season in the second (possession-wise), and scored an early goal in the third. This time, there wasn't any late reprieve for the Bruins worthy opponent, though, and Patrice Bergeron's ENG, his second of the night, sealed the second straight victory for the B's.
If you looked at the overall numbers, you'd never guess the path that this game took. The Bruins beat the Leafs on Corsi, 51-41, and Fenwick, 38-30. And then you look at the chart:
Desired result, crazy-uneven game. The Leafs one goal came in the period where they abandoned their usual approach of building a turtle fence around their net, and played good possession Hockey. It's not as simple as that, to be sure, as it was clearly a bad period for the Bruins as well, but it highlights one of the things I've been wondering about lately when it comes to possession stats: while there are players who demonstrably drive possession, how much of a team's possession numbers have to do with the coach's system? Dale Hunter's "Holtby, save us!" Caps come to mind - a team that had talented offensive personnel that simply didn't play a good possession game. The Leafs are woefully thin at C, but one wonders if Carlyle's approach holds their possession game back.
Regardless, the Bruins appear to be on the upswing at the right time - Julien's sheltering of the third line, eschewing Kelly's old defense-heavy role in favor of giving his talented wingers more offensive chances, has been a good coaching move. Hamilton and Krug look great. Bergeron just netted two. Bring on the Lightning!