With a late scratch that Zdeno Chara and a season-ending injury to Dennis Seidenberg, the Bruins dropped their latest decision to Bobby Ryan and the Ottawa Senators. Claude Julien apparently forgot that it's almost never a good idea to start a goalie on a back-to-back, and Ottawa pulled out what was probably its biggest win of the year over the B's, 4-3. That's the bad news. The good news is that, coupling the soft underbelly of the Bruins schedule and a healthy dose of "the kids are all right, the Bruins still took three out of their last five and rose to 5th in the NHL in Fenwick Close.
Without further adieu, the fancystats round-up for the last week-plus:
Sabres 4, Bruins 2
This was a goalie loss, plain and simple. The Bruins out-attempted the Sabres at a rate of almost 2:1, yet Buffalo and the the Bruins went into the third period tied 2-2. Nothing changed, as the Bruins controlled play more often for the duration of period, but while no one on the Bruins save Brad Marchand could beat Ryan Miller on that day, four different Sabres got the puck past Chad Johnson. Including two later one in the third period.
While it's never fun to lose, and less so to the Sabres, this game was pretty much all the difference between Ryan Miller and Chad Johnson. Fenwick Close tells a big part of the story, but if your goalie's saving less than 90% of the shots on net, chances are that your team's in trouble regardless of how many chances you're creating.
Bruins 4, Sabres 1
A satisfying bit of revenge for the B's was enacted two days later when the same two teams met at TD Garden. The game started out as a low-event contest, before, as with the first match-up between the two teams, the chances began to favor the Bruins. After a 1-1 first, the Bruins kicked their typical
third first whateverperiodtheotherteamscoredinlastgame second period struggles aside and played a clean period. Down 2-1 going into the third and 3-1 after Milan Lucic's 12th goal of the season, the Sabres never were able to do much to disrupt the Bruins clamping down on the game. Final Fenwick Close was 32-25, and Tuukka Rask outplayed a fairly sharp Jhonas Enroth.
Bruins 6, Predators 2
One narrative that gets extremely old to hear people crowing about is the "West vs. East" debate in the NHL, particularly if you're an Eastern Conference Hockey fan. We get it, guys, the Western Conference is stronger. That shouldn't be in dispute. That doesn't mean you can just pluck any Western Conference team, slot them into an Eastern division, and say "OMG, they'd make the playoffs here."
Newsflash! The East doesn't have the strength at the top, but the weaker conference still has plenty of quality teams, currently housing 7 of the top half of Fenwick Close teams. That'd give the powerhouse Western Conference...8 in the top 15 Wow, what a difference! Yes, that's silly evidence, I know, the point is that it's ridiculous to take for granted that bottom tier Western Conference teams would be playoff teams in the East, or that Eastern Conference teams couldn't contend in the West. The West is better, the East still has good teams, back to less pointless Hockey discussion.
Hey anyway, this was a game against the Nashville Predators, a below average team, against the Boston Bruins, a very good team. Shockingly for all concerned, the result was a 6-2 win that only looked a little "lucky" from the total attempts perspective (overall shot attempts were 43-all) because Nashville had the "benefit" of playing catch-up. The Bruins, as I'm sure you remember, chased Carter Hutton after a Matt Fraser laser from the slot made it 2-0. Reilly Smith made it 3-0 on the Power Play before the period ended. Two goals from Craig Smith, one in the second, one three minutes into the third, made the game briefly interesting before Jarome Iginla and Carl Soderberg extinguished all hope for Nashville. Brad Marchand added a sixth goal to account for the 6-2 final.
Bruins 5, Senators 0
It's really easy to conclude a game was closer than the final score makes it seem, and sometimes difficult to convince people that that was the case. This isn't one of those times -- a good first period from the Senators, some lackluster play by the B's, and strong play in the second period from Robin Lehner kept this game scoreless until Jarome Iginla broke the tie with 3:31 left in the second period.
Until the period ended, though shot attempts were 28-all, so your lying eyes didn't deceive you this time; the game was really close, and then the third period was all Bruins. Even then, the Sens left Lehner out to dry, giving up odd man rush after odd man rush. For the record, scoring went Krejci-Smith-Smith-Marchand in the third. While some games that are relatively even get undone for one team based on bad goaltending, others are just due to bad team defense. Seriously, I thought everyone on the Bergeron line was going to get tired from all the 2-on-1s.
Senators 4, Bruins 3
Professional athletes and coaches always want to talk accountability, "next man up," and avoid using injuries as excuses. That comes with the territory, and I'm not saying it's necessarily a bad thing. I am saying, however, that if ever a Bruins team deserves a mulligan for a loss, it's probably on the second half of a back-to-back, on the road, without Chara, without Seidenberg, with Tuukka Rask inexplicably starting after a roster shuffle put Niklas Svedberg back in Providence. The Bruins played their guts out, and were basically even with Ottawa on a shot attempt basis, but it wasn't really surprising to see this one end sadly.
Torey Krug, for all his offensive talent, is still a work in progress on the defensive side, and his turnover sprang Bobby Ryan to score on Chad Johnson (who had come on in relief). Positives, though - David Warsofsky's first goal was hilariously Orr-ian, Paille made a triumphant return to the line-up, and Iginla continued to be the master of the tip-in. Ryan Spooner also was one of the few B's with a CF% in the black, so it would've been nice to see him more (and will be nice to see him more in the future).
The Bruins take on the Islanders tomorrow in the last game of 2013. Happy early New Year, everybody!