There have been games where the Bruins simply haven't finished well this season, and there have been games where the stars seemed to align against them. There have been games where both occur at the same time (Vancouver's visit to TD Garden comes to mind). So all that said, it's pretty darn satisfying to watch a series of games where the B's are scoring a bunch and also getting a little bit of help from the Hockey Gods.
Coming off a 5-3 defeat of the Detroit Red Wings this weekend, the Bruins played their 3rd game in 4 days in Ottawa. The Senators, given up for dead by many, had stormed back into the playoff picture on the strength of an 8-1-1 stretch. They had weathered injuries, received good goaltending, and their offense had found a gear it did not have earlier in the season. However, they were no match for the Boston Bruins, Tuukka Rask, and the posts tonight. Some days, the bear(s) get you.
Discussion of this victory has to begin with the local kid. Ryan Spooner continued his good play in the offensive zone by getting the Bruins on the board in the first period. Whether by luck, design, or a little of both, Spooner found himself so wide open at right side of the slot on the Power Play that he had time to steady himself after receiving a pass from Torey Krug, pick his spot, order chinese food for his teammates after the game, clear David Pastrnak's internet browser history, send a letter to Seth Griffith via carrier pigeon, and then wrist a laser past Senator goalie Craig Anderson. 1-0. Credit where credit is due: it takes skill to get that open. Spooner is now a 6-game point streak, and looks to be playing himself back into the organization's good graces with the chance afforded by David Krejci's latest injury.
His PPG came 1:02 into the second period, after a first period of choppy play that saw the Bruins have to kill off not one, but two David Pastrnak penalties. Pasta's PIM double for the season tonight, as he had previously only occured the wrath of the zebras twice. Ottawa pressed hard once the Bruins took the lead, but Mike Hoffman hit at least one post with their best chance to score. And finally, as so often seems to happen to the Bruins instead of for Boston this season, the B's would net the second goal of the game after some sustained Ottawa pressure.
Weirdly enough, it started with Erik Karlsson's tripping penalty on Gregory Campbell being offset by embellishment call on Soupy (I'm not going to touch that). After a couple chances at either end on the ensuing 4-on-4 (as always the Bruins look like they would go about 60-12-10 if the NHL was played 4-on-4 the whole year), Dougie Hamilton made a good shot block to halt an Ottawa rush, and flipped the puck out to center ice to hit a streaking Loui Eriksson. Eriksson, displaying his excellent offensive instincts, bolted for the opposing net, faked Anderson to the ice, and slid the puck by. Eriksson's 17th marker of the year. Hamilton's 29th Assist, and 2nd of the night, on a heads-up play by both.
A couple minutes later, Spooner added his second of the night on a distinctly non-kicking motion from a strong one-handed netdrive from Milan Lucic. It was, rather obviously the first multi-goal game of Spooner's NHL tenure, and a nice homecoming for the Ottawa native. David Pastrnak grabbed the secondary helper, as the "Lucic and two baby Bruins" line continued it's strong offensive play.
It would remiss of me to not mention that Tuukka Rask played really well again. Yes, he did benefit from Ottawa wasting a couple scoring chances with post-ringers. Yes, Jean-Gabriel Pageau did completely miss the net on Ottawa's best chance of the first half of the third-period (after a great pass from an otherwise-quiet Erik Karlsson and skinning Torey Krug). Despite surrendering Matt Puempel's first NHL goal following a weird bounce off the end boards, Rask was on point all night. While I think Spooner gets the first star over Rask--Rask seemed to agree, telling NESN that he actually fought the puck pretty badly for 40 minutes--Rask was definitely instrumental in helping the B's sit on a lead. There just aren't that many goalies who are as heartbreaking to would-be come-backers than Rask.
The two points elevate Boston six points above Florida, and seven above Ottawa for the 8th final playoff spot. The Bruins are now only 4 points back of the Washington Capitals in 7th. While this might not be the cleanest winning streak we've seen from the Bruins, they're getting the results at a time where they desperately needed them.
Other Hockey Thoughts for tonight:
- After a couple questionable games for the Bartkowski-Seidenberg pairing, they rebounded fairly nicely tonight. Though to be evenhanded, Seidenberg leading the team in TOI probably had something to do with the appearance of "sitting back" over the latter 30 minutes of this contest.
- When Brad Marchand was robbed pretty badly by Craig Anderson on a breakaway in the first period, it probably constituted the PBR line's best chance of the night. While Patrice Bergeron, particularly, and Reilly Smith, in addition to Marchand, played well defensively, this was a rare (recently anyhow) point-less night for the first line. Of note: Smith played about six minutes less than his linemates.
- Sitting back wasn't great. While it worked out this time, I think that Julien and the Bruins probably took the foot off the gas a little early. Rask having to save 39 shots in a game where I really wouldn't say the Bruins were being outplayed until they took the two-goal lead. It is fair to point out, I think, that this was the third game in four days for the team, so they probably wanted to go in defensive shell mode a little early because of tired legs.
- Weirdly enough, while Loui Eriksson had been pretty hot recently, his linemates of Carl Soderberg and Chris Kelly had another quiet game. I mean, at least they're picking a relatively harmless time to have quiet games.
- Similarly, the re-retooled fourth line, after a couple nights on the score sheet thanks to Daniel Paille's recent hot streak, was bad tonight, with Ottawa tilting the ice on them when they were on. Luckily, Rask and the defense made it a non-issue.
- Dougie Hamilton may be injured again. Please, do not be injured, Dougie. He did return after his injury, but was used sparingly. As of the time I hit publish on this, I hadn't heard any news on what caused him to stagger around so badly before going down the tunnel.
- Kyle Turris ALSO hit a post for Ottawa. This is directly because I picked him up in fantasy. The whole Ottawa top line had a good night generating chances (Bobby Ryan, to name one), but didn't finish well.
- Taking cause and effect one step forward (or away from reality, depending on your point-of-view), the cat slept through the third period. So maybe we should blame him for the lackluster taking-it-to-the-bank-ery.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Tuukka gets his birthday wish and NHL Bruins get 2 points! 3-1 over Ottawa</p>— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) <a href="https://twitter.com/NHLBruins/status/575477313464242176">March 11, 2015</a></blockquote>
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Happy 28th Birthday, Tuukka Rask!
The Lightning are in town on Thursday, so this was another big win. I guess they all are, really, but it certainly can't hurt the Bruins' mindset to know that the pack is a little further behind them with one of the Eastern Conference leaders next on the schedule.