Same captains, different teams, same result. Last night at the TD Garden, the Bruins kicked off the unofficial second half of the NHL season welcoming in division rival Ottawa for the two teams’ first game post-all star break. The two All Star game captains squared off once again, and much like Sunday, Chara and his squad got the better of Alfredson’s team, riding a late three goal rally to take a 4-3 victory over the Sens.
For a game stuck right in the middle of the regular season, it held a lot more importance than some might think. The last couple weeks for the Bruins leading up to the all-star break were a real mixed bag of performances and results, with the recurring theme being inconsistency. The Senators, who are probably the biggest surprise in the league in terms of what they’ve done and where they sit in the standings to this point (6th in the Eastern Conference), and at one point just prior to the break had gotten to within just one point of the division leading Boston Bruins. Coming into last night, the Senators sat just 4 points back in the standings, so the result of last nights game would make a pretty big impact on the division lead one way or another.
WIth the win, the Bruins stretched their divisional lead to 6 points over Ottawa and kept pace with the 1st place New York Rangers, who have just one more point than the B’s. It was just a little bit alarming to see inconsistency once again plague Boston during last night’s game as they basically disappeared during almost the entire 2nd period while the Senators built a 3-1 lead and outshot the B’s 20-5. Thankfully the Bruins displayed why they’ve been the best 3rd period team in the league all year-long though, and were able to mount a comeback and escape with the win.
Like I’ve done for games in the past, I will go through some of my thoughts and observations from last night, in random order.
– Strike first. Something that became common during the Bruins slumping play just prior to the break was falling behind early in games. It’s never good to be playing from behind right off the bat, so it was nice last night to see them weather Ottawa’s early pressure and then get on the board first with Chara’s PP bomb. Of course allowing that late first period goal to tie the game up hurt and I think lent to the Sens 2nd period dominance a bit.
– Inconsistent again. I have hated the way that recently the Bruins will fluctuate between being that dominant team capable of controlling play and really taking it to teams, and that team that lacks in compete level, loses battles, lazes in the defensive zone and allows other teams to dictate the pace of play. During November and December you always knew you would at least get a top-notch effort from the black and gold, this has gone by the wayside a bit lately though and is certainly not a recipe for success as we get closer to the playoffs.
– Never count them out. It’s been the case all year-long, and the numbers certainly don’t lie. The Bruins are the BEST 3rd period team in the entire NHL. They have scored 71 goals in the third period so far this season while only allowing 33, which is a pretty monstrous differential. To add to that, the Bruins have yet to lose when taking a lead into the third period, going 21-0-0 so far this season. They also have far and away the best record when trailing after two periods, going 6-8-1 in that scenario. Not amazing, but almost .500 in that situation definitely speaks to their resiliency and never-say-die attitude.
– Bergeron, Marchand and Seguin. This line was by far the Bruins most effective and most dynamic line during last night’s game. Even during the second period where the B’s struggled to get much of anything going, this trio continued to push the tempo and create scoring chances for the home team. When they are on, they are clearly one of the tougher lines in the league for opposing teams to defend. The blazing speed on the wings with Marchand and Seguin, coupled with the smarts of Bergeron in the middle make them extremely dynamic. The two young wingers, too, have shown they have elite finishing ability as well. It was good to see these three reclaim their chemistry last night, and if they continue that play the Bruins will be more than alright moving forward.
– I really like Rich Peverley. Look, it’s obvious that the Bruins do miss Nathan Horton slotting in at his familiar position on the wing with Milan Lucic and David Krejci. When healthy and at the top of the game, that is one of the better lines in the league, and I am in no way debating that fact. I’m simply saying that Rich Peverley is once again proving to be an invaluable member of the Boston Bruins with his versatility and ability to really slot into any position up front and be effective. He made a beautiful pass to Lucic in the slot last night on the B’s 2nd goal of the game, showing poise and patience with the puck before dishing to the hulking left winger. He brings speed, creativity and smarts to the lineup and whether he’s being asked to take on a more defensive role with Chris Kelly on the 3rd line, or provide some offensive punch up with Krejci and Lucic, he always seems to do his job perfectly. This has turned out to be a brilliant trade and signing from GM Peter Chiarelli at last year’s deadline.
– Tim Thomas looks shaky. I know he’s proven himself time and time again in Boston, and I’ll never forget what he’s done for this organization and city. I’ve always been a big Tim Thomas supporter, and for most of this season he has once again been stellar in goal for the B’s. However, I do think that down the stretch coming into the all-star break, when the B’s were mired in their slump, Thomas looked extremely average in net and certainly didn’t help the team in front of him much. He’s seen his GAA jump up and his save percentage dip. He’s struggled at times, letting in some uncharacteristically soft goals rather than providing his team with those big saves when they’ve needed them the most. And while I don’t want to bring this up again, I’ll just say that I really didn’t appreciate the stunt he pulled in skipping the Bruins’ visit to the White House last week. Again last night he just didn’t look great. The Bruins struggled in the 2nd period, and when they needed their goalie to back them up the most, he let in 2 consecutive goals short side, being beat cleanly by both shooters and putting the Bruins in a hole. I hope he can find his game again because there’s no doubt the B’s will need him, but I’ll be honest, lately I think Tuukka has looked more like the #1 goalie than Timmy.
That’s all I’ve got for you today. It was good to see the Bruins get right back to work with their 32nd win of the season. Tomorrow night they welcome back the Carolina Hurricanes, whom they have yet to beat this season despite the Canes low position in the Eastern Conference standings. Hopefully they can get this monkey off their back and take win #33 at home tomorrow night.