by Bob Morello
With Brad Marchand on a sizzling scoring streak for the past two months, talk has moved from fighting for a playoff spot – to Marchand’s consideration for the NHL’s MVP. Not that it has diminished Boston’s need to win often, but it has put the spotlight on Marchand, and the fact that the fiery left winger is in the race for the Hart Trophy with 74 points (35 goals and 39 assists), plus a contender for the Rocket Richard trophy (most goals scored). Marchand wiould be the first to admit that he rarely thinks of individual awards, but rather, getting a spot in the playoff race is the priority, as he leads the Bruins on their way to attempting to secure a playoff spot in this very tight race.
Coach Bruce “Butch” Cassidy has made changes in position and play since he assumed control as interim coach on February 7, and his success and the team’s spirited play is pressuring management to consider removing the word ‘interim’ from Cassidy’s title. Last night’s (Wednesday) game versus Calgary – a team on a ten-game win streak, was a tough test for Boston. Cassidy was looking to give Tuukka Rask a bit of rest, and have Anton Khudobin in the Boston net. If that happened, the Bs will have a rested Rask ready to take on the Edmonton Oilers tonight (Thursday), in the second half of the Calgary-Edmonton back-to-back games. The well-earned rest would also allow Rask to be in net again on Monday when the Bruins will be hosted by the Toronto Maple Leafs, in the final stop of this four-game road trip.
Rask has gotten his game back on track, and his victory on Monday night in Vancouver marked his 200th NHL win. Currently in fourth place for all-time wins for Bruins goaltenders, he trails Gerry Cheevers by 29 wins for third spot, Frankie Brimsek by 30, and Tiny Thompson in the number one spot by 52 victories.
With Ryan Spooner seemingly recovering quickly from his concussion effects, Cassidy will possibly have him available to return to his spot as the third line center, and make it necessary to move someone out of the present lineup.
Tonight’s game (9:00pm) with the Oilers will mark the start of the last dozen games remaining on Boston’s regular season schedule. Monday night’s matchup with the Maple Leafs will be a huge game, with the Bruins lead over Toronto four points ((80-76) not including yesterday’s game with Calgary, and the Leafs will have two games-in-hand. The tightness of the race for the final two-playoff spots also includes the New York Islanders (77), the Tampa Bay Lightning (77), and an outside chance for the Florida Panthers with 71 points. The playoff race is likely to continue tightly until the final game of the regular season, with movement possible in the division standings, as well as the Eastern Conference positions.
The Bruins will return to Garden ice on Tuesday (3/21 at 7:00pm) to host the Ottawa Senators and begin a stretch of three more games with significance in the Atlantic division, as the Bruins at press time trail the Senators by five points (Sens also have a game-in-hand). On Thursday (3/23 at 7:00pm) Boston will host the Lightning who trail the Bs by three points (77), and then Boston will move on to play the New York Islanders (3/25 at 7:00pm) who are fighting for a Wild Card spot. There will be no easy, meaningless games ahead, as both teams playing will be looking for points and position in the standings.
Date in history: March 15, 1970. Bobby Orr of the Boston Bruins became the first defenseman in NHL history to have 100 points in a season. He reached the milestone by scoring two goals and assisting on two more in a 5-5 tie with the Detroit Red Wings at Boston Garden. Orr entered the game with 97 points, scored a goal and had an assist in the first period. History-making point number 100, came when he scored a shorthanded goal on an end-to-end rush 27 seconds into the second period, and he assisted on a third-period power-play goal by Phil Esposito.
Point 100 was assisted on a goal set up by Boston goaltender Eddie Johnston and Derek Sanderson. Orr, who revolutionized the way defensemen played the game, was the fourth player in NHL history to have 100 points in a season, joining Phil Esposito, Bobby Hull and Gordie Howe; he was the first to have 100 points and 100 penalty minutes in the same season. Orr, an 8-time Norris Trophy winner (1968-75) finished the season with 120 points, becoming the first defenseman in NHL history to win the scoring title (Art Ross Trophy).