by Bob Morello
Bruins maintain ‘Streaker’ Mode
Does it ever get boring? If you are asking that question to be answered by a Bruins fan regarding the team’s current 16-game streak, the answer would surely be ‘NO!’ It’s almost unthinkable that Boston has now gone a total of 16 games in which they’ve taken at least a single point out of each game. What has that earned them…at this moment, the second spot in the Atlantic Division, and the Eastern Conference, with a three-point lead over division rival Toronto Maple Leafs for home ice advantage.
Tuesday night the Bruins hosted the Carolina Hurricanes, and earned a 4-3 overtime win, coming back from a 0-2 deficit. Although the Hurricanes were disguised as the Hartford Whalers, but the outcome remained the same as when the original Whalers lost over 100 games to Boston. The green uniforms did bring back many memories, including the names of former Whalers, Paul Coffey, Ron Francis, Gordie Howe, Mark Howe, Bobby Hull, Dave Keon, Chris Pronger and Brendan Shanahan.
While it was an important game for both teams, it was more of a ‘must’ two-pointer for the ‘Canes, as they are in a battle for a playoff spot, in contention and tied in points with, Pittsburgh and Montreal, and just two points ahead of Columbus Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference standings. The revitalized ‘Canes came to the Garden riding a five-game win streak. The comeback push for the Bruins followed a devastating check to the boards by Micheal Ferland on Boston’s recent acquisition, Marcus Johansson. Losing Johansson (upper body injury) at the end of the first period, and for the remainder of the game, seemed to spark the Bs as they gathered momentum that carried through the end of the first and into the second period. In the second period they managed several attacks on the Carolina goaltender, Curtis McElhinney, resulting in two goals to tie the game. Following the game coach Bruce Cassidy addressed the Johansson injury, “Right now, I believe he went to the hospital. I’ll give an update tomorrow. It looks encouraging, but I don’t want to speak out of turn. Like I said, I think when all the tests are done, we’ll have a better answer.”
The third period had Boston shorthanded, as the penalty was being served, Brad Marchand delivered a smooth pass to the ever-reliable Patrice Bergeron, who put in the shorthanded goal in what was the first lead or the night for the Bruins at 3-2. The ‘Canes continued to attack as well, and were rewarded with the tying goal with less than eight-minutes remaining in the third. The overtime success came when re-hot Jake DeBrusk (my choice for 7th Player) replaced Matt Grzelcyk following a draw in the Boston end. A quick swoop resulted in DeBrusk taking the puck away from Justin Faulk behind the Carolina net, and finally serving an ever tasty dish to the slot and a waiting David Krejci who put the three-on-three winner into the back of the net. Coach Cassidy lauded the streaking DeBrusk with, “He had his legs, was pursuing pucks, and usually when he has his legs and is on pucks good things will happen, and they did. I mean, look at the goal. He just stripped the guy. Most defensemen don’t think that’s going to happen, and all of a sudden, he’s got the puck and throwing it to the crease.
Tonight (Thursday 7 p.m.), the struggling Florida Panthers will supply the opposition as they remain in the 12th spot in the conference standings. Tuukka Rask is expected back in net to face the Panthers, having earned a well-deserved night off as he provided backup, while Jaroslav Halak stepped in and did the job on Tuesday. Rask is sizzling with a line of 14-0-3 for his last 18 starts, quite impressive. It’s bizarre that the Bruins last lost in regulation on Jan. 19 (New York Rangers), which means that they haven’t missed out on getting at least a point in each of their February games! Just as amazing is the fact that in the three weeks they’ve had to play without their top goal-scorer, David Pastrnak, they’ve had success. All which brings the Bruins to just 16 games remaining on their schedule prior to the playoffs, and the wonderful problem as to where coach Cassidy will look to fit Pasta back into the lineup. Having started to skate, albeit with a cast on his thumb/hand, it will likely take a while to get his timing back to game strength. Pastrnak would probably be set to drop back at right wing on the first line with Bergeron and Marchand on his return, but no matter what, it will be a nice problem for Cassidy to have to find him a spot in the lineup. Saturday (March 9 at 7 p.m.) the Bruins will end their six-game homestand by taking on the Conference and Atlantic Division cellar-dwellers, the Ottawa Senators (2-7-1 last 10), before venturing on a three-game road trip to face two teams battling for playoff spots, the Pittsburgh Penguins Sunday (March 10 at 7:30 p.m.), and the Columbus Blue Jackets Tuesday (March 12 at 7 p.m.). The Winnipeg Jets on Thursday (March 13 at 8 p.m.) will finish up the Bs road trip.