by Bob Morello
Bruins hitting the final stretch
Monday night’s last-minute loss to the NHL-leading Tampa Bay Lightning is history. The Bruins likely cleared their minds of the devastating three-goal outburst in the third period’s 5-4 loss, and were focused on last night’s (Wednesday) game with the bottom-of-the-pack New York Rangers. If there was anything to take out of the Tampa game’s outcome it was that the Bruins’ 4-1 win over Tampa on February 28th, was not an indication that the locals would have an easy time with the Lighting in the playoffs, should Boston knock off the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round.
Actually, the recent 5-4 loss should be a ‘wake-up call’ for the Bruins. On display for the Lightning were their explosive offense, solid goaltending when necessary, and a team that is very quick on transition. The Lightning with Monday’s win put their stamp on the fact that they continue to be explosive, and have the ability to get back into a game quickly. One only needs to recall last spring’s playoff outcome when the Bruins were sent packing by Tampa in just five games. But the speculation is whether the Bruins can remain competitive with this team, who recently captured their first President’s Trophy in franchise history; lead their closest NHL rival by more than 20 points; and have a goal-differential of +100 – in goals for and goals against. Of course, all the previous statements would be for naught, should Boston lose to the Maple Leafs in round one of the playoffs. If they advance to face the Lightning, the locals can hang their hat on a possible ‘hot’ goaltender or two (see Tuukka Rask/Jaroslav Halak), or injuries to the Lightning roster. Coach Jon Cooper has done an outstanding job with Tampa, a job worthy of consideration for the NHL’s Jack Adams Award, given to the top coach in the NHL. Last night’s (Wednesday) game with the Rangers saw the possible return to the Boston lineup of some of the Bs ‘walking wounded,’ namely defenseman Torey Krug and winger Marcus Johansson. Blueliners Matt Grzelcyk, and Kevan Miller are both considered weekend returnees. Not expected back soon is defenseman John Moore who was dropped to the ice following a hit from behind in the Tampa loss, and forward Sean Kuraly (broken right hand), not due back until at least mid-April. Schedule-wise, following the Bruins-Rangers matchup on Wednesday, the Bruins will continue their two-game homestand on Saturday (1:00pm), taking on the Florida Panthers. Boston will depart on a three-game road trip that will include games versus the Detroit Red Wings (Sunday at 5:30pm); Columbus Blue Jackets (Tuesday at 7:00pm) as Columbus attempts to grab a playoff spot’ and Thursday at 8:00pm with the Minnesota Wild, who are also fighting for a playoff spot. Boston’s final home and regular season game will be on Garden ice as the Bruins get another crack at the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 1:00pm matinee. Being a game that may have no bearing in the standings, both lineups will likely be watered-down, as Tampa and Boston will be resting players before the start of the playoffs, which begins in less than two weeks, Wednesday, April 10.