By Bob Morello
When the Bruins are on their game they can make it look easy. Following back-to-back losses over the weekend to two non-playoff teams (Florida and Detroit), they bounced back nicely with a strong 6-2 victory Tuesday night over the feisty Columbus Blue Jackets. With the Jackets struggling to lock up a playoff spot, there were many things in their favor: Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky with three shutouts in his last five games; the Jackets riding a five-game win streak at home; and the chance to get into the playoffs with a win. Enter the Bruins, coming off two tough losses, looking to lock up second place and home ice – resiliency and puck-luck was in Boston’s corner for this one, with a couple of odd bounces that resulted in Bs goals. Add to that the third-place Toronto Maple Leafs also losing to the Carolina Hurricane on Tuesday, and the Bruins punched their card for second place and the all-important home ice.
This week the NHL named Brad Marchand the Third Star of the Month of March, coming off his month-long strong performance earning him impressive numbers – 9 goals/14 assists and a 23-point total in the 15 games played in March – fitting in that he was named Third Star for the month of March (March-and)! This season continues to be a career highlight for Marchand, most notably hitting the 100-point season mark, thus becoming the 10th Bruins player to accomplish that high watermark, joining Bobby Orr, Johnny Bucyk, Phil Esposito, Rick Middleton, Adam Oates, Ken Hodge, Barry Pederson, Joe Juneau, and done most recently by Joe Thornton (2002-03). Marchand also added his name to Bruins records by scoring his franchise record 26th shorthanded goal.
While the Bruins’ top line has been piling up the points (David Pastrnak 37-41-78), Marchand (36-64-100), and Patrice Bergeron (32-47-79), you can still appreciate the secondary scoring they’ve gotten, especially from Jake DeBrusk who has scored four goals in his last four games, giving him 27 goals thus far in his sophomore season, with two regular season games to play. Kudos to Bruins GM Don Sweeney who plucked DeBrusk in the 2015 first-round at #14, and the Edmonton native has already paid dividends. Additional career highs have been posted by Torey Krug who matched his jersey number with 47 assists (53 points), and David Krejci who has now passed the 70–point mark for the second time, with 52 assists (71 points).
Marcus Johansson, playing his third game for Boston, took a bit of pressure off his back on Tuesday, depositing his first goal as a Bruin. Winger Karson Kuhlman has appeared in nine games for Boston and has been a bright light, with his five-point contribution (3-2). With second-place secured, head coach Bruce Cassidy now has the option of resting players, as he deems necessary, The lone goal that remains would be the chance to win the final two regular season games and have a second 50-win season. Probably not that important, as Cassidy’s target goal is still the Stanley Cup! He will also enter the Stanley Cup Playoffs with two excellent goaltenders in Tuukka Rask, who with his solid 30-save performance on Tuesday, now has stats that include: 27-12-0-5 with a 2.42 goals against, and a save percentage of .915. Backup Jaroslav Halak mirrors Rask’s numbers closely, with a record of 21-11-0-4 a 2.40 goals against, and a save percentage of .920.
Tonight (Thursday at 8:00pm) with the Minnesota Wild who are mathematically eliminated from a playoff spot, will host the Bruins. Boston’s final home and regular season game will be on Garden ice as the Bruins get a second crack at the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 1:00pm matinee. Look for possible watered-down lineups as Tampa and Boston will likely be resting players before the start of the playoffs, which begin on Wednesday April 10th, with the Bruins expected to start on Thursday April 11th – although the playoff schedule not yet officially been announced by the NHL.