Bruins hanging tough
As the Record went to press on Wednesday, the NHL playoff race has tightened up even more. Boston coming off a two-day rest, was in Alberta to face the Edmonton Oilers, owners of a two-game win streak. The Bruins were also riding a win streak of three games. While the Bruins were 9-1-0 over their last ten, the Oilers were 6-3-1. The Bruins have an edge at picking up the all-important two points, as the ‘missing Oilers’ list is hitting the ‘eight is enough’ mark. Due to injuries and suspensions, those absent include Connor McDavid, James Neal, Kris Russell, Sam Gagner, Zack Kassian, Kyle Brodziak, Joakim Nygard and most recently Oscar Klefbom.
The Canadian swing continues on Friday night with a back-to-back set, as the Bruins take on the Calgary Flames (8:00pm), who are desperately trying to stay in the playoff race, and currently hold onto seventh place in the Western Conference standings. The second half will have the Vancouver Canucks hosting the Bs on Saturday (10:00pm). Oddly enough those three teams, Edmonton (70), Calgary (68) and Vancouver (69) were within a point or two of each other in the current Western Conference standings. Following Saturday’s game with the Canucks, Boston will head back to the friendly confines of TD Garden ice for a brief two-game homestand versus the Calgary Flames on Tuesday (7:00pm), and the Dallas Stars on Thursday (7:30pm).
On the other side of the ledger, the Bruins, having played 60 games, are 9-1-0 in their last ten games, giving them 86 points, enough to lead the NHL, and in first place of the Atlantic Division. Right behind Boston in second place are the streaking Tampa Bay Lightning, winners of 11 games in a row, giving them 85 points in the same number of games. If you’re a betting man, those in the know have Tampa as the Stanley Cup favorites, ahead of the Bruins. The Washington Capitals (79 points) are suddenly on a downswing, now in fourth place in the conference, with Alexander Ovechkin stuck at 698 goals scored, trying to notch rgw elusive 700th goal. The Pittsburgh Penguins (80) hold the third spot in the Eastern Conference standings, and have been playing well with a 7-2-1 record for their last ten. Currently on the cusp of playoff spots in the Eastern Conference playoff list are the Toronto Maple Leafs with 70 points, two back of the New York Islandersm Carolina Hurricanes, and the Columbus Blue Jackets with 72 points each, and the Florida Panthers two points shy with 68.
The Western Conference race is equally as tight, with eight points the margin between first-place (St. Louis Blues 76 points), and the final playoff spot held by both the Flames and the Arizona Coyotes – tied at 68 points each. The second, third and fourth spots have, the Dallas Stars (74), Colorado Avalanche (73), and the Oilers (70). So, as the numbers indicate, a single two-points earned, can give a team a solid boost in the standings.