Bruins Beat: Bruins Prepare for Stretch Run

The Bruins are gearing up for the regular season’s stretch run, having six games left to play over the next nine days, and two weeks before the start of the playoffs. Thanks to their current two-game win streak, they are playing strong, despite being without injured sniper David Pastrnak and defenseman Hampus Lindholm. Tuesday night’s overtime 3-2 win versus St. Louis Blues, has Boston a single point short of 100 points, and tied for third place in the Atlantic Division with the Tampa Bay Lightning at 99 points. In the Wild Card, they maintain their three-point lead over the Washington Capitals (99-96) for the first wild card slot. The Blues were definitely a formidable opponent, riding a nine-game win streak. Boston played a very strong defensive game while being smart offensively, with a pair of  second period goals, the first from Jake DeBrusk (23) at 1:33, and the second, Taylor Hall’s (17) goal at 9:44 for a 2-1 lead. The Blues evened the score at 19;57 of the second with Robert Thomas’ (19) goal 2-2. Following a scoreless third period, the Bruins celebrated the overtime victory on heads up play by Charlie McAvoy, who explained “I think I was headed to the bench, then I did a double-check and saw we had the puck, so I went to the slot.” McAvoy was able to take DeBrusk’s precise pass to blast the puck past Blues goalie Ville Husso for the important win. Boston has been on a roller-coaster ride with their play lately, but the strong play  of McAvoy has helped to steady the ship, as he continues to expand his career high numbers to 53 points (9-44) in 73 games. Plusses and minuses for the locals showed success in outshooting the Blues, a pathetic 0-2 on the Bruins’ power play at (0-28), now eight games without a power play goal, but most importantly on the night the two-point victory. Jeremy Swayman had a steady night in goal with 20 saves, starting his win streak with two, while manning the nets following Linus Ullman’s injury.

Things to think about: If the regular season ended on Tuesday, the Bruins with the first Wild Card slot, would face the Carolina Hurricanes, a very strong opponent, thus the push for third spot in the Atlantic, ahead of Tampa Bay. Head coach Bruce Cassidy will have several decisions to make in the meantime: will his lineup include the previously mentioned Pastrnak and Lindholm, and of course, who would be his choice to start in net for the aforementioned playoffs. Many of these questions may be answered with the possible play of Pasta and Lindholm, if they are able to make their way into one or both of the weekend games versus New York Rangers at home on Saturday, or on the road when facing the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday. Interesting that although Pasta has been out of the lineup for the handful of games (7), he still holds the second spot in team scoring, with 71 points, and only Brad Marchand is ahead of him with 73. Following on the scoring list are: Patrice Bergeron (56), Taylor Hall (56), Charlie McAvoy (53), Charlie Coyle (42), Erik Haula (40), and Jake DeBrusk (38).

Winding down the regular season schedule of six games in nine days includes: Tonight (Thursday at 7:00pm) hosted by the Pittsburgh Penguins; Saturday on Garden ice versus the New York Rangers at 3:00pm; Monday at Montreal Canadiens at 7:00pm; back at the Garden for two with the Florida Panthers on Tuesday at 7:00pm; and Buffalo Sabres on Thursday for their final regular season home game at 7:00pm. The final game of the regular season will take place on Friday, as the Bruins will be hosted by Atlantic Division rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7:00pm, the Leafs. Interesting to note, four of the six teams the locals will face during the stretch run, are currently (at press time Wednesday), on win streaks of at least two games, only Pittsburgh (3-6-1 last ten) and Montreal (2-8-0) are not. The streaking Panthers are riding an eleven-game win streak (10-0-0), Rangers (7-2-1), and the offense-laden Maple Leafs are on a four-game win streak and 8-1-1 for their last ten. Bringing to mind the common statement – when the playoffs start, every team has a record of 0-0-0. In the Eastern Conference, even before the puck is dropped for Game One, the Bruins will need to be ready for the power of teams as, Florida Panthers, New York Rangers, and the Toronto Maple Leafs – keeping in mind that one never counts out the Pittsburgh Penguins or Tampa Bay Lightning.

Keeping thoughts of Montreal Canadiens’ Guy Lafleur in mind, as he continues to struggle in his fight with Cancer. Recently we have seen the loss of three players from the New York Islanders – Mike Bossy (65), Clark Gillies (67), and Jean Potvin (72). Too many, too soon…RIP!

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