The Boston Bruins were cruising in the first three games of their four-game road trip. They defeated the New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers before facing the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night.
Boston outscored their first three opponents 17-4, widening the gap between them and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The team also clinched a playoff spot with their win over the Panthers.
New York Islanders
The 5-0 win against the Islanders was a statement that they can dominate some of the top teams in the league. The Isles are in tight competition with the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second spot in the Metropolitan Division and a win against a team fighting for the upper hand speaks to how good this Bruins team really is.
Sean Kuraly had a strong two-goal night and showed that he could be a promising player entering the playoffs. But a broken hand in the game against the Devils will put him out for four weeks.
New Jersey Devils
The Bruins showed up to New Jersey with the same attitude they had in their game against New York. The Bruins won 5-1 behind the great offensive talent of Patrice Bergeron, who recorded three points and a 21-save effort from Tuukka Rask. It may not have been a great matchup to test the Bruins readiness against a playoff team, but they got two points nonetheless.
After a day hanging out at the house of Owner Jeremy Jacobs, the team played the Panthers, who sit well outside of the playoff picture. With a chance to clinch a playoff spot, the Bruins needed to keep their success rolling.
Their 7-3 win was a complete team effort. Thirteen different Bruins players recorded a point against Florida — including an assist from goaltender Jaroslav Halak. Halak also stopped 34 of 37 on the way to win number 20 on the season.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The last game of the road trip came against the league-leading Lightning. Perhaps any outcome besides the one that happened could have been counted as a win for the team.
They were down 2-1 at the end of the first but scored three straight in the second period to take a significant lead.
In the third, the Lightning did to the Bruins what the black and gold have done to plenty of teams this season — they refused to go away.
Tampa Bay notched three consecutive goals of their own, including one with 53 seconds left, and stole two points and a big win from the Bruins.
Good Effort but Not Perfect
The Lightning are the team to beat this year. The Bruins certainly gave it a good effort, but to defeat Tampa Bay, you must be perfect. Somehow, the Lightning made it look like they were on the power-play for three of their five goals. The Bruins defence clustered in areas that allowed Lightning forwards to find unoccupied areas and fire quality shots on Rask.
The question that is always in play for the Bruins is with Tuukka Rask. Surely you can look at the box score and say he can’t give up five goals on 28 shots — that is a given. But before all the blame is thrown at Rask, look at the quality chances the Lightning had on all five goals.
Look at the other end of this as well. The Bruins generated 17 shots against their opponent. Seventeen shots in a game against the league’s best team won’t cut it.
The only other stat that the Lightning dominated was in hits, where they generated 11 more than Boston. Otherwise, the game was mostly even and it came down to depth of roster. The Lightning found that they can rely on their third line to go get that game-winning goal, where most teams might stick with their top two with only a minute remaining.
What’s Next for Boston
The Bruins have six games left in the regular season. They have three games against teams who are unlikely to make the playoffs. They will also play games against the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets. Both of those teams sit right outside of the postseason picture and, as of now, are only two points away from being tied for the second Wild Card spot in each conference.
The last game the Bruins play in the regular season is a rematch against the Lightning. On April 6, we’ll get a chance to see the B’s play the Bolts before the playoffs start in what could be a potential second-round matchup.
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