As this week gets underway, the Bruins are hot. Having won five of their last six games, the one loss being a shootout loss to the Rangers, the offense is clicking even with the absence of leading scorer David Pastrnak. With 25 games to go, entering the third period so to speak, ideally you’d want a healthy team that is starting to win a stretch of games. Other than Pasta being on the shelf for some time, this team is healthy, and they’ve strung together wins that are giving them a push to potentially pass the Toronto Maple Leafs into 2nd place in the Atlantic Standings. With a strong showing on the west coast, the Bruins could set themselves up to control their own destiny and secure home-ice for at least the first round on the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It would take an absolute miracle or one of the worst collapses in NHL history for the Bruins to surpass the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the more they win the closer they can get. All it takes is a strong west coast trip.
2/15 Bruins 3 – Ducks 0
In the first game of the trip, the Bruins got off to the start that they needed as Jaroslav Halak shutout the Anaheim Ducks. They have gone from top of the Pacific Division to a dumpster fire, that’s being extinguished with kerosene. The Ducks just can’t get out of their own way as Randy Carlyle was recently let go in his second stint with the team, having won a Stanley Cup the first time around. GM, Bob Murray announced that he would be taking over coaching duties to try and identify the problem at hand. It doesn’t get much lower than that for a franchise as they are likely going to tank the rest of the season in hopes of earning the first overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, where they could land the probable number 1 pick, Jack Hughes, an American born center from Orlando, Florida.
With the puck dropped in this game, Ducks rookie goalie, Kevin Boyle, a Hockey East product who played for both UMASS Lowell and UMASS, started his second career game. In his first game, Boyle earned the shutout victory over the Vancouver Canucks, and was hoping for more magic as the Ducks played host to the Bruins. Well, unfortunately for him, the Bruins would flip the script and shutout the Ducks.
Just over five minutes played in the first period, the Bruins would get their first goal of the game. Brandon Carlo got the assist as he fired a slap shot on net where Noel Acciari was able to tip it past Boyle. In the second period, at almost the exact time as the first period, the Bruins would double their lead. On the power play, David Krejci moved up and took David Pastrnak’s position on the first power play unit. He dangled with the puck beating Boyle and sliding the puck across the goal mouth where Jake DeBrusk was waiting to finish it off for his second game in a row with a goal. Very late in the third period, the Ducks would pull Boyle for the extra attacker, where Chris Wagner would bury the empty netter against his former team in their barn. Too sweet.
2/16 Bruins 4 – Kings 2
As the Bruins took the trip up route 5 into Los Angeles, they looked for their 5th straight victory. Having beaten the Kings exactly seven days before, the Bruins had the chance to sweep the season series. The Bruins would kick off the scoring in this game as Jake DeBrusk is showing how great he can be when he gets on a streak. He has scored in three straight games now, solidifying a solid second line attack with David Krejci. While they still need a consistent third member of that line, the framework is there and it is a formula that can lead to a long playoff run.
In the second period, the Kings would tie the game at 1, on a Ilya Kovalchuck power play goal, and then almost take the lead shortly after, if not for a spectacular Tuukka Rask save.
As the period was winding down, Patrice Bergeron would win a faceoff cleanly to Brad Marchand who fired a snapshot and gave the Bruins the lead. With the game heading into the third period and the Bruins holding the 2-1 lead, the Kings would once again tie the game, this time with just under five minutes to play. Charlie McAvoy would play hero in this one as he scored with just over a minute to go on a beautiful short sided shot that deflected off a defender past the Kings, Jack Campbell. Patrice Bergeron would score the dagger with 45 seconds to go after strong fore-checking pressure and one handing the puck into the net.
2/18 Bruins 6 – Sharks 5 (OT)
This was a matchup that I was very excited to watch as it potentially could be a Stanley Cup Final preview. All I have to say is that, we are in for quite the treat if that’s the case. This was one of the most exciting games I have seen this season with non-stop action and lots of good offense. The officiating on the other hand…questionable at best. Early on in the game the Bruins had a scoring opportunity with the puck sneaking past Marin Jones, the Sharks goaltender. As the puck was crossing the line a Sharks defender made what looked like and eventually would be ruled a save, but on further review, the puck clearly crossed the line. After Toronto took a look at it, they determined that the puck did not clearly cross the red line and it was ruled no goal. Keep this in mind as you read along towards the end of this game summary.
Later on in the first period, the Bruins would get a definitive goal as Torey Krug hammered home a slap shot on the power play for the 1-0 lead. This goal lit a fire under the Bruins as they would score two more goals within the final three minutes of the period coming from Zdeno Chara’s 199th career goal followed by Karson Kuhlman’s first career goal. The Sharks wouldn’t allow the Bruins to enter the dressing room with a three goal lead, as Joe Thornton, the former Bruin, would score with under 3 seconds in the period for his first of three on the night.
In the second period the scoring would flip flop as the Sharks would net three more and the Bruins would only add one to their total after Jake DeBrusk continued to stay hot with his 4th game in a row with a goal. However, as I mention, the Sharks scored three in the period sending the game to the third period tied at 4.
In the third period the Sharks would take the lead on the hat trick goal by Joe Thornton with under 7 minutes to play. However the lead would not stand up as Chris Wagner would score a very controversial goal with about two minutes to play. Now remember when I said that the Bruins were robbed of a goal early on in the game? Well, the hockey gods made things right…or the refs made things right. Either way, Chris Wagner batted down a puck that was above the crossbar clearly playing the puck with a high stick, and then scoring as the puck fell to the ice. Now the refs never ruled that he played the puck with a high stick and when they went to look at the goal, they could not overturn the call as he did not score with a high stick. It was a missed call that came back to haunt the Sharks, but was retribution for the Bruins who should have had a goal already. Eventually the game would go to overtime where more pandemonium ensued.
In overtime, the Sharks would get a great opportunity when Evander Kane would break down the ice, but the play was blown dead as Kane was about to shoot. Before the opportunity, Kane was in a battle behind the net and the goal came off its moorings. The puck would travel down the other end of the ice so play continued but Tuukka Rask took the option of not fixing the goal himself and the ref skated away as play went on. When the Evander Kane returned down ice on the break away the refs blew the play dead infuriating Kane. After the very next faceoff, Kane would get in another puck battle with Charlie McAvoy in which he took a spill as the Bruins would break out up ice. Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci would enter skate down ice 2-on-2 with a trailing McAvoy timing his zone entry perfectly. Evander Kane is the reason the Bruins would have such a great opportunity as instead of sticking with McAvoy he went for a very late line change leaving McAvoy uncovered to receive the drop pass from Krejci and burying the overtime winner for their season best 6 game win streak.
2/20 Bruins 3 – Vegas 2 (SO)
As the Bruins draw closer to the end of their current west coast road trip, they remain hot winning their 7th consecutive game. At times it may have felt that the win streak would be snapped in this game, but on the contrary they never actually trailed in this game. The Bruins would have three separate leads in this game the last being for the win, but it was started when Jake DeBrusk continued his tear as he scored in his 5th straight game. It was a crafty move set up from a pass from David Krejci, where DeBrusk was able to coral the puck while spinning and firing a wrist shot past Marc-Andre Fleury, the Vegas goalie. With just under two minutes to play in the first period, the Golden Knights would tie the game when former Bruins Riley Smith would score on a rebound given up by Jaroslav Halak, one of the few mistakes he made in this game.
The second period of this game was filled with big saves for Jaro Halak. Like I said, he only made a few mistakes in this game and in the second period he was spot on. The third period was a different story for both teams. Brad Marchand would give the Bruins the lead once again with just over a minute played in the period, as he would score on a one-timer set up from Danton Heinen and Charlie McAvoy. The lead wouldn’t last long as Vegas would tie it up only 37 seconds later subsequently sending the game to overtime.
After a crazy overtime period that saw the Bruins take a bad bench minor for too many men on the ice, the Golden Knights could not capitalize on the man advantage and the game went to a shootout. In the shootout the goalies remained to be locked in, but the Bruins would take the lead after the first round as Jake DeBrusk made it look so easy with a simple move that beat Fleury. After Vegas would tie the shootout, both teams would be goalless until David Backes stepped up in the bottom of the 6th frame so to speak, and ended the game with the goal. It was a great moment for him as he has not had the best of seasons, finding himself as the healthy scratch more and more lately.
With the NHL Trade Deadline on Monday the 25th. There have been a lot of rumors flying around about what the Bruins would do and who they would try to add. They did make one trade already that I don’t think people were expecting, I know I certainly wasn’t. The Bruins sent Ryan Donato and a 5th round pick to Minnesota for Charlie Coyle, a Boston kid who is nearing the end of his contract and adds some scoring depth to a team that has struggled with that at some points in the season. While it is tough to see Donato go, he should have an easier time getting opportunities to score and actually play at the NHL level when he joins the Wild. The best part of the trade for the Bruins is that Donato wasn’t on the Bruins NHL roster as he has been playing in Providence for a majority of this season. Adding Coyle to the mix is also very positive as he is a natural center, but can also play right wing. Bruce Cassidy has some decisions to make whether he fills the void at third line center, or slots Coyle on the right wing of the Krejci – DeBrusk line. I personally would like to see Coyle at the third line center to start and try to make another trade for a winger on the Krejci line. With Artemi Panarin likely available, that should be the number one option, however the price tag is very high. Mark Stone from the Ottawa Senators is also rumored to be available if he doesn’t plan on re-signing. While the price tag may be high on him as well, he is a more likely option for the Bruins to go after. Whether or not these trades happen, the Bruins have been looking very strong and have only gotten stronger with the addition of Coyle. The Bruins should have a great chance at making a run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and it is going to be very exciting to watch the rest of the season.
The Week Ahead
In this coming week, the Bruins will play the last game of this west coast road trip as they head start heading closer to the East coast with a stop in St. Louis on Saturday to take on the one team hotter than the Bruins in the past week. The Blue have won 11 straight setting a franchise record and have looked great since there was a fight in practice while they were in dead last in the NHL. The Bruins will then return to Boston for their next six games, where they will take on the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday, and a huge game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.
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