BOSTON – The New England Patriots are not the only team in town rolling through the competition as of late.
Just in case anyone has been following the football team extra closely this winter and semi-neglecting the hockey team, let’s take a moment to put into perspective just how dominant the Boston Bruins have been over the course of the last two months.
Ever since the calendar flipped to December, the Black and Gold have lost only two games in regulation and have compiled a 16-2-4 record during that stretch. Presently, they started the week on a 16-game point streak including three victories over the Montreal Canadiens in a span of eight days. The Bruins are now in contention for the top spot in the Atlantic Division, a feat once thought to be impossible with the way the Tampa Bay Lighting started the season.
Is it too soon to talk about Stanley Cup aspirations for this team?
Anyway, the Bruins played host to the New Jersey Devils this past Tuesday night, a team that has improved significantly over the course of two seasons and will be right in the thick of things when the playoff picture takes shape. This was going to be a stiff test for Boston, but the challenge was emphatically accepted.
Tuukka Rask (17-8-4, 2.17 GAA, .921 SV%) opposed Cory Schneider (17-10-6, 2.75 GAA, .915 SV%) in the goaltending matchup, one of the better matchups across the entire National Hockey League. Tone setting? No question.
In the first period, the Black and Gold were completely stormed by the Devils. Rask had to make some big stops in the early going and was overworked from the drop of the puck. The defense did have a solid period as they had several blocked shots, but the offense did not generate any significant pressure on Schneider in the opening 20 minutes. An outright dud for the Bruins.
The second period is where the B’s finally broke after all of that bending forced on by the Devils. Miles Wood deflected a Will Butcher shot past Rask to put New Jersey on the board. However, it took falling behind for Boston to wake up. Riley Nash tied things up shortly after by lifting the puck towards goal and it took a weird bounce into the net. Lucky break.
New Jersey pulled ahead once again, but Patrice Bergeron was able to level the game at two on a power-play snipe from the near circle. That was Bergeron’s 20th goal of the season, and it could not have come at a more opportune time. Brad Marchand ended up putting the B’s ahead towards the end of the second period after pulling off a nifty move to slide the puck under Schneider. Although it was not perfect, the Bruins put together a better effort during the middle portion of the game. Shots were still 27-20 in favor of the Devils after 40 minutes.
“They were more urgent than us and wanted to create some anxiety on the forecheck,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “I don’t think we executed as well as we wanted to early on, but eventually we found it and started to win more battles.”
In the third period, it was a straight-up stalemate. At that point, both teams were just looking to skate and coast until the horn sounded. Luckily, the Bruins held tough and were able to close out the Devils on this night. Boston took this game by a final score of 3-2. Rask finished the game with 37 saves and the Bruins continue their sizzling streak of racking up points.
“When the other team has more puck possession, that spells trouble for us,” said Cassidy after the game. “Sometimes our goaltender has to help us get through those concerns. He was our best player in this game.”
The Bruins will play their next game this coming Thursday night on the road against the Ottawa Senators.
Roster for 1/23 vs. NJ
Forwards: Noel Acciari, David Backes, Patrice Bergeron, Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, David Krejci, Sean Kuraly, Brad Marchand, Riley Nash, David Pastrnak, Tim Schaller, Ryan Spooner
Defense: Brandon Carlo, Zdeno Chara, Matt Grzelcyk, Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller
Goaltenders: Anton Khudobin, Tuukka Rask
Side Notes: Charlie McAvoy will remain out of the lineup for two weeks after undergoing a successful procedure to treat an abnormal heart rhythm…Kevan Miller made his return to the lineup after missing the last three games with an illness…Brad Marchand was named NHL Third Star of the Week after leading the league in scoring with two goals and five assists this past week…The Bruins now have a 9-2-0 record in their last 11 games vs. the Devils with the win in this game.