The Bruins followed up back-to-back wins with a 5-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightening on home ice Thursday night. Despite the setback, Michael Felger explains there’s still reason to believe the Bruins can make a deep playoff push. Perhaps Felger’s sunny Florida vacation has brightened his perspective?
Felger: “I know this team has been inconsistent and the sample size of their recent success is far too small to be excited about, but let me tell you something. Hockey is a sport where if you get in the playoffs you can make a run. It’s not like the NBA where the champion is always one of the top three seeds. Teams can come from anywhere one through eight in the standings to make a run and it all depends on goaltending. Tuukka Rask is number one in the league in goals against average and number one in the league in save percentage. We all know a hot goalie can steal a series from anyone in the playoffs. The Bruins have one of the top goalies, if not the top statistical goalie in the entire NHL. Although they’ve underachieved this year it’s very possible they could make a run behind Rask if they were to get in the playoffs.”
Mazz: “I knew this was going to happen. After a few wins, all the spirited people who want to believe in the Bruins come crawling out of the woodwork. People that didn’t see what they wanted last Thursday night against Pittsburgh saw what they wanted the last two games. They look at the standings and think that if the Bruins finish strong these last ten games and get the fifth or the sixth seed they have a chance because they wouldn’t have to play the Capitals or the Penguins. We have seen flashes in singular games where you look at the Bruins and think they may not be the kind of team someone wants to play in the first round. Then the next night, or two days later they come out and have a complete stinker. They are schizophrenic and inconsistent and those teams don’t win in the playoffs. There has to be a point where people realize this isn’t a fluke right? Now that we are 70+ games into the season, isn’t it time to come to the rationalization that this team is terribly inconsistent and nothings going to change?”
The Collin-tary: Despite the Bruins lackluster play for much of the season, I still find myself compelled to watch every minute of action as we enter the final 10 games. I know what your thinking and the answer is no. I don’t watch them just because I get paid to, I watch because I firmly believe their best hockey is yet to come.
During the first period of Sunday’s 2-1 win over the New York Rangers I finally saw the Bruins stand up for themselves. Less than three minutes into the game Steve Begin fought Rangers tough guy Brandon Prust and pounded him down to the ice. Bruins defensemen Mark Stewart was then hit from behind by the Rangers Vaclav Prospal while killing a penalty behind his own net. As soon as Stewart hit the ice, all three Bruin penalty killers made a b-line for Prospal to defend their fallen teammate. The black and gold played physical, spirited, and desperate hockey Sunday in a must win game.
The Rangers win was followed by a four goal outburst in Atlanta on Tuesday night. The B’s finally showed a little offense and Tuukka Rask posted a shutout as the Bruins dominated all three periods in a 4-0 win. It was a complete team effort against a very hungry Thrashers team who entered the game one point behind Boston for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The game was dubbed as one of the biggest in Atlanta Thrashers history, but it was the Bruins who proved to be the hungrier of the two teams.
This brings us to Thursday’s 5-3 loss on home ice at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightening. As frustrating as this loss was, the Bruins dominated for almost the entire game. They out shot the Lightening 50-18 over the course of the game and held a dominant 19-3 edge in shots in the third period. It was simply a case of running into a hot goaltender at the wrong time for the Bruins. They were unable to solve Tampa Bay goaltender Antero Niittymaki who made 47 saves on 50 Boston shots. Meanwhile Tuukka Rask’s five goals allowed make it likely Tim Thomas will see action Saturday against the Flames.
Despite the 5-3 score, the Bruins can take a lot of positives from their performance Thursday night and hopefully continue to build upon them during these last nine games. Although three games is a small sample size, I stand by the belief that the best is yet to come for the black and gold. This week may finally be a sign that the Bruins are ending their hibernation just in time for the postseason.