It should definitely be a rule of sports fandom that if your team clinches a spot in the playoffs, you aren’t allowed to complain about anything for the remainder of the regular season. From that point on, once you know that you’ll be getting to watch your favorite NHL team play summer hockey, anything else that happens in the regular season is just gravy.
Only 16 out of 31 fan bases get to watch their team in the playoffs, so if you’re part of one of the lucky fan bases, then you shouldn’t take it for granted. Just enjoy what’s left of the regular season, regardless of the wins and losses.
I’m consistently reminding myself of this right now, because I just watched my team, the Boston Bruins, get handed a tough loss by the St. Louis Blues by a score of 2-1 in overtime. The Bruins played about as well as any fan could’ve hoped for. Anton Khudobin was absolutely on fire in the net, filling in during Tuukka Rask’s day off. And from a defensive standpoint, Boston played one of its best games of the year.
Despite all of this, St. Louis’ Jaden Schwartz still got the better of them in the end, scoring in the third period and overtime to steal the win for the Blues. But since the game went to overtime, the Bruins earned a point in the standings, which officially clinched a spot for them in the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs. And because the Bruins are officially in the playoffs, everything else is gravy.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
Ryan Donato Continues to Dazzle
If you’ve read my previous articles, then you know that I’ve been gushing over the 21-year-old Harvard student since he signed with the Bruins on Sunday — and I’ve had plenty of reason to. He scored his first NHL goal in Monday’s overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, then stayed behind in Boston to attend class at Harvard while the rest of the team traveled to St. Louis. He even missed Tuesday’s practice.
Donato caught up with the team in time for Wednesday’s game, and it appeared as if he didn’t even need to be at practice. Almost exactly halfway through the first period, he slapped an unassisted power play goal past Blues goalie Jake Allen to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead.
It turned out Donato’s goal would be the only offense Boston would be able to muster. In addition to that, he stepped up in the defensive zone as well, chasing down pucks and consistently disrupting the Blues’ offense. St. Louis appeared to be flustered in the offensive zone through the first two periods, and Donato definitely played a part in that.
I guess missing practice to attend class won’t be a problem, since apparently playing in the NHL is easy for Donato. The Bruins may have found a young star in the 21-year-old Boston-native, and just in time for the playoff push.
Khudobin Makes One Mistake
The fact that the Blues snaked this win away from the Bruins becomes even tougher considering how amazingly well Khudobin performed. He was filling in while Rask took the night off, and he played like he was the team’s starting goaltender.
But with just over 10 minutes to play in regulation, with the Bruins still leading 1-0, Khudobin finally made his first mistake of the game. Jaden Schwartz took a deep shot that Khudobin had a good look at, but for the first time all night, he just missed the puck. It was a save he definitely could’ve and should’ve made, but it’s pretty darn hard to be perfect.
In the overtime period, no goaltender was going to stop Schwartz’ powerful coast to coast rush for the game-winner. By that point, it was just too late.
Big Picture: Bruins Are in the Playoffs
As mentioned earlier, no matter how tough of a loss it was to swallow, no fans should be allowed to complain when their team clinched a playoff spot. And that’s the most important thing Bruins fans can takeaway from this game. Despite the loss, they played well enough to push the Blues to an overtime period for a point in the standings, and that point guarantees that they will be playing summer hockey.
The Bruins now sit at 45-17-10 with 100 points, just four points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. With 10 games remaining in the regular season, they still have a chance to chase the Lightning down and claim home ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
But even if that doesn’t happen, the Bruins are still in the postseason, and nothing can change that. Everything else is gravy.
Cody Rivera is a sports writer covering the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers, as well as a contributor to SB Nation’s PatsPulpit.com. In addition to the Bruins, Cody is also a devoted fan of the Boston Celtics, Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots. Send Cody an email at firstname.lastname@example.org