Bruins Playoff Hopes Slipping Away

There is a certain feeling in Beantown that this year’s Bruins aren’t going to make the playoffs. You can’t blame any fan that would think so considering the team has dropped 9 of their last 12 games including a couple of crucial matchups in the final two weeks.

They managed to split their Central Division road trip, beating St. Louis 6-5 and losing in a strange contest against Chicago on Sunday. Tuesday night’s shootout loss to Carolina only complicates matters as Boston is now tied with Philadelphia at 91 points and Detroit sits in the third Atlantic Division spot with 93. The downside is now they only have two more games to gain a spot. Their competition has an upper hand on them since Detroit sits ahead in the standings and Philadelphia still has three games to go.

Starting off on the Right Note

During the B’s recent stretch, pucks have not been finding the back of the net. Their scoring woes were illustrated on the team’s Twitter account with this nugget:

Adding to the mounting pressure of scoring goals and gaining points on their road trip was the fact they faced St. Louis fresh off five straight victories and four games in which they shutout their opponents.

The Bruins took St. Louis to task, handing the Blues a 6-5 defeat and kicking off the road trip with a strong effort. The key ingredient for Boston was quality chances, scoring six goals on 28 total shots. Center David Krejci posted a four point performance with two goals and two assists including a power play tally. Loui Eriksson, Matt Beleskey, Torey Krug and John-Michael Liles managed to record two points apiece while Patrice Bergeron and Frank Vatrano added to the goal column. While he wasn’t incredibly busy, Tuukku Rask finished the game with 25 saves.

The top players looked poised to get Boston out of their losing ways and were impressive to say the least. The forecheck was outstanding, led by Beleskey, Vatrano and youngster Noel Acciari. Acciari and Vatrano were physical, combining for 13 of the team’s 29 hits. Liles looked like his former self, providing the Bruins forwards with great outlet passes all game long. The power play was a strong point in this game as well, converting on two of their four opportunities.

While it ended up being a great night for the Bruins, there was a scary incident involving defenseman Kevan Miller during the first period. During a puck pursuit, Miller and Blues forward Magnus Paajarvi collided and Miller went full force into the boards on his right shoulder. Miller stayed down for some time before getting up. He would leave the game with an upper body injury.

Windy City Comeback Falls Short

Riding off the high of beating St. Louis, Boston stormed into the United Center looking to take two points away from the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks. What they didn’t know was that the NHL’s leading scorer would have another thing in mind.

Patrick Kane netted a hat trick and added an assist in a decisive victory over Boston 6-4. Kane’s linemates Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov each enjoyed a solid afternoon, recording four and three points respectively.

At one point, Chicago’s led 6-0 before David Pastrnak broke the shutout for Scott Darling with a late 2nd period goal. His goal kick started a Bruins effort that saw the team rally off 3 more goals in close to a ten minute span. The valiant comeback effort ended up short but they really had Chicago back on their heels and left them disheveled for most of the third period. Boston recorded 38 of their 46 total shots in the final two periods of the game which shows how much they wanted to get back into it.

On the plus side, Patrice Bergeron scored two goals and notched an assist while Brad Marchand and Torey Krug each posted two points. The negative aspects revolved around the team’s defense which managed to allow multiple odd man rushes or breakaways. Tuukku Rask was hung out to dry, allowing 4 goals on 21 shots against and being replaced by Jonas Gustavsson. Costly turnovers from Matt Beleskey and Joe Morrow led to goals for Chicago and the team’s overall sloppy play defensively hindered any chance at making a complete comeback. They also surrendered two power play goals on three attempts.

Close but No Victory

Following a tough loss in Chicago, the Bruins prepared for a matchup against the Carolina Hurricanes. Prior to this game, the season series was split at one apiece. Adding to the intense climate, well known hockey expert Don Cherry made some comments on Twitter regarding goaltender Tuukka Rask’s play of late.

As you might expect, some of the Bruins faithful and players were perturbed by these comments but they wanted to use it as a source of inspiration to shut down their critics.

The Bruins got defenseman Kevan Miller back so they got a much needed boost defensively after an atrocious effort from the back end in their previous game. Boston also called up heralded rookie Colin Miller from Providence to help fill the void on the blueline.

Don Cherry might have looked like smart after the first period though when Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin fired a shot from the point that somehow got past Rask. Rask was able to bounce back and put together a great effort, stopping 27 of 28 shots against including a pair by Jay McClement and Nathan Gerbe in the first.

The Bruins finally broke through when a bad line change by Carolina gave Loui Eriksson a breakaway. He buried the chance to tie the game and picked up his 29th goal of the season. The Bruins would continue to battle and eventually took it to a shootout. They picked up a point but were unable to secure two when Boston College graduate Noah Hanifin scored in the fifth round of the shootout to give Carolina the victory. Talk about putting a dagger into the heart of Boston’s playoff hopes.

With only two games left, Boston can’t afford to lose especially since they face Detroit next.