Boston Bruins fans have already been treated to as much drama and anxiety as a playoff game can offer.
The club may be on a five-game winning streak, but their last four victories have been anything but routine.
Long stretches of inferior play have been cancelled out by late, clutch goals giving Boston precious points in their push for the postseason. The Bruins have put themselves in a position that not many fans thought was possible just a few short weeks ago.
The amount of drama from their last four games is a fitting snapshot of the schizophrenic nature of this season’s Bruins. Their lackluster play makes fans want to rip the hair from their heads at times while other games they have the look of a true Stanley Cup contender.
Riding Out The Storm
Last Sunday in Carolina, Ryan Spooner scored 2:21 into the game and it appeared the Bruins would make quick work of the Carolina Hurricanes. That was far from the truth.
Boston went into hibernation for much of the second and third periods allowing the Canes to tie it up and give Bruins fans a serious scare heading into overtime. It took 30 shots and over 64 minutes, but 18-year-old David Pastrnak ensured the club they would head back to Boston with two precious points with his heroics in the extra frame.
In what has rapidly become a theme in the second half of the season, Spooner and Pastrnak have infused the Bruins with youth, energy, and speed up front. These three factors that Boston was missing for much of the season have given the club new life. The club may be on the outside looking in if not for the contributions of their kids.
Taming The Panthers
Two nights later against the Florida Panthers, Boston scored the first goal only to allow two second-period tallies to the Cats. A four-point swing in the standings was on the line as the third period began.
The 23-year-old Spooner tied the game midway through the final 20 setting the stage for Milan Lucic, who had been largely criticized for his play this season, to silence the doubters with arguably Boston’s most important goal of the season.
The left winger’s 18th goal of the year with just over a minute left in regulation gave the Bruins another late victory while effectively ending Florida’s playoff push. In a game which many of the Black and Gold faithful wrote off their club after a poor middle frame, Lucic changed the collective attitude of Bruins Nation instantly.
Slowing Down the Wings
Boston’s Houdini act continued on Thursday night against the Wings, where the Bruins found themselves in a 2-0 hole early in the third period. Vastly outplayed during the first 40 minutes, someone dared to poke the bear while it was hibernating.
Boston responded with a three-goal third period, capped off by defenseman Zach Trotman’s first career NHL goal with just over two minutes remaining.
In a game where the Bruins’ effort was not worthy of a single point, they stole two from Joe Louis Arena. This victory is looming large as they hold the tiebreaker over Detroit for third place in the Atlantic Division.
Outlasting the Leafs
Boston concluded their home schedule on Saturday night with a matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
A routine two points should have been on the cards, but Leafs goaltender James Reimer thought otherwise. His 49 save performance coupled with a James van Riemsdyk goal sent the game to a shootout after frustrating the Bruins for 65 minutes.
Boston had lost nine of their 12 shootouts this season. Ottawa and Detroit had won their respective games to put more pressure on the Bruins to take the extra point.-
Patrice Bergeron played the role of hero as his shootout goal sent the Bruins and their fans home happy, but not before their division rivals threatened to put a dent in Boston’s playoff aspirations.
The Bruins have only allowed seven goals over the course of their win streak, but have played with fire by playing lackadaisical hockey for long stretches of time. They may be able to get away with it against the likes of Carolina and Toronto, but not against Montreal, New York, or Tampa Bay in a first round playoff matchup.
Regardless, Boston’s late heroics over the past week have put themselves in control of their playoff destiny with just three games left in the regular season.
Bruins fans will be hopeful that their recent late-game magic will translate into postseason success as a formidable first round match-up awaits their beloved hockey club.
That is, if they get in.