Rumors of Boston’s Demise Greatly Exaggerated
A little more than a month ago Boston was left for dead. They were a team struggling to score, struggling to stay together and struggling to put together anything resembling a 60 minute effort. Fans called in a priest to say the last rites for their beloved Bruins and began to look ahead to next season. As the injuries mounted on the blueline and Savard’s recovery didn’t progress fans gave up hope completely.
But somewhere along the line Boston found reasons to rally. Despite the bad luck, despite the injuries and despite the season long poor play the Bruins found a reason to play their game. They still had trouble scoring but they rallied around each other… they started playing for each other.
The expression “better late than never” has been the mantra for Boston. The Bruins offense certainly isn’t as prolific as it was last season but this team is finding ways to win. They no longer give up when down by a goal or two, even late in the game. They storm the net, they finish their checks and at the end of the game you can see that they left it all out on the ice.
Maybe all the injuries forced them to rally around each other. Maybe the veteran Mark Recchi publicly calling out the team made them take a long look in the mirror. Or maybe they finally got sick of everyone talking about their epic decline and got motivated to prove everyone wrong. Whatever the reason Boston started playing with heart, desire and pride.
Boston enters the playoffs having won three in a row and going 6-3-1 in their last ten. A team that just one month ago was expected to be scheduling tee times after their season finale against Washington has climbed up into the 6th seed and this Boston team is poised to make some noise in the playoffs.
On Sunday afternoon the Bruins beat the Capitals 4-3 in a shootout without Mark Recchi, Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara. Their beaten and battered defense shutdown Alex Ovechkin, a man trying his hardest to win the Art Ross trophy.
But Boston sent a message with their victory over the Capitals: This is a team that is not willing to go out quietly. Boston isn’t a team that expects to be one and done, despite what the experts and critics say. No, this is a Bruins team that believes in themselves and enters the Stanley Cup playoffs brimming with confidence. Without three of their regulars and Tim Thomas in net after not starting since March 29th, Boston found a way to beat the #1 team in the standings.
The Stanley Cup playoffs are not necessarily ruled by the best team but rather the team that gets hot at the right time. Looking at the Bruins last two wins, it is clear this could be the case for the black and gold.
Michael Ryder scored a pair of goals against the Capitals, breaking a 13 game goal-less streak. Against the Hurricanes on Saturday Daniel Paille, Milan Lucic, Blake Wheeler and Steve Begin all scored to break score-less streaks of their own: Paille had not scored in 22 games, Lucic had not scored in 9 games, Wheeler had not scored in 13 games and Begin had not scored in 9 games. None of them are prolific scorers but their goals are perhaps proof the Bruins are firing on all cylinders.
Even look to Boston’s blueline and the struggling Dennis Wideman. Wideman is in the midst of a horrendous season but has raised his game as Boston began to lose their defensemen. Wideman has points in five straight game and even netted the game winner Thursday against Buffalo. Boston didn’t back into the playoffs like some teams, they pushed their way in and made their presence known.
Boston’s goaltending duo of Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas is the top 1-2 punch in the entire NHL. Boston ranks second in the league in goals against per game with just 2.32 and is tied for first in save percentage at .922.
Rask leads the entire NHL in both goals against average (1.97) and save percentage (.931) and has allowed just 8 goals in his last 6 starts. Rask is playing at the top of his game and could frustrate teams in the playoffs. Rask has started 5 games this season against Boston’s first round opponent, the Buffalo Sabres, and has allowed just 8 goals and holds a 4-1 record.
And if Rask falters, a hungry Tim Thomas, eager to prove doubters wrong once again, waits in the wings.
It took them almost an entire season but Boston is pulling everything together at just the right time. Boston’s offense is a still a question mark but their team defense and goaltending has been stellar. Perhaps the top teams in the East are looking past the Bruins. But the Bruins are taking nothing for granted. They’re prepared to fight, claw and scratch for every inch of ice, every goal and every victory.
The Buffalo Sabres are in trouble.