As I finally get back to my key board, it strikes me that this is a good time to take a quick look at the Black and Gold, as they prepare for the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With only a handful of games remaining in the regular season, the Bruins have accumulated a 113 points, which is good enough to have clinched the Eastern Conference. They also have two more points than the St Louis Blues, against whom they are fighting for the President’s Cup (best overall record and home ice advantage). Despite having such a strong regular season, however, a few concerns remain.
For one thing, it remains to be seen if they can sustain the success they saw in March, when they won like twelve in a row, through the opening rounds of the playoffs. For awhile there last week, it looked as if they were sputtering a bit when they dropped back to back games on the road against fellow original six holdovers, Detroit and Toronto, but they pulled out a hard fought 5-2 victory in Philadelphia. I’m assuming part of the problem for the B’s in that stretch was the “lower body injury” suffered by the 36 year old forward Jarome Iginla, as it kept him either off the ice completely, or restricted him to rather short shifts. Considering that he is their leading goal scorer with 30, you can see how it might be a problem for them if he’s not healthy for the post season.
On a similar note, there is much concern in these parts as to the overall stamina of goalie Tuukka Rask. Given that the 56 games that he has played so far, plus the action that he saw during the three week Olympic break, far surpasses any of his previous totals, one can understand why fans are worried. You don’t have to be a long time NHL follower to know that it’s always the “hot goaltender” that dominates the playoffs, and it’s tough to be hot when you’re tired. At this point, he stands 13th amongst net minders with a GAA of 2.04. That’s a little misleading, as that includes goalies who have only a handful of starts. However, it’s interesting to note that no one ahead of him on that list has played anywhere near as many games, and only about a half dozen of the top thirty have played more.
On the plus side; or the plus/minus side to be more exact, is the fact that the Bruins have been amongst the best all year in playing team defense. They have the top four on the +/- list with David Krejci (+39), Patrice Bergeron (+38), Jarome Iginla (+34), and Brad Marchand (+33), as well as Johnny Boychuk at number six on that list, and Milan Lucic at number eight. You have to believe that as long as Rask is rested enough to make the occasional big save, they should be able to stay ahead of their opponents in the scoring department.
So, will the duck boats roll again come June? The answer to that may indeed depend on the answer to several other questions. Such as: will quicker teams such as the Red Wings and the Canadians, give them trouble? Will the officiating be a factor? Is Igninla going to be ready? Can Bergeron, who is perhaps the real heart of the Bruins, stay healthy for the entire run? I’m counting on positive answers to all the above, and looking forward to another duck boat parade as Summer approaches.
Featured image courtesy of: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
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