No room for error
If the Bruins are indeed fated to slip into the playoffs, quite possibly by the slimmest of margins — maybe a point, maybe a tiebreaker — they will need to win most of their remaining five games, if not all. On paper, none looks like a cinch two points. Far from it. With Florida, Chicago, Tampa Bay, Ottawa and Washington for opponents in the season’s final eight days, the B’s could be facing five games that are very, very hard to win.
Last night’s match against the Dallas Stars, one of the most disappointing teams in the NHL, seemed like the Bruins’ one late-season contest that should have been a guaranteed win.
Well, a work of art it was not, but all that really mattered for the B’s was securing the requisite two points — which they did, 2-0, behind the 27-save goaltending of Tuukka Rask.
This was one where you had to feel sorry for the fans who laid out big money for tickets and parking and popcorn because it was tedious. Both teams were slow, sloppy and careless, which was maybe understandable for the Stars, who featured a roster littered with names unfamiliar to even well-informed Boston puck fans.
The Bruins didn’t have that excuse. They talked afterward about delivering a pretty good team defensive effort. It wasn’t bad. But how differently this night might have ended if former Bruin Tyler Seguin — a guy with one of the top wrist shots in the game — hadn’t twice found himself with wide-open shots a few feet out and fired both pucks over the top of the cage.
From the outset, the B’s puck management in their own end wasn’t very good — which is a trendy way of saying they had too many dumb giveaways.
The difference in this case, compared to their recent four-game losing streak, was the turnovers did not end up in the back of their net. That was partly because Rask was solid and partly because Seguin & Co. fouled up some great chances.
The B’s will have to be a whole bunch sharper and smarter if they hope to get the additional six or eight points they’ll likely need to sneak into the tournament.
But again, all that counted was the win, ugly or not.
“We didn’t play a great game, (but) we got two points, which is huge right now,” said Bruin Brad Marchand, who added a goal (No. 38) and an assist to his monster campaign. He now has 83 points, third in the NHL behind Patrick Kane (84) and Connor McDavid (89). And his 38 goals tie him with Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov, trailing only Sidney Crosby (42).
“We have to clean it up for next game,” Marchand said. “But we do have to be happy with the two points. Tuukka played a great game. You have to give him a lot of credit. He had a lot of big blocks.”
Marchand provided the only goal Rask would need at 15:14 of the first period. It was a play on which Dallas defenseman Stephen Johns turned the puck over to David Backes. The B’s winger brought it in on the right, shot and had his rebound off goalie Antti Niemi come right back to him. He then fed a nice little cross-ice pass to Marchand, whose shot bounced off Niemi and slid in.
“Backs just did a great job of getting the initial shot, creating some traffic and getting the puck over,” Marchand said. “It was a bit of a lucky bounce, but again, Backs did a great job on that goal. It was all him.”
Marchand was asked to contrast the B’s four-game losing funk and their current three-game winning streak.
“Some of it is bounces, some of it is execution,” he said. “Sometimes, like (last night), we didn’t have a great game, but we got great goaltending. That can be the difference between winning and losing.
“It seemed like when we were in that losing streak, every time we were making a mistake, teams were capitalizing on it.”
Marchand was also asked about the B’s failure to make the playoffs the past two seasons. He didn’t appear to care for that particular question.
“This year has absolutely nothing to do with the last two years,” he said. “You can take it back a few years before that if you want, when we were in the finals — and the year we won. So if you want to talk about the (last) two years, bring up the two years before that.”
OK, point taken. But the only way the talk about the last two years stops is if the B’s get in this time.