Tuukka Leads Way Again, Bs Hang Onto First
After Tuesday’s forgettable debacle in Philly that had Bs fans’ confidence plummet even further, Tuukka Rask helped restore it back to at least a semi-reasonable level thanks to perhaps his best game of the year last night.
The Finn made 30 saves, several of them of the spectacular variety, and the Bruins got goals from Dennis Seidenberg and Dan Paille to lift the brown bears to a 2-0 win over the bottom-feeding yet dangerous Tampa Bay Lightning. The win also moved the Bs back into first place in the division and second seed in the conference as well as guaranteeing home ice for at least one round.
After a lackluster first period in which they managed just four shots on net against a team that played in Florida Wednesday night, the Bruins jumped to a 1-0 lead when the German machine Seidenberg fired a point shot past Anders Lindback less than five minutes into the second. Brad Marchand made a nice curl and pass to set up the goal.
Just over nine minutes later, Paille’s one-timer from the right circle off a great Greg Campbell feed doubled the lead and finished the scoring. The goal happened, in part, because Shawn Thornton refused to give up on the puck and helped keep it in the Tampa zone. He got his fourth assist on the year for his efforts.
But the plays of the period came from Rask, who made at least 3 highlight reel stops including his blatant robbery of arguably the league’s top sniper, Steven Stamkos. In short, he was the difference last night.
Though the Bs were a bit sloppy at times, struggled on their break-outs, and once again failed to play a solid 60 minutes, it was still a “good win” if only by virtue of the team holding serve on first place. It wasn’t the type of game that’s going to have anybody saving their pennies for Stanley Cup Final tickets but it was a shutout win that gets them closer to the second seed in the East.
Confidence in this team isn’t high right now and regardless of how they finish in their final two games this weekend, it won’t increase by much. Frankly, nobody knows what to expect from this team next week. Yet they still have a chance to guarantee home ice for at least two rounds if they can keep the Habs at bay. So as bad as they’ve been lately, they’re still doing some things right.
A few more buds for your bowl…
*The Bs had a pair of scraps last night to manufacture some emotion and it worked insofar as getting the crowd into it. Andrew Ference took on former Bruin Benoit Pouliot in a spirited scrap in which Pouliot surprisingly held his own. But then Milan Lucic pounded the bag out of Keith Aulie in the big forward’s most active night in months. Though he didn’t score, Looch was credited with four hits and certainly had more presence than he has in much too long. Let’s hope he carries it into the playoffs next week.
*Kudos to tough-as-nails defenseman Adam McQuaid, who was the local PHWA chapter’s nominee for the Masterton trophy. The former Columbus product battled dangerous blood clots in the fall and recuperated from surgeries in time to suit up for the season.
*Tuukka’s shutout was his fifth of the year, tying his career high set in ‘09-’10. It’s the 16th of his career, which already has him tied for ninth all time on the Bs list with Gilles Gilbert. If he plays like this in the playoffs, then the Bs may just have a chance after all.
*Look for the Bs to rest plenty of guys over the weekend. Zdeno Chara should be at the top of the list of guys to get fresh in time for the playoffs. A beast during his time in Boston, Chara has made more mental and physical errors in the last month than perhaps he does in a typical season. The Bs would be wise to let him recharge his batteries.
*All of the playoff teams in the East have been decided with only seeding to be determined. The Bruins can potentially end up playing any of the bottom four seeds—Toronto, Ottawa, New York Islanders, or New York Rangers.