Bruins still with eyes on division crown
Despite being 0-2-1 in their last three games, the Bruins are still in the driver’s seat for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference via a Northeast Division title. Boston (26-11-5) has certainly struggled lately, but unquestionably, Montreal (26-12-5) has sputtered even more.
The Canadiens have lost their last three games with a goal differential of minus-10 as they’ve allowed 18 goals during this tough stretch. Someone has to win the Northeast Division and Boston has a better chance since they had the same amount of points (57) but one more game left than Montreal as of Thursday.
Of the six games, the Bruins have four left at TD Garden, which should provide them with plenty of welcome support. They have the best home record (14-3-3) in the Eastern Conference and after the emotional outpouring in Wednesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Sabres, it’s not hyperbole to say that the team feels a duty to represent the region even more than usual after Monday’s bombings. Boston hosts Pittsburgh Friday (7 p.m, NESN) then Florida on Sunday afternoon (12:30 p.m., NESN).
Those two contests juxtaposed against each other couldn’t be more different. The Penguins (33-10-0) will be the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and that’s not a fluke, they will be the team to beat in the East. Pittsburgh took care of business at home in March, beating Boston twice in a week’s span – the only times they’ve met this season. Jarome Iginla will make his first trip to the Garden after he spurned a trade to the Hub. Additionally, Swedish forward Carl Soderberg is expected to make his NHL debut on Friday. Boston wouldn’t mind seeing him get some power play minutes since the B’s are 3-for-32 over the last three weeks with the man advantage. Other than the Sabres game on Wednesday, this should be the most anticipated game of the regular season for the Bruins.
The Panthers (13-23-6) made the playoffs last season but in 2013, they have a good shot at finishing with the worst record in the NHL. Boston won, 4-1, in Florida on Feb. 24 and when the Panthers came to TD Garden on March 14, they received the same one-sided 4-1 defeat.
Follow Metro Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter @RichSlate