Bruins clinch playoff spot with win over Avalanche
By virtue of their 2-0 win on Friday over the Avalanche at the Pepsi Center, the Bruins (47-17-5) became the first team in the NHL to clinch a playoff spot. Boston’s 11th straight win also set a new mark in the league this season and it is the longest for the club since 1971. Backup goaltender Chad Johnson (16-3-1) picked up his second shutout of the season with 31 saves in his most impressive performance in black and gold. This was also one of the team’s best victories since Colorado (44-21-6) had blanked them 2-0 way back on October 10 at TD Garden as they are one of the top teams in the heavyweight Western Conference.
Patrice Bergeron scored what turned out to be the only goal that the Bruins would need a little over five minutes into the game. Dougie Hamilton and Zdeno Chara were credited with the assists. A few moments later, Gregory Campbell and Cody McLeod fought each other. One of the only things that the B’s haven’t done during the win streak is draw penalties. They took advantage in the second period when Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog was whistled for interference. Carl Soderberg scored a power play goal, assisted by Loui Eriksson and Hamilton. The shot was so fast and popped out of the net that NESN’s replays weren’t conclusive.
Semyon Varlamov (26 saves) kept Colorado in the game as Boston outshot them 22-17 in the final two periods but the Avalanche could never find a way to put one past Johnson. In his last 13 games, he’s 10-0-1 with .934 save percentage — not bad for Tuukka Rask’s understudy. The Bruins are tied with St. Louis for the most points in the NHL (101), but the Blues have played one fewer game. Boston plays a back-to-back as they visit Phoenix (34-25-11) on Saturday night (9:00, NESN).
What They’ll Be Saying: This is the 20th time that the Bruins have reached 100 points in a regular season and fourth under head coach Claude Julien. Boston also opened up a six-point lead on Pittsburgh (who has one game in hand) for first place in the Eastern Conference. With only 12 games left before the postseason and the top spot looking more likely, it’ll be interesting to see how Julien rests his key players.
Johnny Boychuk (lower body), Jordan Caron (back) and Corey Potter were the scratches for the B’s. Boychuk took part in his second straight morning skate so it looks like he’ll be returning to action shortly. Perhaps as soon as Saturday vs. Phoenix.
It’s tough to keep up with all the records that they seem to set every game but another one is that Boston hasn’t allowed a first period goal in its last 10 games (new team record). Colorado was the only team in the NHL that hadn’t been shut out this season, coming into Friday’s meeting. Finally, the Bruins haven’t trailed at all in their last six games.
You have to appreciate rookie head coach Patrick Roy’s unconventional thinking (an oxymoron in hockey), he pulled Varlamov with five minutes left in regulation, which is way earlier than any other coach would do it but the Bruins never scored an empty-netter so in a sense it worked. He has to be the Coach of the Year.
During the 11-game win streak: the Bruins have outscored opponents 43-15, allowed two goals or fewer in 10 of the 11 games and killed 26 of their last 27 penalties.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate