With five players headed to the 2014 Olympics, not to mention the GM Peter Chiarelli and head coach Claude Julien, the Bruins had plenty of built in excuses for playing poorly in their last game before the break since their minds must have been all over the place. However, Boston (37-16-4) scored a season-high in goals as it pummeled the Senators (26-22-11), 7-2, at TD Garden. The five-goal margin also matched a season-high for the B’s who are now off until Feb. 26 when they visit Buffalo.
“I was impressed with our whole approach,” noted Bruins head coach Claude Julien (who will be an assistant for Team Canada). “It was a really solid game for us and a great way to finish.” Boston is 8-1-2 in their last 11 games as they are playing their best hockey of the season. Chad Johnson (26 saves) didn’t have to do much since the Bruins handed him leads of 3-0 and 6-1 but nevertheless, he’s won five straight games for the second time this season (which is the best stretch of his career).
Twelve of 18 skaters for Boston had points, led by Patrice Bergeron (2 goals, 1 assist) and Brad Marchand (1 goal, 2 assists). Jarome Iginla (1 goal, 1 assist), Reilly Smith (2 assists), Loui Eriksson (2 assists), Carl Soderberg (1 goal, 1 assist) and David Krejci (2 assists) all had multiple points as well. Perhaps the most impressive part of the victory for the B’s is that they shutdown the Senators so well without Zdeno Chara and also coming off a draining overtime loss in St. Louis on Thursday.
There are only 25 games left in the regular season with a really tough March (17 games) staring Boston in the face after they return from their respective vacations. Still, Julien is happy with where they are at the moment: “there is only one team ahead of us (Pittsburgh) in our conference so we want consistency. It’s all about playing our best at the right time.” What They’ll Be Saying: The Bruins finished the season series with the Senators 2-2; the weird part is that Boston won both games at TD Garden by five goals apiece. Ottawa is currently 10th in the Eastern Conference so they’ll have plenty of work to do if they want to see Boston again this season (in the playoffs).
Assuming we’ll all be cheering for Team USA, the Bruins give us five other teams to at least keep an eye on in Sochi: Canada (Bergeron, Julien and Chiarelli), Slovakia (Chara), Czech Republic (Krejci), Sweden (Eriksson) and Finland (Tuukka Rask). There are 12 teams competing so three groups of four with the games beginning on Wednesday and the gold medal game on the final day of the Olympics-Feb. 23.
BU product and Marshfield, Mass. native David Warsofsky recorded his first career NHL assist vs. Ottawa which is ironic since his first goal also came against the Senators (Dec. 28). The Bruins gave up five goals in the two games that Chara missed but that’s not a bad total considering they went to overtime vs. the Blues and Ottawa’s second goal was in garbage time.
For Chiarelli and the front office, the toughest part of the break is that the rosters are frozen until the NHL is back in action. That means that they only have a little over a week before the trade deadline on March 5. There were very few moves around the league so far which means that short time frame should be even more frantic than usual.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter:@RichSlate