Spoiler alert: eventually the Bruins (30-23-6) are going to lose a game under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy. Still, the fact remains that they have played much better since he took over from former head coach Claude Julien two weeks ago. Boston hadn’t won more than three games in a row all season that is until now. They swept a critical three-game homestand vs. San Jose, Vancouver and Montreal and most impressively, returned from their bye week to post another win against the Sharks (35-18-7), 2-1 in overtime on Sunday night.
The B’s became the first team in the NHL to return from their bye week this month and win in their first contest (the others had been a combined 0-7-0). It was a great way to start off a very important road trip in California that ends in Dallas (23-27-10) on Sunday afternoon (12:30, NBC). For years, going to California has been tough for most teams since San Jose, Anaheim (31-20-10) and Los Angeles (28-26-4) have all been quality clubs that are typically playoff-bound. Under Julien, the Bruins were 0-6 in the Golden State the last two years and 1-8 in the past three years.
Since the 6-3 beating that the Bruins had put on the Sharks on Feb. 9, you could bet that last year’s Western Conference champions were waiting for them (no pun intended). That’s another facet of what made that overtime victory so impressive for the black and gold, they played a near perfect road game by limiting San Jose’s scoring chances and cashing in when they could (tap-in by Ryan Spooner and the game-winner by Brad Marchand on a breakaway).
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“I thought we started pretty sharp,” said Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (29 saves). “We definitely had our legs in the first. They got the better of us in the second period maybe (tying it on Patrick Marleau’s goal), even though we had some looks. Pretty tight game. They are a very good team and we had to grind it out today. We didn’t look sluggish at all.”
With Montreal’s (31-20-8) free-fall (2-7-1 in their last 10 games), the race in the Atlantic Division has gotten much more interesting. Ottawa (31-20-6) has suffered a bunch of injuries recently that could cause them to fall while Florida (28-20-10) just went 5-0-0 on a road trip for the first time in franchise history and they are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. Boston is one point ahead of Toronto (27-20-11) but the Maple Leafs have a game in hand on them.
Get some rest since the Bruins have late night starts on Wednesday (10:30, NESN) vs. the Ducks and Thursday (10:30, NESN) vs. the Kings. Anaheim is great at the Honda Center (18-7-3) and the B’s are good on the road (15-10-6) so that should be a nice matchup. LA has lost three in a row to drop out of the playoff picture in the West while the Stars (23-27-10) have been one of the most disappointing teams in the NHL.