Unless you are the Blackhawks (who are currently riding a franchise-best 11-game winning streak), all other NHL teams are subject to bad stretches in every regular season. The key is to not let those slumps continue for too long and also to steal points (by going to OT and shootouts) when you can. The Bruins (23-16-5) experienced a week-long road trip (2-2-1) filled with plenty of highs and lows but they ended it on a positive note with a 4-1 win at Buffalo (18-23-4) on Friday. Perhaps most importantly, Boston followed that victory up with a stirring 3-2 triumph against Toronto (16-20-7) on Saturday night at TD Garden.
The B’s sit in fourth-place in the Atlantic Division and seventh-place in the Eastern Conference but things look a bit brighter when you see that Tampa Bay (52 points) is only a point ahead of them and Detroit (54 points) is only three points in front of them plus Boston has a game in hand on both Atlantic Division foes. For what it’s worth, even Florida (57 points) is within striking distance after they dropped their last two games. While most fans were still celebrating the Patriots win over the Chiefs, the Bruins authored a nice last-minute victory of their own against the Maple Leafs.
Left wing Brad Marchand (16 goals, 11 assists) hadn’t scored in his past 11 games (plus he was suspended for three other contests) so needless to say it had been a while since he found the back of the net.
“It felt pretty good, I’m not going to lie,” said Boston’s second-leading goal-scorer. “It was frustrating to have one called back (for a questionable offsides decision earlier in the frame), especially when we thought we were going to have the lead with 10 minutes left. I thought we played really well after that and it was great that we were able to get the win.”
Boston has five games left (3 home, 2 away) before the All-Star break which begins for them next Wednesday with All-Star weekend taking place January 29-31 in Nashville (center Patrice Bergeron is their lone representative). For this week, the Bruins are in Montreal (23-19-4) on Tuesday (7:30, NBCSN) then they host Vancouver (19-17-10) on Thursday (7, NESN) and Columbus (17-25-4) on Saturday (7, NESN). It is a very winnable stretch since the Canadiens are clinging to eighth-place in the East, the Canucks are ninth in the West and the Blue Jackets have been the worst team in the league all season.
Another positive development for the Bruins came on Monday with center David Krejci (11 goals, 22 assists) and right wing David Pastrnak (3 goals, 2 assists) each taking part in practice. Both will make the trip to the Bell Centre which has to be a good sign after Krejci missed the past nine games and Pastrnak was absent from the last three with upper-body injuries.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter@RichSlate