Things could hardly have gone worse for the Bruins over the weekend — on the scoreboard, in the standings and on the medical report. Sunday was supposed to be about the potential conference finals preview against the Rangers in New York. That the Blueshirts are now 3-0 against the Bruins this season after a 4-3 victory at Madison Square Garden is the least of the Bruins’ worries right now.
The Bruins are holding their breath for today’s medical evaluation of goalie Tuukka Rask after his injury Saturday. The Bruins’ trump card has been the ability to rest 37-year-old Tim Thomas for the postseason while not suffering a drop in production. But even if Rask’s injury only keeps him out a few weeks — and that could be an optimistic timetable — the damage his absence would do foils the team’s plans.
The schedule over the final five weeks is brutal, with 18 games crammed into 34 days. A year ago, Thomas played in just 12 of the final 18 games, taking breaks of five days or more three times. That won’t be possible now.
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Seeds of doubt
Sunday’s loss ended the race for the top spot in the East. The Rangers now lead by 12 points, leaving the Bruins likely slotted in the No. 2 position in the postseason.
The Bruins did well to rebound from an early 2-0 deficit Sunday — led by the most productive game of Jordan Caron’s brief NHL career (goal, assist). But in the third period, the Bruins were outscored 2-1, with the Rangers scoring the game’s final goal. The same happened in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the Islanders.
The third period had been the B’s winning time through the season’s first 48 games, as they outscored opponents 71-33 in the final 20 minutes of regulation. But in the past 16 games — in which the Bruins have gone 6-10 and have been shut out five times — opponents are outscoring the B’s 17-13 in the third, a precipitous drop from plus-38 to minus-4.
If the Bruins cannot find their inner Keith Foulke and continue a Heathcliff Slocumb-like existence, it won’t matter who’s in net come June, because they won’t be wearing black and gold.
The Rangers have locked up the No. 1 seed in the East. Where will the Bruins land?
Ottawa trails the Bruins, currently the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, by just three points.
Drop to No. 7? The division is what counts here. If the B’s don’t win the Northeast division, they risk being dropped down to the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference.