Through a constant stream of injuries and issues (namely their goaltending), the Bruins (15-10-5) managed to not only survive in the early goings of 2017-18 but they also pulled themselves up into third-place in the Atlantic Division right in heart of the Eastern Conference playoff mix. In fact, up until a few days ago, they were one of the hottest teams in the NHL (8-2-0 in their last 10 games) before a major dose of reality stopped by TD Garden on Thursday and Saturday. Washington (21-12-1) is the top team in the stacked Metropolitan Division and their routine 5-3 win extended their win streak over Boston to an alarming 11 games. It was more of the same with the Rangers (18-12-3)-the top Wild Card club in the East-as they transformed the Garden into Madison Square Garden en route to a 3-2 overtime victory that gave them seven straight wins vs. the B’s.
The good news in regards to both the Capitals and Rangers is that the Bruins only have to see each club once more in the regular season. Still, the fact remains that if Boston is going to make the postseason and advance past the first round, odds are that they will see one of those well-rounded clubs at some point. Trying to explain how both recent series vs. Washington and New York could be so one-sided is hard to do. Naturally, the B’s didn’t really want to admit the obvious: that the Capitals and Rangers simply own them these days, no matter the time or venue. They cleverly danced around the fact that they are exhausting any methods of solving these difficult riddles.
“I always tend to look at the positives,” noted Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy after Saturday’s frustrating setback vs. New York. “I think that it’s too long of a year to dwell on the things that didn’t go well. I mean you’ve got to correct those.” It should be noted that Boston had trailed New York 2-0 in the second period for rallying for a point was at least something to build on.
It would be too simple to say that the Bruins are front-runners or that they just beat up on the inferior teams (looking at you Buffalo and Arizona). This is the same black and gold team that solely in the month of November beat such quality opponents like Minnesota (17-12-3), Los Angeles (20-10-4), San Jose (17-10-4), Pittsburgh (17-14-3) and Tampa Bay (24-6-2). Like any sport, there will always be certain teams that you just don’t match up with well for whatever reason (think of the Patriots in Miami). The important thing for the B’s is that they don’t let this recent hiccup become a bigger issue as they have a very busy schedule before Christmas.
They host Columbus (20-12-1) on Monday (7 p.m., NESN), go to Buffalo (8-18-7) on Tuesday (7:30 p.m., NESN), Winnipeg (18-10-5) comes to Boston on Thursday (7 p.m., NESN) and they face the Red Wings (12-13-7) on Saturday afternoon (1 p.m., NESN). The Blue Jackets and Jets should be playoff teams while the Sabres and Red Wings most likely will not be anywhere close. Remember, the B’s are 9-5-3 at TD Garden this season so they have a chance to go into the break on a high note.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate