On Sunday in Boston, there was plenty more for the Bruins (45-17-8) to celebrate other than St. Patrick’s Day and captain Zdeno Chara’s (7 goals, 16 assists, plus-26) 41st birthday. The night before in Tampa Bay-in the final tilt of a week-long four-game road trip-the B’s turned in their best win of the season, a 3-0 shutout of the Lightning (48-19-4) who are the top team in the Eastern Conference. Boston improved to 2-0 this season vs. Tampa Bay (both shutouts) and with two meetings left in the regular season, the Bruins have a good chance to both leapfrog the Lightning in the Atlantic Division and also take over the No. 1 seed in the East. The B’s are now only two points behind the Lightning with a game in hand so this is more than a pipe dream, it is reality for a team that has shown more resiliency than a horror movie villain all season-long.
“I don’t think we could have classified this as a measuring stick game,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “When you’re playing down as many men as we were that are important guys, we were looking at it as more of a bounce back game against a real good team.”
Along with goaltender Tuukka Rask (23 saves) who picked up his third shutout of the season and a strong defensive effort, Boston’s special teams had a performance to remember as they scored two power play goals and held Tampa Bay’s No. 2 ranked power play 0-for-3. In such a charmed campaign for the team, veteran forward David Backes could use some of the good fortune that’s been enjoyed by most of his teammates. Between a bizarre illness at the start of the season, a bogus suspension last week and a fluke injury suffered against Tampa Bay, he deserves some more normalcy in his professional life. He actually scored a power play goal in the first period that gave Boston a 2-0 advantage but late in the frame, he was cut by a skate blade behind his right knee. That laceration forced him out of the game as he required a few stiches to close the wound. As bad as it initially looked, it could have been much worse
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“It looks like he’ll be ok and then from there I don’t know, I don’t have an update,” noted Cassidy about Backes. “We’ll see how it is tomorrow. We’ll classify him as day-to-day but other than that, I don’t know if he’ll be ready for Monday (when the Bruins host Columbus at TD Garden).”
Defenseman Torey Krug (13 goals, 38 assists) is one of the numerous Bruins that has stepped up in Chara and Charlie McAvoy’s (7 goals, 25 assists, plus-32) recent absence. He assisted on all three goals for the Bruins on Saturday and was named the No. 2 star of the game as he logged nearly 20 minutes of ice time (19:37). Rask (30-11-4, 2.29 goals against average, .919 save percentage) hasn’t been at his best in the last few weeks but the record shows that the Bruins have won in each of his last six starts and that’s all that really matters. Nashville (47-14-10) has already clinched a playoff spot and it looks like they will win the Presidents’ Trophy (given to the team with the best record) which has been somewhat of a curse to teams in this decade (just ask the Capitals or even the Bruins in 2014).