A back-to-back set against the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning has the Bruins looking to gain traction in the Atlantic Division and hopefully gain hold of a top-two spot.
The Bruins came out of the most brutal two-game set of the season securing three out of four possible points against the Western Conference-leading Chicago Blackhawks and the Eastern Conference favorites in the Washington Capitals. The Bruins shocked the hockey world with a complete-game effort in their 4-2 win over Chicago, and almost came away with the full two points against Washington, but some unfortunate officiating, a bad offsides call on a coach’s challenge and a Matt Niskanen OT game-winner prevented pure hockey bliss in Beantown. Moving onward!
Tonight the Bruins play the Panthers, who, until recently, held the top spot in the Atlantic Division. The Panthers appear to be falling back to earth, as they have seemed to be the team way outperforming its actual quality for the most part this year. Hopefully the Bruins can stick it to them and leapfrog into second place.
Tomorrow, the Bruins face a much tougher matchup against Steven Stamkos and the Lightning. Tampa Bay appears to be the Eastern Conference team best-suited to compete against Washington in the playoffs, but the Bruins have typically played well against the Lightning in recent years (besides their Feb. 28 4-1 loss at home to them). All 16 games remaining are important for the B’s to pick up as many points as possible, but these two back-to-back nights in Florida are critical for cementing their spot in the playoffs.
A few thoughts and notes:
- After being demoted to the AHL, and after being slapped with a five-game suspension for his hit on the Lightning’s Cedric Paquette, Zac Rinaldo once again got into his usual reckless business of trying to separate opponents’ heads from their shoulders. Rinaldo was suspended five games in the AHL, meaning he’s serving two suspensions at the same time. Rinaldo had mostly kept his nose clean this season for the Bruins, but he was also a net zero in terms of production. Needless to say, it would appear the pest’s time in the Bruins organization is coming to an end. Hope the Flyers enjoy the third-round pick Rinaldo inexplicably cost Boston.
- Frank Vatrano has been on an absolute tear for the Providence “Baby” Bruins, earning the AHL Player of the Week honors. In three games last week, the left winger from East Longmeadow, Mass., scored four goals and added an assist, putting his total up to 29 goals in just 28 games at the AHL. On Sunday, March 6, Vatrano becaume just the third player in AHL history to record three unassisted goals. That was his third hat trick of the season. One could say he has a hat trick of hat tricks, but one probably shouldn’t say that.
- Brad Marchand continues his quest for 40 goals as he potted goal number 33 last Thursday against Chicago. He’s also added one assist in each of the last two games. This probably doesn’t need to be repeated, but Marchand is having one hell of a season, and he’s a blast to watch. Let’s hope he continues his scoring touch and keeps his nose clean in the stretch run of the season.