Four games in the next six nights, and six total games remaining for the Boston Bruins before the Olympic break on Feb. 12. Five games are against Eastern Conference teams; three are against Division rivals; and two in the next four nights will be against their most-rivaled Montreal Canadiens.
While the top-5 teams in the Eastern Conference have already separated themselves from the bottom-dwellers, only three points separate the seventh-place Habs  with the 12th-place B’s . To say that tonight’s game between the two Original Six teams is “a big one” would be a complete understatement. But to say that this is a “must-win” for the Bruins would be practically spot-on.
The Habs have had some stellar goaltending as of late with Jaroslav Halak [starting tonight] between the pipes. The 24-year-old Slovakian native is 3-1-1 in his last five starts – including a 32-save shutout against the New York Rangers on Jan. 23 – with an astounding .955 save-percentage over that five-game-span. But, Montreal is 1-2-1 in their last four, and have hit the back of the net just six times during that span [Bruins five goals in their last four].
This could be just what the Bruins, and starting net-minder Tuukka Rask, need to snap their seven-game home winless drought [0-6-1] tonight. Their last “home” victory was played at Fenway Park on Jan. 1, with a 2-1 overtime win against the Flyers. But their last home win inside TD Garden was a 4-0 blanking of the Atlanta Thrashers [see: Rask] way back on Dec. 30. The Bruins’ longest home losing streak is 11-games, and their current seven-game losing streak is the longest streak since an 0-5-4-0 stretch from Nov. 28-Dec. 30, 2003.
Rask’s last win was that 18-save shutout against the Thrashers on Dec. 30. The 22-year-old had posted a 7-2-1 record in his 10 starts prior, including the shutout of Atlanta, and racked up a .924 save-percentage during that span.
Since then, Rask has been 0-4-0 in his last four starts – all in January – with a .896 save-percentage. Rask also came in and finished the job in net when Tim Thomas was yanked in three games during the month of January; stopping 30-of-34 shots in relief.
But the reigning Vezina Trophy winner hasn’t fared much better as of late. Thomas is sub .500 with a 13-15-7 overall record including four shutouts on the season, with a pedestrian .914 save-percentage and 2.52 save-percentage. For the month of January, the struggling Thomas has posted a mere 3-6-2 record with a .906 save-percentage, while being pulled in three separate occasions.
Things can’t get any worse for the 12th-place Bruins. With such a crammed schedule from now until the Olympic break, we’ll continue to see the goalies alternating games from here-on-out. But why not give the bulk of the workload to Rask? The Thomas regime last month clearly didn’t work, so maybe Rask can steal a game or two while getting the majority of the nods through the next six games.
It goes without saying, but Boston desperately needs a win. And a victory starting tonight over the seventh-place Habs could catapult this Bruins team from, limping into the Olympic break, to finishing strong with a comfortable playoff spot.