The Boston Bruins ended their pre All Star break slate on a sour note with their 3-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, but that was just one minor blip in what’s been an impressive month of January. Even as they climbed up the standings in the Eastern Conference prior to their eight-day layoff, the Black and Gold knew they would have their work cut out for them as they faced a tough five-game stretch to begin their post All Star break slate.
That tough five-game stretched began on Thursday night against the New York Islanders, who came into the night as the top team in the East. If the season ended today, these two teams would meet in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
If Thursday was any indication, that opening round matchup would be one entertaining seven-game series full of ups and downs.
At times, it looked like Claude Julien’s Bruins were going through the same patterns that haunted them earlier in the season – sloppy second periods, miscommunications and sloppy defense that led to John Tavares and Johnny Boychuk’s goals in the middle stanza. This came after the B’s strong start with Reilly Smith lighting the lamp for the first time in 11 games and Patrice Bergeron’s snipe to give the team a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.
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After the tables turned on the Black and Gold, they got a timely goal when they needed it when Kevan Miller scored with 3.4 seconds left in the second. Then, Torey Krug quickly added to that lead with his 10th of the season just 1:45 into the third.
Timely goals, combined with clutch saves from Tuukka Rask (a season high 43 saves) sparked the Black and Gold to a 5-2 win in their last regular season appearance at the Nassau Coliseum.
“Seemed like we used our time off to rest and we really picked up right where we left off,” Rask told reporters afterwards, “We definitely wanted a good start after the break, and this is very key.”
As good as Thursday’s win was, the Bruins will need to keep this string going during this tough five-game stretch that resumes on Saturday night against the Los Angeles Kings. From there, the Black and Gold travel to Madison Square Garden to face the Rangers on Wednesday, followed by a back to back with another matchup with the Islanders and the hated Montreal Canadiens next weekend at TD Garden.
Even as the wins keep piling up, the B’s, who now have 59 points, know that a slump in the middle of the season could put them back on the outside looking in of a playoff spot. But the way the team is playing lately, and with a healthy roster, they’re looking forward to whatever lies ahead.
“It’s definitely going to be tough matchups and big games,” Bergeron told The Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin after Sunday’s All Star Game in Columbus. “We know that with the position that we’re in, we have to keep going forward and keep moving forward as a team and improving.”