Home is where the heart is
Heading into their five-game home stand, Boston dropped three out of their last four games, including three losses against Eastern Conference opponents (NJ, PIT, NYI). With Loui Eriksson battling back from a concussion, the Bruins offense blatantly suffered, averaging 1.96 goals/per game, while allowing an average of 2.94 goals against/per game.
November 5th marked the return of former Bruins cornerstone, Tyler Seguin to Boston, but that Tuesday night also marked the return of Eriksson back from a concussion sustained on October 23rd in a game against the Sabres. Seguin, Rich Peverley and the Stars ended up stealing the extra point in a shootout victory, but Boston’s effort far exceeded their previous four games played. Removing the second period from the equation, the Bruins actually out shot the Stars to the tune of 29-19. Unfortunately, an early goal from Jamie Benn, a defensive lapse late in the third period that eventually turned into a Vernon Fiddler penalty-shot game-tying-goal and exceptional goaltending from Kari Lehtonen was enough for the Stars to hang on until finishing the Bruins off on a Peverley shootout goal.
Feeding off their efforts a couple nights prior, the Bruins welcomed the Florida Panthers and an injured Tim Thomas into the TD Garden. Tim Thomas could have suited up for the Florida Panthers. Heck, John Vanbiesbrouck could have suited up for the Panthers and it wouldn’t have made a difference. At this point, the Florida Panthers should just tip their hat and call Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask their daddy. With the 4-1 victory over the Panthers, the Finnish sensation extended his career record to 9-1 against the Panthers, including a 0.99 GAA and .967 save percentage. With the victory, Rask now boasts 9-1 records over two Eastern Conference foes, with the latter being the team that traded him to Boston.
Concluding the reunion tour, the Bruins welcomed back old friend, Phil Kessel and the Toronto Maple Leafs to the Garden for the first time since blowing a 4-1 third period lead during Game Seven of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal playoffs. Minus the theatrics this time around, the Bruins quickly disposed of the Leafs, 3-1, led behind two power-play goals from Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron, respectively. Including his previous win over Florida, the 26-year-old netminder is now 18-2, with a 1.21 GAA and .959 SV%, including four shutouts against Florida and Toronto in his career. It may have marked the first matchup of the regular season between these Atlantic Division foes, but there’s no ignoring the fact that the Leafs haven’t picked up two points on Boston ice since March 31, 2011. However, the news wasn’t all positive in the Bruins locker room after the game, as the team announced a “lower body injury” would land defenseman Adam McQuaid in street clothes for the next handful of games.
After notching points in three straight games, the Bruins squared off against Atlantic Division leader, the Tampa Bay Lightning in a Veteran’s Day matinee. As usual when these two teams meet, scoring was at a premium. In the first period, the two teams remained deadlocked in a dump-and-chase scoreless battle, with Boston holding a 12-7 shots-on-goal advantage. In the second period, Tampa Bay carried momentum, pressing the Bruins defensemen into surrendering turnovers, but once again, Tuukka Rask stood tall in goal. However, at the 12:49 mark of the second, the collective hockey world held their breaths as Lightning forward, Steven Stamkos got carted off on a medical gurney and quickly rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital where surgeons operated on a broken tibia that will sideline the former Rocket Richard Award winner indefinitely. Following the Stamkos injury, the Bruins received two goals in a 20-second span from Bergeron and multi-faceted forward, Daniel Paille to end the second period with the 2-0 advantage. In the third, Tampa Bay created several scoring opportunities, but once again, Tuukka Rask withstood the onslaught en route to 3-0, 28-save shutout.
After notching points in all four games during the longest home stand of the season, the Bruins faced off against Western Conference Eastern Conference foe, the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second time this season. Unlike in their first meeting, the Bruins sent out backup goaltender Chad Johnson, making his first start in Boston, to oppose 2013 Vezina Award winner, Sergei Bobrovsky. After a dismal Bruins power-play expired in the opening period, the Blue Jackets got on the board first after a defensive miscue from Dougie Hamilton and partner Zdeno Chara, who both were caught below the goal line, leaving Columbus forward Blake Comeau open in the slot, who one-timed a shot past Johnson. Like elite teams do at home; the Bruins answered shortly after. A Zdeno Chara wrist-shot from the point deflected off Loui Eriksson’s skate and past Bobrovsky to square the score up at one a piece heading into the game’s first intermission. In the second period, a Blue Jackets neutral zone turnover led to Gregory Campbell feeding line mate Shawn Thornton in the offensive zone, who fired a slap shot that ricocheted off Columbus defenseman, Jack Johnson’s skate and past the former Flyers goaltender. However, this time, Columbus answered with a goal of their own on the individual effort of Nick Foligno who followed up his initial shot on goal with a backhander that flipped over Johnson to tie the game up at 2-2. Over the final 20 minutes of play, the Blue Jackets actually outworked the Bruins (12-7 SOG) but neither team found the back of the net, thus leading to overtime. With a little under a minute remaining the game, Milan Lucic blocked an ill-advised slap shot from Cam Atkinson at the Bruins blue line that resulted in a breakaway, game-winning-goal past the five-hole of Bobrovsky with 48.6 seconds remaining, giving Claude Julien’s bunch their fifth straight game of capturing at least a point.
Overall, the Bruins wrapped up their five game home stand with a 4-0-1 record, a stark improvement from their previous efforts in home games this season. Prior to this last home stand, Boston was 4-3 during home games this season, averaging 2.26 goals for/game while allowing 1.98 goals against/game. During their most recent five-game home stand, the Bruins averaged 2.91 goals for/game, while allowing a paltry 1.16 goals allowed/game. Meanwhile, the Bruins remain in second place in the Atlantic Division and second overall in the Eastern Conference with a three game road trip(Ottawa, Carolina, New York Rangers) that began with a loss to the Senators last night on tap.