Perhaps the Bruins looked ahead toward the postseason during their forgettable weekend against the Panthers and Red Wings. They proved that they weren’t playoff ready during their pair of losses against teams in the bottom half of the Atlantic Division.
The Bruins could’ve secured home ice for their first-round matchup with the Maple Leafs had they taken care of business against Florida and Detroit.
Not a good omen heading into Tuesday’s tilt with the hottest team in the league — and a team on the verge of clinching a postseason berth — against the Columbus Blue Jackets. But they had something to look forward to with a playoff-like battle on their hands.
Bruce Cassidy’s squad clicked on all cylinders at Nationwide Arena in Game No. 80 of 82. Tuukka Rask looked like a starter ready for playoff hockey. The blue-liners in front of him stayed structured in their own zone. The opportunistic offense found cracks in Columbus’ defense and chased perennial Vezina Trophy candidate Sergei Bobrovsky out of the game.
Those traits led to a convincing 6-2 victory over a desperate Blue Jackets squad. That, combined with the Hurricanes’ 4-1 victory in Toronto, secured home-ice advantage for Boston’s first-round series with the Maple Leafs.
Here’s what we learned as the Bruins snapped the Blue Jackets’ five-game win streak in Ohio’s capital city.
Brad Marchand hits the 100-point mark
The illustrious 95-year history of the Boston Bruins includes a who’s who in the 100-point club. Yet they hadn’t had a player top the century mark in a single season since Joe Thornton back in the 2002-03 campaign.
That 15-season run without a 100-point scorer came to an end in Columbus when Brad Marchand joined illustrious company. Marchand’s second period goal and third period assist on David Pastrnak’s 37th of the season put him in the 100-point club alongside Thornton, Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Rick Middleton, Johnny Bucyk, Adam Oates, Barry Pederson and Joey Juneau.
“It’s a pretty good feeling, but I think it just shows how good of a team we have. Marchand, the league’s third star of the month, told reporters about his milestone. “It’s a cool personal stat, but again, it all goes to the goal of getting into playoffs and we’re right there.”
He’s always had the skillset to compliment his edgy on-ice persona. But Marchand’s reputation of toeing the fine line got the worst of him at times — with or without supplemental discipline during his first few seasons in Boston.
Marchand’s maturity into a complete player led him to his first 100 point season of his career. He isn’t a saint by any means, as seen with some of his chirpings at officials earlier this season. But the nine-year veteran has come a long way; developing into one of the more prolific stars in today’s National Hockey League.
The Bruins don’t have to worry about Marchand licking opponents anytime soon. They’re more than happy to see him thrive further on the NHL’s prolific line alongside longtime partner in crime Patrice Bergeron and a young all-star in David Pastrnak.
Trade deadline additions find chemistry on third line
The Bruins envisioned Charlie Coyle fitting comfortably into his third line center role. They even parted with a fellow hometown boy in Ryan Donato to acquire the Weymouth-born forward from the Minnesota Wild during the trade deadline.
Coyle gave the Bruins versatility during their injury-plagued stretch in early March. He’s now back in his third line center spot after skating on the second line with David Krejci — who tallied his career-high 52nd assist in the win — and Jake DeBrusk — who notched a three-point night on a pair of goals and an assist.
The former Boston University standout gives the Bruins some much-needed depth on the third line. Fellow trade deadline addition Marcus Johansson hasn’t been as fortunate, however.
Cassidy admitted he’s still looking to see where Johansson fits in the lineup ever since the former Devils and Capitals forward returned from a lung contusion last week. He didn’t fit with Marchand and Bergeron and couldn’t quite develop the same chemistry with DeBrusk and Krejci from his first few games in a Bruins uniform.
The third-year Bruins bench boss put Johansson together with Coyle on the third line with a returning Chris Wagner — filling in for Danton Heinen (illness) — flanking on the opposite wing. All three factored into an important first period tally to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead.
Johansson capped off the goal with the rebound off Coyle’s shot. Wagner set everything up with his slick pass to Coyle in the slot before Johansson did the rest to cap off his first goal as a Bruin.
Marcus Johansson cashes in with his first goal as a Bruin.
All four lines found their groove against a stingy Columbus squad. Johansson’s chemistry with Coyle and Wagner Tuesday gives Cassidy something to ponder over as the playoffs approach.
Karson Kuhlman belongs in Boston
Krejci and DeBrusk worked with a rotating door of wingers all season long. Some, like Johansson and Pastrnak — at times — found decent chemistry working alongside the second line cogs. Others, such as Donato and Peter Cehlarik, couldn’t sustain enough consistency to secure a top-six spot.
It took 80 games, but Krejci and DeBrusk may have a keeper from the unlikeliest of sources.
The energy and work ethic that Karson Kuhlman displayed during his two callups from Providence provide the perfect compliment for Krejci and DeBrusk. The former Minnesota-Duluth product put his traits on full display en route to the first multi-point night of his career.
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