GOLD STAR: Cam Ward was the star of the show on Tuesday night with 35 saves while frustrating the Bruins players that have alternated between bad offense and bad defense over the last few weeks. Ward was solid in the first period, but really pulled it together in the second period making 16 saves while stopping Brad Marchand on a point blank shot right in front of the net. His sparkling glove on a Zdeno Chara backdoor play on the PP was excellent as well, and he seemed to have the swagger of a goaltender that knew had things going his way. That remained the same in the shootout while the Bruins didn’t use two of their best offensive players, Brad Marchand and David Krejci, among the six shooters chosen to win it for Boston.
BLACK EYE: Claude Julien doesn’t usually get the black eye, but how much urgency is he showing behind the bench if he doesn’t use his leading goal-scorer during a shootout that could decide their very playoff lives? Julien left bullets in the gun during the shootout session by never calling Brad Marchand’s number, and instead leaving the 36-goal scorer on the pine for the entire session. Instead Julien went with Torey Krug and a host of others that couldn’t score, and the Bruins predictably lost when Noah Hanifin pulled off a filthy top shelf backhanded snipe as the sixth shooter. Julien has been frantically trying to push buttons to get the good result, so it’s mystifying that he didn’t go there in the moment of shootout truth.
TURNING POINT: The Bruins fired 16 shots on net in the second period, and had a handful of pretty good scoring chances. But they couldn’t get anything past Cam Ward, and couldn’t mount any kind of big offensive push line-to-line as they’d often done in the past with a truly deep lineup. Instead it was a lot of one-and-done chances sprinkled in with some very good saves from the Carolina goaltender. The paddle-down save on Brad Marchand all alone in front, and the glove hand stop on Zdeno Chara’s backdoor power-play bid were among his best from that second period. Sure they got one past Ward in the third period on a play that turned out to be a good break for the Black and Gold, but that turned out to be the exception rather than the rule for the offensively constipated Bruins.
HONORABLE MENTION: Noah Hanifin has been a key figure in handing losses to the Bruins in each of their last two meetings in this building, and this time it came in the form of some pure skill during the shootout session. Hanifin went top shelf with the backhand while beating Tuukka Rask to the glove hand, and giving the Bruins’ playoff chances a massive gut punch. Aside from that little display of elite skill, Hanifin finished with three shots on goal and six shot attempts along with three takeaways and a blocked shot in 18:25 of ice time. He also left Bruins fans with visions of what he might have looked like in Black and Gold had Don Sweeney been able to move up in the first round last summer.
BY THE NUMBERS: 4-2 – the Bruins record in the shootout this season after Tuesday night’s loss while the Hurricanes are 2-5 in the shootout as well.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “Hindsight.” – Claude Julien’s terse one-word reply when asked why 36-goal scorer Brad Marchand wasn’t in his shootout lineup in a must-win game.