WILMINGTON – The Bruins are still in a playoff position despite losing six of their last seven games in regulation, and suffering through their worst losing stretch of the season at the worst possible time. The Bruins have scored just 16 goals in their last 10 games, and have been held to two goals or less in eight of those ten aforementioned games.
They have their previously solid play this season to thank for the cushion that’s partially allowed them to keep their head above playoff water in the Atlantic Division. But at this point the lackluster way that the Detroit Red Wings are trailing the Bruins in the playoff race has played a bigger role lately, and came into play Tuesday night when the Red Wings similarly lost to the Habs in regulation less than an hour after the B’s dropped their 2-1 game to New Jersey.
It was a bit of good fortune the Bruins gladly accepted Tuesday night and then again after Wednesday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena.
“You hate to have to depend on those kinds of things, but there’s no doubt after you lose a game like last night that you look over the shoulder to see what the other team is doing,” said Claude Julien. “We want to control our own situation, and that’s what we’re trying to do right now.”
So the Wings loss allowed the Bruins to remain in a playoff spot by a measly point, and their 6-8-0 record in March is indicative of the shaky goaltending and old, tired legs that are betraying the Winged Wheels down the stretch. So with both Boston and Detroit struggling down the stretch while vying for the third spot in the Atlantic Division, it may very well come down to the Bruins and Red Wings playing each other in the penultimate game of the regular season on April 7.
One thing the Bruins don’t want: to back into a playoff spot because Detroit sputters in their last gasps of the regular season.
“You don’t want to be that team that hopes other teams are losing,” said Torey Krug. “You want to be the team that takes hold of the situation, grabs it and runs with it. If we do that it will set the tone for the playoffs. We need to take advantage of the opportunities we have. Right now we’re sitting in a playoff position, and we need to make sure we stay there and go about it the right way.”
In theory it’s the right mindset to have, but it’s difficult amid all of the losing to envision the Bruins doing anything but backing into the Stanley Cup playoffs at this point if they don’t starting in their last handful of games.
Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while welcoming in spring with open arms.
*Interesting exercise from ESPN putting together the best all-time lineups for a number of college hockey programs. We know about a lot of the powerhouse programs, but UVM could put together a pretty damn good lineup based on the players that have come out of the Catamounts program, including former and current Bruins Tim Thomas and Kevan Miller.
*Jack Eichel scoffs at the notion that his ankle injury should have caused the Sabres star to shut it down for the rest of the season.
*Nice work by Star Wars Rebels showrunner Dave Filoni to put together a Star Wars jersey again this season for the Wilkes Barre Scranton Penguins.
*Rob Rossi has got some major issues with ESPN the Magazine omitting Sidney Crosby from their Most Dominant Athletes of the last 20 years list. Yeah, I’d say that doesn’t make any sense. Not that anybody really cares about ESPN the Magazine or anything.
*Strange times with the CWHL as Cassie Campbell Pascal has resigned from her role as a CWHL Governor ahead of the league’s marquee weekend.
*The Golden Knights and Marc-Andre Fleury are both tied together in their rise toward the top of the NHL this season.
*For something completely different: Never before has a mustache been talked about as much as the CGI mustache for Henry Cavill in Justice League, and now it’s gone forever.
It might have caused a ripple when Ryan Donato wasn’t on the ice on Tuesday afternoon in St. Louis for Bruins practice on the day after his brilliant, three-point NHL debut for the Black and Gold. But the 21-year-old Donato was still back in the Boston area fulfilling some class requirements at Harvard University to help him close out the current semester properly, and not lose the credits that will keep him in line with fulfilling his junior year at Harvard University.
Believe it or not, the schoolwork is important to the newest member of the Boston Bruins and he intends to study and hit the books on his road trips, and also intends to take classes in the summertime to still graduate on time next season.
“I’m planning on finishing the semester academically. I want to finish the semester academically,” said Donato, after Monday’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena prior to last night’s debut vs. Columbus. “Obviously it’s going to be something that’s difficult, but for me it was a dream to graduate from Harvard. I’m putting that off a little bit, but I need to be able to finish this semester in order to have that opportunity, and not put it off for another couple of years. I want to finish out the semester.”
Donato is also still living in the Harvard dorms while “moonlighting” as an NHL hockey player for the rest of the season, but that isn’t all so uncommon among some of the college players that leave school early. Charlie McAvoy was similarly living in the Boston University dorms last spring through Boston’s playoff run, and didn’t clear out of his college living situation until after the Black and Gold had been eliminated by the Ottawa Senators last April.
Missing practices on an NHL schedule is certainly a new one with, Donato, however, and takes the student-athlete concept to a whole new level for somebody that's already turned pro. One has to expect this was one of the things being discussed in full when the Donato family, Ryan's agent and the Bruins discussed his contract terms over the weekend before coming to an agreement.
Along with Donato, who is scheduled to fly into St. Louis and play against the Blues on Wednesday night, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, David Backes, Jake DeBrusk, Rick Nash and Torey Krug were all missing from the ice at Tuesday’s team practice ahead of a four game road trip against Western Conference opponents.