Bruins

Brad Marchand's career stats entering B's-Devils couldn't be more fitting

Brad Marchand's career stats entering B's-Devils couldn't be more fitting

We all knew Brad Marchand was no angel, but this is downright freaky.

Marchand enters Saturday with 665 career games played, meaning his next contest will be his 666th. And guess who's coming to TD Garden on Saturday night? The New Jersey ... Devils.

Oh, and did we mention Marchand has accrued exactly 666 career penalty minutes (good for 35th on the NHL's all-time list among active players)?

Props to Reddit's r/Bruins page for finding this crazy coincidence, which of course happened to a once-described "little ball of hate" whose game easily could be characterized as devilish. (No word on if Miroslav Satan is coming out of retirement for this one.)

Serendipity aside, most of the focus at TD Garden will be on new Bruins winger Marcus Johansson, who faces New Jersey just five days after the Devils traded him to Boston ahead of the NHL trade deadline.

The B's also will look to extend their point streak to 16 games, as the hottest team in the NHL hasn't lost in regulation since January.

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Nothing wrong with taking wait-and-see approach with Bruins

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

Nothing wrong with taking wait-and-see approach with Bruins

There are plenty of reasons to get excited about the Boston Bruins.

They’ve overcome bouts of adversity all season long with injuries and a crazy trip to China in the preseason amongst them, and they ripped off a 19-game point streak that registers as the second-longest in franchise history.

With David Pastrnak getting ready to return to the B’s lineup, they will once again have the NHL’s best forward line and all three members should once again pass 30 goals when it’s all said and done with Patrice Bergeron just three goals away from the magic number. They could finish with the second-most points in the NHL this season as the B’s sit tied with the Calgary Flames at 95 points with 10 games left to go for both organizations.

The Bruins even have plenty of comeback wins down the stretch and their own pregame pump-up speech from MMA brawler Conor McGregor along the way, so there’s plenty of Black and Gold mojo going as well. So there’s good reason for those backing the Bruins to get pumped up with bodies also returning to good health, and Matt Grzelcyk, Torey Krug and Marcus Johansson expected to also join Pastrnak back in the lineup sooner rather than later.

So it’s a pretty good time to be the Bruins comfortably sitting second in the standings in the Atlantic Division, and holding a four-point lead over the struggling Maple Leafs for home ice in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

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“It’s nice to look at yourself and where you are in the standings and take a deep breath and not be that team like – you know… I’d much rather be us right now than those teams that are seven, eight, nine [in the playoff standings],” said Bruce Cassidy. “[The teams] that are one point in [the playoffs] one night and one point out the next night. That’s nerve-racking, so for us, like I said, we’re paid to win, and we’re doing a lot of that lately. So that’s comforting.”

So why aren’t more people getting truly excited about the Bruins' chances next month once the playoffs get going?

Well, it’s probably got something to do with what awaits them in the second round of the playoffs should they advance past Toronto.

The Bruins could finish second in the entire NHL in points when the regular season is over, and that wouldn’t prevent them from playing the league’s best team in the second round of the playoffs. That’s right, the Tampa Bay Lightning are looming in the second round of the postseason again this year for whichever team comes out successful in the expected Bruins/Maple Leafs series.

Thanks, NHL playoff format, which annually seems to screw whichever division boasts the strongest and best teams as the Atlantic Division does this season.

No matter how strongly the Bruins finish and how many teams they beat in the final 10 games leading up to the postseason, does anybody truly think it’s going to be any different from last season? Is there even a shot that the B's are going to last more than the five games they managed last season when they were outclassed by the Lightning, and overwhelmed by their overall depth, after the first game of the series?   

The short answer is no.

The Lightning are deeper, more offensively explosive than the Bruins, stronger on the back end with big bodies everywhere and more of their core players are on the young end of their prime years. On paper it really doesn’t look like the Bruins will come out on top.

Certainly there’s a chance, though. Tuukka Rask could get hot and carry the Bruins through a playoff series like he never has before, or the Lightning could end up suffering some injuries that take away from their overall attack.

But the bottom line is that the Bruins are going to need some help to even get out of the second round, and that’s probably going to make it difficult for a fan base to get too excited when they’re already drunk on Red Sox and Patriots championships within the last year.

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The Bruins will get their chance to stir up the enthusiasm with two more games against the Lightning before the end of the regular season, including one just a week from now in Tampa with both teams rested and ready to make a statement. Maybe the B’s will swing into an Amalie Arena where they’ve almost always played well and push around a Lightning group that barely broke a sweat ending their season last spring.  

But it’s going to take a hell of a regular-season beating to make everybody believe that the Bruins truly have any kind of a shot in a second-round showdown with Tampa Bay. It would be foolish to completely overlook the Leafs in the first round as well, but it’s just as tough to blame anybody that isn’t contracting Black and Gold fever right now.

It’s going to take quite a bit for the Bruins to even get to the Eastern Conference Final this season, and for most B’s fans, they will believe it when they see it.  

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David Pastrnak on injury: "Could I have avoided it? I wish [I had]"

David Pastrnak on injury: "Could I have avoided it? I wish [I had]"

BRIGHTON, Mass. – David Pastrnak had a mile-wide smile on his face at the thought of getting back on the ice with his teammates and playing games after missing the last five weeks with a left thumb injury. The 22-year-old is excited to knock the rust off and get back to the midseason form that had him post 31 goals and 66 points in 56 games, and saw him on a pace for 50 goals and 100 points prior to falling on his left hand back in early February.

“It’s a lot of fun being back on the ice with the guys. It’s been a few weeks [out of the lineup] so you kind of recognize that these guys are your friends and family, so it’s obviously feeling really good to be back,” said Pastrnak, who joked that he might not have been hurt a few years ago had he fallen on his left hand when he was 160 pounds instead of the 190 pounds he’s weighing in at these days. “Obviously these things happen in life and you just try to take advantage of it as a person and a player.

“Last year I was fortunate enough to be healthy all year, so it was really tough the first few weeks [after the thumb injury]. It feels good now. I’m taking shots and one-timers with no pain, so I’m happy to be moving forward.”

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But the young Bruins star also voiced tones of accountability and perhaps even remorse as he recounted the late Sunday night fall that led to the off-ice injury and the 16 games and counting that he’s missed as a result of it. The hope is that Pastrnak might even be able to play on Tuesday night against the Islanders while wearing a protective splint on his left hand, and he will be manning the right wing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand when that does happen.

“Obviously I let the guys down a bit. It’s a tough time. It’s not an injury that happened on the ice, so I took full responsibility for that. That’s what hurt me most. Could I have avoided it? I wish [that I had]. But obviously things happen. The fact that I could let somebody down, I definitely hate that. The first couple of weeks were tough.”

Now Pastrnak has roughly three weeks to get ready for the postseason and get back into top scoring form, and that’s the most important thing for both the player and the team now that he’s over the injury hump and ready to return. 

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