Bruins' stars rising to occasion in series with Blue Jackets
Back-to-back wins have Boston on verge of East final
Yes, the seventh post-season victory was significant for head coach Bruce Cassidy's side. Although momentum hasn't meant much in this wild and wacky Stanley Cup playoffs, the Bruins appear to be a club that has found its groove.
The Bruins enjoyed a 4-3 victory in front of their loyal fanbase to take a 3-2 lead in their second-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday evening.
Okay, so Boston almost frittered away an impressive outing that saw them ahead two goals with less than nine minutes to go only to allow goals from forward Ryan Dzingel and defenceman Dean Kukan one minute and 51 seconds apart. Kukan's game-tying goal with 6:02 remaining in the third period was the first NHL goal for the 25-year-old Swiss native.
The Bruins, however, weren't about to let this one slip away. The Bruins swarmed Columbus sniper Artemi Panarin at the Boston blue line to steal the puck, leading to a nice Brad Marchand-to-David Pastrnak-goal for the game-winner with 88 ticks left on the clock.
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It wasn't that long ago Boston looked frustrated, old and tired and couldn't match the younger Blue Jackets physicality in Game 3 last Tuesday. Super-pest forward Marchand exhibited his team's state of annoyance when he punched Columbus defenceman Scott Harrington in the back of the head late in that outing.
But since then, the Bruins best players, as in Patrice Bergeron, Marchand, David Krejci and Pastrnak, have been their team's best players.
It will be important for Boston to finish off the Blue Jackets in two days because the Carolina Hurricanes will be waiting. The "Bunch of Jerks" as they are now known, thanks to Don Cherry's criticism of their victory celebrations back in the regular season, have won six in a row after they completed a sweep of the New York Islanders in the second round on Friday.
But back to Boston. If they can squeeze by the Blue Jackets, the Bruins would advance to their third conference final in nine seasons after they won the 2010-11 Stanley Cup over the Vancouver Canucks and lost in the league final two years later to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Bergeron, Krejci, Marchand and captain Zdeno Chara were key members of the championship team, while Tuukka Rask was the backup goalie. Rask moved into the starter's role in 2013 and a young defenceman named Torey Krug joined the club for the Bruins playoff run that spring.
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Although the NHL has become a young man's league, Bergeron, Krejci and Marchand still remain elite-level players in their 30s. The 42-year-old Chara, however, has shown signs of slowing down this spring.
So this may be the last kick at the Cup for these old friends. But they just can't get ahead of themselves as they did in the third period on Saturday.
It was strange, but the TD Garden deejay decided to play Bon Jovi's Living on a Prayer, the song that's refrain begins "whoa, we're half-way there," during a television timeout with less than 10 minutes remaining in the third period.
The Bruins still needed to finish off the game and then win another before they are halfway to a Stanley Cup championship.
For their sake, even though back-to-back wins have them feeling good about themselves they should expect the Blue Jackets best outing yet in this series on Monday.
Otherwise, the Bruins can expect another Game 7 in their building on Wednesday as they survived in the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Hmm, there's that number again — seven.