Rolling, rolling, rolling.
Maybe, just maybe, there’s some sort of cosmic karma in the fact that on Saturday afternoon the Bruins will face the Washington Capitals, the team that opened March by handing the Bruins the last regulation loss in our collective memories. Since then, Boston has dominated in a month that historically hasn’t been the kindest to Claude Julien — or do you not recall the calls to fire the coach three years ago, only weeks before a dazzling Stanley Cup run?
They’re primed for another, and in welcoming the defending champs to the Garden Thursday night, the Bruins made it known that they are the more likely team to be parading around the ice with the Cup this June.
And as long as we’re talking about karma, how else do you explain the Bruins scoring two goals in the span of 13 seconds Thursday night? It could almost be construed as a message to the blink-of-an-eye champs of 17 seconds last spring; whatever you did, we can do better.
What ails the Chicago Blackhawks, who lost their 11th game in the past 23 tries Thursday night in a 3-0 loss in Boston, is what is fueling the streaking Bruins, even in the continued absence of Dennis Seidenberg. Winners of 13 of their last 14 games, earning 27 of a possible 28 points over that stretch, it’s merely moronic to opine that they are “peaking too early,” instead having put themselves in the best position possible to rest key players in advance of mid-April, when the second season begins.
Without Patrick Kane, lost to a knee injury on March 19, the Blackhawks are 2-2, but have been shut out twice now over that span. Chicago, 0-2 on the power play against the Bruins, has only one goal on the man-advantage to show since their second-leading scorer, and arguably, most important player, has been sidelined. With 99 points, Chicago failed to clinch a playoff spot Thursday, while the Bruins, with 106 points, took another step closer to attaining the top seed in the East, now nine points in front of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference.
No team in the NHL looks more ready for the playoffs to start than the Bruins, who have outscored opponents a whopping 51-19 since their points streak began with a 6-3 win over the Rangers on March 2. That was Oscars night, when that stupid selfie overshadowed what was certainly the most entertaining game the Bruins had played since the conclusion of Sochi. It was the first win in their pocket in nearly a month, thanks to the two-week Olympic break, and ugly back-to-back losses against Buffalo and Washington had the Bruins in an identity crisis of sorts.
Nah. Just jetlag.
On Feb. 28, the Bruins were 37-16-5, five points behind the Penguins. Exactly a month later, they are 50-17-6, the result of one of the greatest streaks in franchise history. Now, with Washington, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Toronto remaining on the schedule, Boston has a chance to help determine which team it may play in the first round, with the Capitals, Maple Leafs, and Red Wings (whoda thunk?) battling it out for one of the final wild cards, while Julien has the challenge of keeping his team in the same mode while juggling performance with rest.
When healthy, these Bruins are far different than the ones that came so close to their second Cup in three years. Patrice Bergeron, who added two goals Thursday, doesn’t have a punctured lung that we know of, and with 25 goals, is having the second-most productive season of his career offensively. Carl Soderberg, who has chipped in a point in 12 of the Bruins’ last 17 games, but was just a blip on the playoff radar last year, rushed into duty. Jarome Igninla and Reilly Smith (7th Player, can we get it right this year, people?) have hopped aboard and pledged allegiance to “System De Claude” in a way Tyler Seguin had proven he was never willing to do. Milan Lucic has even lost the directions to whatever rock he was hiding under last year at this time.
The Bruins are deeper than everybody else. They’re better than everybody else.
“Satisfied is not a word that exists in our dressing room,” Julien said. “Happy is one thing, but you continue to strive to get better. There are always parts of your game, including tonight, that you want to get better at, so as a coaching staff we just want to stay on top of those things and make sure we keep our guys sharp.”
Nine games remain, only two at the Garden. But the building is reserved through June. There’s little reason not to think the Bruins won’t be playing there through then.