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Believe in the Bruins?

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  March 25, 2010 08:55 AM

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The Bruins?

Get back to me.

Better yet, get back to me, then get back to me again in a week.

One week ago, on the doorstep of the Revenge That Never Was, we all succumbed to the fact that Boston's game against Pittsburgh would characterize what sort of team it would be moving forward. Following the debacle, the conclusion was that it was a heartless team going nowhere.

Suddenly, Peter Chiarelli seemed a genius for holding onto those draft picks at the trading deadline. Fans encouraged others to protest in a "Gold Out" at the Garden for Sunday's game against the Rangers. The Bruins were cooked. They'd be lucky to make the playoffs, where they'd surely be made into looking like also-rans against the Washington Capitals.

Then, they won twice.

Suddenly, we're talking possibly making a run at the fifth or sixth seed?

It wasn't merely a matter of winning back-to-back games, but the way they won them, a stark contrast to last Thursday's Matt Cooke focus. Boston physically handled the Rangers Sunday afternoon in a game that drew lesser ratings for NBC than the final season of "The Single Guy." On Tuesday, they thoroughly trounced the Thrashers in front of an Atlanta crowd that matched the same amount of people who actually remember "The Single Guy."

Both teams were on the Bruins' heels for the final playoff spot in the East. Both were handed demoralizing losses that improved Boston's quest for a postseason berth.

Whether that's a matter of showing true grit or getting hot at the right time is up for debate. It's a two-game stretch in a season littered with disappointment.

But maybe it's more.

Let's look at the positives, shall we? It’s no doubt been an off season for David Krejci, but the kid has scored 11 of his 42 points this season in the month of March. Same goes for Milan Lucic, who has scored one-third of his 15 points this season this month. Boston's 86.3 percentage of killing power plays is the best rate in the league. But most encouraging of all, and the reason there is lingering hope among Bruins fans, is that their team just might have the league's hottest goalie heading into the playoffs.

Grasping? Maybe. But hey, at this stage what else are we supposed to do?

Look at last year's Carolina Hurricanes. At the end of February, the former Whale was just 32-27-5 before a month-plus run that saw them finish 45-30-7, and ultimately dashed to the Eastern Conference finals. Carolina averaged just 2.88 goals per game last season (a tick better than the Bruins' paltry 2.38 this season), but led the league last March with a 3.92 average, was fourth in April with a 3.80 average. Perhaps more importantly, Cam Ward was 13-2 over that stretch with a 2.00 GAA.

There is no longer a question as to whether or not Tukka Rask has supplanted defending Vezina winner Tim Thomas in Bruins net. Now the question becomes is he the guy his teammates can ride on a deep playoff run? Look, nobody is suggesting Zdeno Chara is going to be parading the Cup around the Garden ice in two months. The Bruins have lost Marc Savard, most probably until next season. No matter what level Patrice Bergeron, Marco Sturm, and Blake Wheeler elevate their game, there's no escaping that.

But with Rask, who leads the league in both save percentage and GAA, in net it may only take scoring what the Bruins have averaged to make a run. Truly, the way they've scored for him this year, it's already a minor miracle that they've got 18 wins under his watch.

This nugget via our friends over at HF Boards: If the Bruins make the playoffs yet continue their dreadful rate of finding the netting, they will be the first team to make the postseason and finish last in the league in scoring since the 1988-89 Vancouver Canucks, who scored 251 goals that season, 49 fewer than the league average.

Yet that team exploded for 19 goals in a seven-game series against Calgary, which went on to win the Stanley Cup. So, we're just saying...

If the Bruins were to retain the eighth seed, wouldn’t a showdown against the high-scoring Capitals be fascinating? Jose Theodore has gotten hot, and has won his last seven games. And while the 14 goals he's allowed over that stretch isn't something to keep Caps fans up at night, over the same amount of games, Rask is just 4-3, but has allowed eight. Almost half.

Translate that into a seven-game playoff series, and…well, who knows?

Then again, the Bruins host the Lightning tonight at the Garden. Get back to me tomorrow.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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