By Tim Rosenthal, Bruins Daily
With numerous loops and turns during the Bruins’ roller coaster season in 2014-15 come different story lines captured by stretches of solid, lousy, inspiring and uninspiring play.
Lately, the Bruins have been playing solid and inspiring hockey.
There’s another thing that’s been inspiring about the Black and Gold over their last four games: their ability to respond with their backs against the wall.
At this time last week, the playoffs looked like an afterthought. The B’s were one point behind Andrew Hammond and the red-hot Ottawa Senators. They entered their game with the New York Rangers last Saturday as a desperate hockey club fighting for their playoff lives, and perhaps their future with the Black and Gold.
Claude Julien’s squad won that game against the Eastern Conference leading Rangers, 4-2. They then took care of the Hurricanes in overtime down in Carolina, while the Sens lost their third in a row that afternoon against the Panthers.
By the end of Sunday, the Bruins had a three-point lead for the final wild card spot in the East.
That three-point lead is still intact after wins over the Panthers and Red Wings, where again, the B’s had to respond with their backs against the wall.
Against Florida, the Black and Gold trailed 2-1 entering the third period, but bounced back from their second period struggles and earned a crucial two points after Milan Lucic scored the game winner with a little over a minute left.
Two nights later, Julien’s squad was outplayed for over 40 minutes in Detroit, but they found a way to win when they weren’t playing their best hockey. Zach Trotman’s first career goal, a game-winner late in the third period completed the two-goal come from behind victory.
“I think the guys just found a way [to win] after a while,” Julien told NESN’s Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley after the Bruins’ 3-2 win over the Red Wings.
“It’s great to see,” Reilly Smith told the press in Detroit. “It’s tough because we keep putting ourselves in that situation, especially [Thursday night] when you’re down by two goals, it’s tough to make that third period comeback…”
From Lucic, to Trotman, to David Pastrnak, to Brett Connolly (two assists in his B’s debut vs. the Wings) to Patrice Bergeron and Tuukka Rask, the Bruins are getting contributions from their veterans and youngsters at a good time.
The Bruins are now tied with the Wings, who have a game in hand, for third in the Atlantic Division with 93 points. They still lead the Sens by three points, but only trail the Penguins by two for the first wild card spot.
If the season ended today, the Bruins would face the same Blue Shirts squad that they beat last week. They would be placed in the Metropolitan Division bracket for the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, which would give them the best chance of advancing past the first round and avoiding any potential showdown with the hated Montreal Canadiens until the Eastern Conference Finals.
For a team that has seen their share of interesting loops and turns, the B’s roller coaster ride seems to be a little smoother with just four games left in the regular season. At the same time, they know very well that another slump would lead to a few more corkscrews and bumps that could hurt their playoff chances.