It was a road trip of ups and downs. There were times when the Bruins looked like a playoff team that can hang with anyone (see Thursday’s game versus San Jose), but there were also times when they looked like they will amount to nothing more than a low-seeded first round knockout (see third period versus Los Angeles on Saturday). Nevertheless, the Bruins escaped from the thrilling west coast swing with three out of a possible six points. Two of the games were decided in a shootout.
The Bruins got off on the wrong foot on Wednesday night in Anaheim, failing to take away a point in a 4-3 regulation loss. It was the fourth time in five games that the Bruins were defeated; the third straight in regulation. They played Anaheim tough, but they simply ran into a hot team at the wrong time. The Ducks were riding a four-game winning streak and, though the B’s managed to score three goals on Jonas Hiller, it was a game that they were destined to lose. Tuukka Rask was uncharacteristically mediocre, only stopping 28 of 32 shots and the B’s could not hang onto the 3-2 lead that they entered the third period with. I did like some of the intensity that the team showed though, especially from rookie Adam McQuaid, who dropped the mitts in the first period.
Thursday’s game was a thriller. Following the 2-1 shootout victory, I couldn’t help but feel like that it was one of those games that we will look back on at the end of the season. My guess is that a few reruns of it on NESN are on tap in the near future. Tim Thomas played great, stopping 41 shots and looking like the same guy who won the Vezina Trophy last season. The Sharks are a scary team to go up against, especially in a shootout, and Thomas answered the bell. Zdeno Chara’s bomb past Nabakov in the shootout was a thing of beauty. Everyone knew that Chara was going to load the cannon, and he didn’t disappoint. It actually makes me wonder why Claude Julien doesn’t turn to Chara in the shootout more often. Watching him dial it up to 106 from the slot is like watching a penalty kick in soccer. As the goalie, you essentially have to guess where the puck is going because you simply don’t have the time to react. Fortunately for the Bruins on Thursday night, Nabakov guessed wrong.
The point that the Bruins took away from Saturday’s game was bittersweet. They played two solid periods and built a 3-1 lead before falling on their face in the third period. They came out flat and allowed the Kings to tie it, before eventually winning in a shootout. It was good to see Mark Stuart return to the B’s lineup after missing 14 games though. David Krejci also played after sitting out Thursday’s game, which comes as a relief.
All in all, it was certainly an entertaining road trip. It had its moments; some good, some bad. However, the Bruins did beat the best team in the NHL and led in the third period of each of the two other games. Essentially, they could have left the west coast with all six points had they not struggled to close out the Ducks and the Kings. Three out of six points across country versus three solid teams is a pretty decent performance at the end of the day though. My grade for the trip: C+/B-. They looked good at times, but their inability to close out games could be of concern going forward.
The Bruins will return home to host Ottawa in a division matchup on Monday.