The Boston Bruins clinched the Northeast division on Sunday night and have become the first team to win the Northeast in back to back years since the NHL went to the six division format. It was not easy, it was not pretty, but the black and gold will leave the big apple with sky rocketing confidence and a first round home ice advantage.
The game started out a bit tentative, both teams trading rushes up the ice but neither making any big noise, just feeling it all out. Zdeno Chara let off a canon from the blue line which crumbled Jordan Caron and the rebound catapulted all the way to the neutral zone where Marion Gaborik won a foot race and got the scoring started early, just 4:33 in, potting his 40th. Caron would stay in the game, but Bruins fans found themselves wondering if this was how the breaks would go all night long. The first period defensive battle continued as both teams did a good job of disrupting passing lanes and keeping scoring chances to the outside. The first would end 1-0 New York, with a total of only 12 shots between the two teams.
The Bruins started the second with more of a sustained attack. A great shift by the Bergeron line, and Brad Marchand in particular, yielded an opportunity from the blue line off the stick of Dennis Seidenberg. A great moving screen was set in front by Patrice Bergeron and Henrik “The Tank” never had shot at it as the Bruins tied it up at 1. The B’s would go on a power play about halfway through the frame, where a great effort by Patrice Bergeron produced the eventual game winner and his 22nd on the year. The physical play picked up in the second, and Brian Boyle found himself being challenged by Chara after a brief collision. He decided not to go and instead took a run at Chris Kelly. Shawn Thornton shifted on and immediately tried to engage Boyle, who once again turned down an invitation and drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The Rangers PP hampered them again, going 0 for 3 on the night, as the Bruins went into the third period up 2-1.
The third period did not feature any scoring, but New York certainly showed they were going to continue to press the Bruins. They ended up outshooting the B’s 19-3 in the third, and while Boston played a pretty disciplined defensive system, there were a few scary moments. The closest came in the final minutes when Thomas came out to play a puck but fumbled it, dropping it almost directly onto Derek Stepan’s stick. He failed to get anything on his back hand attempt and Thomas easily corralled the puck. The third period expired and the Bruins rushed in to celebrate their division clinching win. The Bruins are now 7-1-1 in their last nine games while Thomas is 5-1-1 in his last seven. He made key saves at key times and shut the door on a night when there was little offensive output. The team seems to be finding their game at the right time and Thomas appears to be getting ready for another playoff run. Tuesday night the Bruins faceoff against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Puck drops at 7:07 and make sure to check back here for game analysis and complete Bruins coverage.