After resting some of their horses and stuttering a bit the last two weeks, the Bruins righted the ship both mentally and physically, beating the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 in the regular season finale at the TD Garden.
The win clinched the Presidents' Trophy for the only the second time in the history of the franchise, with the only other coming in the 1989-90 season.
With one game remaining, the Bruins' record reads 54-18-9 for 117 points.
David Krejci scored twice, Patrice Bergeron netted his 30th of the season and Greg Campbell chipped in with his 8th of the season. With an off day seemingly in place for tomorrow, goalie Tuukka Rask made one last case for being the best goalie in the NHL when he turned aside 24 shots en route to his 36th win of his season.
|Best in the league: Krejci's double paces Bruins to the win and the President's Trophy (via AP)|
The Bruins struck twice late in the first period by way of a Gregory Campbell deflection and a David Krejci backhand put-back.
Campbell deflected home his 8th of the year at 16:54 of the period, tipping home a Jordan Caron pass through the five-hole of Matt Hackett. Shawn Thornton floated a long-pass into the zone at Caron, who corralled it in time to find Campbell right in front of the net for the deflection.
David Krejci made it 2-0 just 1:29 seconds later, scoring his 18th of the year when he backhanded the rebound off the boards from a Zdeno Chara bomb to beat Hackett. As we'll see later on, Krejci had some great luck today with the puck bouncing his way. Chara's slapshot hit high off the glass and off to the side of the net where it found Krejci in the perfect spot to put it home.
The second period saw two more goals and it's fair share of shenanigans from Sabre "tough guy" John Scott. First the goals...
Patrice Bergeron bagged his 30th goal of the season at 11:43 when he slapped home the feed from linemate Brad Marchand to put the Bruins up 3-0. The goal extends Bergeron's point streak to 13-games and is the second time in his career he's cracked the 30-goal mark, the first time coming in the 2005-06 season.
Cody Hodgson got the only Sabres goal on the afternoon at 13:58 of the period, and putting him at the 20 goal mark for the season, a new career-high for the five-year pro.
The shenanigans arrived in the form of John Scott and Milan Lucic getting into it halfway through the period. Scott, playing by the standards of his usual useless self, singled out Lucic after coming off the bench and took him on. Lucic responded by giving Scott a punch across the face. Chara came over to defend his teammate and got his stick high on Scott, and suddenly he wanted no part of a fight and instead pleaded to the refs to end the skirmish.
Scott got two for roughing, two for unsportsmanlike and a 10 minute misconduct for being a jackass. Chara got a double-minor for high-sticking Scott.
The game held at 3-1 through the second and into the third, it took a scary turn in the form of an injury.
Before that, Patrice Bergeron was removed from the game and didn't play in the third period. Reports now indicate that there is no injury concerns whatsoever with the Bruins center, and the choice was simply a precautionary one.
In the third, it was Daniel Paille who was involved in the scary moment.
Paille took a high-hit from Sabres defensman Jake McCabe at 12:4 of the period. Paille was moving forward trying to enter the zone when McCabe caught him with a solid hit. Paille went limp for a brief second after he hit the ice and needed assistance leaving the surface to head to the locker room. Paille has had documented concussion issues twice before this year, so getting dinged like he did today is not good news for the forward.
The hit was not a dirty one, as McCabe was trying to land a solid hit, but Paille's momentum going forward left the space open where in a split-second, the hit caught Paille in the shoulder/head area. McCabe's immediate reaction also seemed genuine, where he sagged his shoulders and lifted his palms slightly after the hit. McCabe received a five-minute major for interference and a 10-minute game misconduct.
And just a few minutes after that, Torey Krug drove hard to the net and clipped Sabres goalie Matt Hackett. Krug landed on his right leg and him in just the right spot, as Hackett was injured after the collision and had to be stretched off the ice. It looked like his leg/knee/hip area that had the damage, and it was simply a case of bad luck for the young goalie playing in just his 8th game for Buffalo this year.
David Krejci gave the Bruins their fourth goal of the game and his second of the day on the major powerplay from McCabe's hit on Paille. Krejci launched a shot from the blueline and the puck hit off the boards and ricocheted off the backup Knapp and into the net. Like I said, Krejci had some great luck with the bounces today.
Did I say Rask had a great day? He also found his way onto the scoresheet, as he recorded the second assist on Krejci's goal. It was his second assist of the year and sixth in his career.
Zdeno Chara and John Scott did get into one more time late in the period, but it was only a war of words, but the refs were taking no chances in letting the game get out of hand and sent both players to the dressing rooms for the day in the form of matching 10-minute misconducts.
|Rask backstopped to Boston's 54th win of the season (AP photo)|
An eventful afternoon at the Garden for sure, and at the end of the day, the win clinches the President's Trophy for Boston for only the second time in the franchise's history.
The Presidents' Trophy is obviously not the only trophy the B's want to come away with when the season ends, and it goes without saying the regular season and the playoffs are two separate entities entirely.
But looking at what this team accomplished in the 2013-14 regular season, you have to applaud them for clinching the best record in the NHL. To say they played the best hockey in the entire league, especially considering how stacked the Western Conference was/is this year, that is something Bruins fans should be proud of.
One game remains on the schedule, and that is a trip to New Jersey and a date with the Devils. Now the games are meaningless. Expect a ton of players to get the day off, and for those that do play, the goal will be to play 60 minutes of injury-free hockey.