|Luongo goes to replace Montoya for his second outing of the game.|
Photo: Luis M. Alvarez-AP
With a limited amount of games remaining the regular season, the Boston Bruins are barely hanging on to the second wild card spot, good for eighth in the Eastern Conference. Last night, the Florida Panthers had a chance to tie the B's for that final spot but fell short to the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-2. Key injuries to both goaltenders, Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya, severely crippled their chances of winning the back and forth contest, allowing the Maple Leafs to skate away with their first road win in quite a while.
"In a way you feel bad for them. They're in a tight playoff race and obviously having two goalies go down isn't great for their chances either tonight. Then again, we'll take a win any way we can get it", said Toronto forward Joffrey Lupul. (via NHL.com)
The pain of having two goalies go down also led to goaltending coach, Rob Tallas, having to suit up. The last time Tallas suited up as a goaltender in the NHL, the tragedies of 9/11 hadn't even happened yet! Luongo went down in the first period with an undisclosed injury. Later in the game, Montoya fell victim to a collision with Florida's Bryan Campbell which caused the game to halt altogether for a few moments. Montoya sadly had to play about 10 more minutes with his injury until Luongo could redress and come in again to finish the game. If Luongo had been at 100%, this game could have ended much differently.
The Bruins can breathe a little easier for now but have to keep in the back of their minds that Florida is ready to take that final playoff spot. The Panthers were able to go out and add a veteran, and former Bruin, Jaromir Jagr, who could boost them above Boston in the coming weeks.
These two teams will meet after the next eight games and there could be a lot at stake for both clubs.
So what can the Bruins do to solidify their playoff position? Keep the skates moving.
We have seen quite a difference in Milan Lucic's play with Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak playing along side him. Pastrnak and Spooner have excellent speed which causes Lucic to keep his skates moving. He has the ability to go deliver a crushing hit and know he will have two forwards able to cover him and as a Bruins fan, you need him to play this way. Lucic changes the environment and the energy of a game. Consistent play from the Marchand-Bergeron-Smith line must be found as well. However, the most essential item the Bruins will need to focus on is the defensive core. Mistakes can't be made in the neutral zone on breakouts, communication is key, and confidence reigns above all. The Bruins have the roster to maintain a playoff spot and with the help and experience of Claude Julien, I have confidence that the Black and Gold will be able to hold back the clawing Panthers.
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