Rask sensational as Bruins run winning streak to seven
|The Krejci line celebrates Jarome Iginla's first period goal. Iginla's goal turned out to be the gamer in a 2-1 win.|
So much so that they can survive a three shot second period and a myriad of short-handed situations against a Phoenix Coyotes squad on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture looking in and desperate for every point - aided by the fact that the Bruins were coming off a win in Montreal 24 hours earlier that had to feel like a Cup raising...
...and the Bruins were a bit off, skating with sand in their pants and relying on goaltender Tuukka Rask to bail them out when the slick-skating dogs managed to split the defensemen, stopping 20 of 21 shots while greybeards Zdeno Chara and Jarome Iginla turned in veteran efforts in potting goals as the Bruins were just good enough to top the game Coyotes 2-1 at TD Garden on Thursday night.
With the win, the Bruins set a season high seven-game winning streak, handed coach Claude Julien his 300th victory behind the bench in Boston and pulled one point ahead of the juggernaut Pittsburgh Penguins for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
As one might expect, the Bruins were sluggish coming off the front end of this back-to-back series, particularly coming off the emotional blowout win over their arch-nemesis Canadiens' squad last night - the offense managing just 20 shots for the game, Phoenix goalie Mike Smith turning away most, getting very lucky as a few others got behind him but caught iron instead of twine.
The defense had their issues as well, but allowed just 22 shots on Rask, though it seemed that he had to stand on his head to stop each one, making the spectacular save look easy and the easy stop look spectacular.
Both Bruins' goals came in the opening frame, Chara starting the scoring with a tumbler from the slot six minutes in - but first stealing a Keith Yandel outlet pass at the blue line, then weaving unopposed into the high slot, sending one of his effortless-looking snap shots top shelf over Smith for the early lead.
Iginla also found dirty ice from the high slot with just over two minutes left in the opening period, but with his back to Smith - redirecting a Johnny Boychuk rocket into the twine past Smith's blocker for the 2-0 lead that the Bruins took into the room - but that was all the energy the Bruins could muster, as the teams slogged through the second period though Boston actually outshot Phoenix 3-2 in the frame.
The Coyotes made it interesting in the final period, Lauri Korpikoski potting one during a 12 shot barrage and Carl Soderberg taking a bad late penalty to offer hope to a Phoenix team that has one of the best power plays in the league, but Rask emerged unscathed and the Bruins managed to kill of the clock and hang on for the win.
The Bruins' penalty kill again was superb, yielding no goals on five man-advantages for the Coyotes - their streak of kills reaching 16 straight, the consistency of the Bruins play evident when they were forced to play short-handed.
Claude Julien: "We're getting a pretty good commitment from everybody right now. Not the streak as much as its the consistency" #BruinsTalk
— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) March 14, 2014
This Bruins' team is so consistent that it's nearly machine-like -and when playing hockey looks as easy as they've made in look since stumbling out of the Olympic break, there isn't a team in the league that can beat them at their game...
...the last seven games is proof of that, and now face a stretch run that is far from a gauntlet even though 10 of their final 15 regular season games are away from TD Garden - which is good for focus and motivation to gain that top seed in the conference - because with a home record of 26-7-2, chances are very good that the Bruins could hold serve throughout the playoffs and return to the Stanley Cup Finals.