The Boston Bruins have been steamrolling slumping teams to improve their standing in the Northeast Division – and probably boost their scoring confidence – lately.
They handed the lowly Carolina Hurricanes their sixth loss in a row on Monday and then beat the New Jersey Devils by a 5-4 score that was deceptively close on Wednesday.
The game could prove costly for both sides injury-wise. Brad Marchand left the game and didn’t return after an elbow by Anton Volchenkov, who might face a suspension for that hit. Bryce Salvador hurt himself blocking a Zdeno Chara shot while Martin Brodeur was a little banged up after a collision with Chris Kelly. (He played the rest of the game, though.)
Of course, an eighth consecutive loss probably hurts the Devils the most.
With this win, the Bruins take a slim lead in the Northeast:
Boston: 26-9-4 for 56 points, nine games left
Montreal: 25-9-5 for 55 points, nine games left
Neither team plays against each other again in the regular season. The Bruins play six of their last nine games at home. They likely hope to build a nice cushion for themselves by playing five of their next six contests in Boston.
The Habs face nearly the opposite situation, as only three of their last nine games are in Montreal.
If you don’t have a horse in the race, the most entertaining scenario could be if the Bruins take the Northeast crown; that would likely set up a delicious Canadian showdown between the Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round.
Still, a lot can change in the next nine games.
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Things got feisty between the Edmonton Oilers and Nashville Predators on Friday.
It started in the second period after P.K. Subban took an elbow from Matt Hendricks along the end boards. Hendricks was immediately grabbed by Anthony Bitetto. Nothing really materialized from that, however the main event broke out between Milan Lucic and Nashville newcomer Cody McLeod.
Lucic landed some pretty heavy punches before the two players fell to the ice.
Cam Ward had enough.
The Carolina Hurricanes goalie seemed particularly ticked off with Patric Hornqvist on Friday, twice taking out his frustrations in front of the net on the Pittsburgh Penguins forward.
Earlier in the game, Ward delivered a slash to the back of Hornqvist’s leg. In the third period, with the Hurricanes down five goals — that should give you an indication of what kind of night this was for Carolina — Ward snapped, delivering a punch with the blocker to Hornqvist after he slid into the Hurricanes puck stopper a split second after Evgeni Malkin jammed the puck in for a goal.
The final score? A 7-1 disaster of a loss to the Penguins, highlighted by Pittsburgh’s second-period offensive outburst. Ward played the entire game, allowing seven goals on 41 shots.
Carolina’s night also included star forward Jeff Skinner getting benched for the third period, after he took a pair of minor penalties — embellishment and unsportsmanlike conduct — in the second period.
“That’s pretty embarrassing. You don’t want to suffer a loss like that, especially in your home building,” Skinner told reporters.
The Hurricanes entered this game with a chance to jump into a wild card spot in the East.
Last week, the Hurricanes won four in a row, including a victory over Columbus, and continued their steady rise into the playoff hunt in the East. This week? It’s included losses to the Blue Jackets and Penguins.
The Hurricanes won’t have much time to think about this one. They travel to Columbus for a game Saturday evening.
The Boston Bruins have now lost three in a row, a losing streak that coincides with reports circulating that head coach Claude Julien’s job security is in jeopardy.
The bad news just keeps piling up for the Bruins: They’ve been shut out twice this week, as scoring continues to be an issue in Boston. They’re 22nd in the league in that category.
On Friday, the Bruins had their chances and once again held the edge in puck possession against the Chicago Blackhawks, finishing the game with 19 more shot attempts then the visitors, per hockeystats.ca.
But they couldn’t beat Scott Darling, who made 30 saves, and the real dagger came late in the third period when Marian Hossa scored off the rush with just over one minute remaining in regulation. Boston couldn’t even salvage a point out of this contest, losing 1-0.
The Bruins were all over the Blackhawks in the first period. They held a wide edge in shots on goal, but the Blackhawks were able to escape on the strength of some solid goaltending. They just hung around, and were able to break through in the third period.
The Bruins are still in a playoff position in the Atlantic Division. They are the top puck possession team in the league (although they have the second lowest shooting percentage at five-on-five) and Julien has had plenty of success behind that bench, helping guide the organization to a Stanley Cup championship in 2011 and a run to the Final in the lockout shortened campaign.
It would seem unfair to pin this roster’s shortcomings on the coach, especially given the offseason plans initially set out by Bruins management.
Though this loss likely puts Claude Julien Watch on high alert.
The Buffalo Sabres will be down a defenseman for the remainder of Friday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings.
Jake McCabe has left the game due to a shoulder injury suffered during the first period and will not return, the club stated during the second period.
Signed to a three-year, $4.8 million contract extension last summer, the 23-year-old McCabe has one goal and 10 points in 44 games this season for Buffalo
More recently, McCabe drew the immediate ire of the Winnipeg Jets after he delivered an open-ice hit on rookie Patrik Laine, who suffered a concussion on the play.