Brad Marchand

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Bruins snap four-game skid with crucial win over Islanders

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The Boston Bruins have been trending in the wrong direction of late — once again at the worst possible time with the end of the regular season in sight and a playoff spot on the line.

They entered a massive clash with the New York Islanders on Saturday having lost four straight, temporarily falling out of a playoff spot because of fewer games played.

They didn’t have Tuukka Rask in net because of a lower-body injury. They were on the road. They fell behind the Islanders early in the first period.

Despite that, the Bruins quickly came back on a goal from Riley Nash, who scored again in the third period to help his team to a 2-1 victory.

The four-game losing streak? Gone. With seven games remaining, Boston is back in the final wild card spot, two points ahead of the Islanders, who do still have a game in hand.

“We have a great mood in here this morning, everyone’s excited and pretty light and there’s no tense feel,” said Brad Marchand prior to facing the Islanders.

Back-up goaltending has been a concern in Boston this season, however Anton Khudobin shut the door after the Tavares goal, making 18 saves for the win.

The Bruins host the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.

Patrice Bergeron angered by dangerous Nikita Soshnikov hit

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Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron is one of the NHL’s most respected two-way players, a guy who sometimes stands in stark contrast to regular linemate Brad Marchand. That doesn’t mean you can’t make him angry.

Bergeron was understandably jawing at Nikita Soshnikov of the Toronto Maple Leafs after a dangerous boarding hit on Monday.

The good news is that Bergeron – a player who went through serious concussion issues earlier in his career – appears to be OK after that check:

Bergeron’s retaliation washed away the power play Boston would have received, as Soshnikov was only whistled for a minor penalty. Here’s that rare moment of the perennial Selke candidate losing his cool:

Marchand looks like he’s in a video game setting up Backes goal

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It’s tempting to focus on Brad Marchand‘s goal-scoring ability, but he’s in the running for the Art Ross Trophy because of some great playmaking skills, too.

He made that point with a pretty astounding assist on Monday, looking as if he was some sort of unrealistically over-powered video game player in setting up David Backes‘ 1-0 tally during tonight’s big game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Watch Marchand’s 43rd assist and 80th point of 2016-17:

The NHL’s first star of the week doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

Here’s the helper in GIF form, if that’s your preference.

Should Vezina race be as close as the Hart and Calder?

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The NHL’s MVP (Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, Brad Marchand, Devan Dubnyk) and Calder Trophy (Auston Matthews, Patrick Laine) races are going to be hotly debated over the next few weeks because, well, that is what we do at this time of year.

But while those two awards are going to dominate the conversation, the race for the Vezina Trophy is probably just as close any other without getting much of the attention.

It should be just as close, anyway, and it should be getting just as much attention because there are no shortage of legitimate contenders at the moment.

For most of the season it seemed as if it was going to be Dubnyk’s award to lose. He has been one of the statistical leaders at the position, a driving force behind the Minnesota Wild’s surprising climb to the top of the standings in the Western Conference, and simply one of the top goalies in the league as he has been ever since he arrived in Minnesota.

And in the end, it still seems like it is going to be him to take it home given how well he has played and since it already seems to be determined that he is going to be the one to win it this year.

But the combination of his — and the Wild’s — recent struggles, as well as some of the performances from goaltenders around the league, should have brought a few more names into the conversation.

Let’s start with Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky, who already has one Vezina Trophy sitting on his mantle and has a pretty convincing argument for adding another one.

Like Dubnyk, he has been one of the key cogs in a stunning team performance, and right now is currently leading the league in pretty much every major category for a goaltender.

So far this season there have been 29 goalies that have appeared in at least 40 games. Here is where Sergei Bobrovsky ranks among those 29 goalies in the following major categories.

  • Total save percentage: 1st
  • Even strength save percentage: 1st
  • Penalty kill save percentage: 9th
  • Goals against average: 1st
  • Wins: 1st

Bobrovsky had a terrible start to the 2015-16 season and it helped put the Blue Jackets in a major hole they could never climb out of. This year he has been one of the biggest reasons they are in competition for the Presidents’ Trophy.

Then you have Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, the 2015-16 Vezina Trophy winner, who has somehow managed to be even better than he was last year when he won the award. The only category where he is not currently above what he did a year ago is wins, currently boasting a total save percentage, even strength save percentage and goals against average that are all better than he what he did a season ago. He also already has five more shutouts (going from three to eight). It’s kind of ridiculous when you remember just how good he was a season ago.

The other name that might be playing his way into consideration, just based on how much he has meant to his team, is Oilers goalie Cam Talbot.

Coach Todd McLellan talked recently about how Talbot has proven to be better than he anticipated. Talbot is currently in the top-10 in every category across the board, but what makes his impact so meaningful is that he has been such a workhorse for the Oilers, already appearing in 64 of the team’s 71 games. No other goalie in the league has appeared in more than 58 games. There is certainly a risk in that sort of workload when it comes to fatigue and just being worn down, especially as we get closer to playoff time, but where would the Oilers be without Talbot’s play and durability in net?

Crosby regains goal lead, tied for points lead after hat trick

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PITTSBURGH — With his three goals in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 4-0 win over the Florida Panthers on Sunday afternoon Sidney Crosby became the first player in the NHL to hit the 40-goal mark this season.

It also put him back into sole possession of first place in the NHL’s goal scoring race (now three goals ahead of Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand) and moved him back into a tie with Connor McDavid for the points lead with 80. Because Crosby has more goals than McDavid (15 more to be exact, and in seven fewer games) Crosby would also be the Art Ross Trophy winner if the season ended today. It is only the second time Crosby has topped the 40-goal mark in his career, while he has a legitimate shot to win his second goal scoring crown and his third Art Ross Trophy.

The fact he is in a position to potentially lead the league in both categories is pretty incredible when you consider that it has only been done three times since 1990 (Alex Ovechkin in 2007-08, Jarome Iginla in 2001-02 and Mario Lemieux in 1995-96), and Crosby is currently doing it having missed six games this season due to injury.

Given the way he and his line are rolling right now it probably wouldn’t be wise to bet against him doing it.

With the Penguins’ lineup crushed by injuries at the moment (Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Carl Hagelin, Trevor Daley, Ron Hainsey, Olli Maatta and Bryan Rust all missed Sunday’s game) the line of Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Conor Sheary has been carrying the offense in recent weeks as they have now won seven of their past nine games (7-1-1) since March 3.

After Sunday’s game Mike Sullivan understatedly pointed out that “Sid is the glue that holds that line together” and that they have “played great for us.”

Just how great have they been?

Well, as a group that line has combined to score at least two goals in four of the Penguins’ past five games, accounting for nine of the team’s 14 even-strength goals during that stretch.

All three of them have contributed all three points (the goal and both assists) on seven of those goals. Even when they are not putting the puck in the net they just have the look of an unstoppable force right now and are creating multiple chances on almost every shift.

Sheary has been a fit on Crosby’s wing for most of the season, but the addition of Guentzel, who said on Sunday that he is just trying to make the most of his opportunity on that line, has taken it to an entirely new level.

Their speed, immediate chemistry and ability to get on the puck and create havoc for opposing defenses is pretty much unmatched anywhere else in the NHL right now.

For most of Crosby’s career there’s always been this never-ending question of as to his wingers are going to be. Right now, that question seems to have a pretty definitive answer.