Mason silences Rangers, Flyers move ahead of Bruins for last wild card spot

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If Steve Mason puts together more nights like these, the Philadelphia Flyers might not need to worry that much about securing a wild card spot.

Mason’s 34-save shutout powered Philly’s 2-0 win against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, pushing the Flyers ahead of the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot thanks to games in hand:

Flyers – 54 points in 49 games
Bruins – 54 points in 51 games

(The Florida Panthers lead the rest of the bubble with 50 points, while everyone else has 49. See the full standings here.)

The Rangers remain well above the fray in the first wild card spot with 63 points in 49 games, yet Wednesday’s loss had to be frustrating.

The game remained scoreless through two periods even as the Rangers managed a resounding 27-16 shot advantage. Philly took the third with the game’s only two goals and a slight 10-7 shot edge, however.

Wayne Simmmonds’ 20th goal was very, well, Wayne Simmonds. It stood as the game-winner:

It would probably be hasty to put too much of this loss on Henrik Lundqvist, though it likely slows at least some of his recent momentum … and there was no doubt which goalie was the star of this one.

When asked by Pierre McGuire if he felt like there was a specific moment when he felt “in the zone,” Mason said it actually started with his win against the Islanders a few days ago, when he stopped 36 out of 38 shots.

As up-and-down as this season has been for Mason and the Flyers, you may recall how impressive both the goalie and team looked during their 10-game winning streak.

Perhaps this is the beginning of another big push?

Hogging the puck paid off this time around for Bruins against Red Wings

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The Boston Bruins have struggled during much of the 2016-17 season, something that’s been extra-frustrating since they’ve often excelled in areas friendly to “fancy stats.”

With that in mind, Bruins fans were probably quite frustrated at times on Tuesday.

Boston generated a 21-7 shot advantage on the Detroit Red Wings in the first period, yet only enjoyed a 2-1 lead. They out-shot Detroit 47-24 in regulation but were still forced to overtime at 3-3.

Then again, maybe it was for the best, as David Pastrnak scored his 20th goal of the 2016-17 season … to end a 17-game streak without a goal.

Much like the Bruins’ own four-game losing streak, just looking at one thing (wins for Boston, goals alone for Pastrnak) ignores some of the good stuff. Pastrnak had been getting assists here and there, while the Bruins were, again, firing a lot of shots on goal, usually more than their opponents.

It finally came together tonight, though not in the easiest way considering their need to win it beyond regulation.

We can only guess at how much this win eases the pressure on Claude Julien and increases the Bruins’ playoff chances, but it’s better than dropping another frustrating loss, particularly not all that far removed from a Red Wings loss that likely frustrated scores of B’s devotees.

And hey, there was also pizza as a reward.

It’s gone from bad to worse for the Bruins

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The bad news continues for the Boston Bruins.

With head coach Claude Julien on the hot seat — he didn’t wish to discuss his future following Friday’s heartbreaking defeat to Chicago but spoke at length on Saturday about how he’s “not quitting on the team” — the Bruins came unraveled over a three-minute stretch in the third period against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday.

That’s the wrong team to come unraveled against.

The Penguins scored three times in just under three minutes early in the third, and suddenly the Bruins went from being in a close game, albeit in a trailing position, to a rout. When you have as dangerous a lineup as the Penguins do, led by Sidney Crosby, who had three points today, a game can quickly get way from the opposition.

Boston lost 5-1, despite another decided edge in puck possession — the Bruins lead the league in that category at even strength — and on the shot clock. They peppered Matt Murray with 45 shots, including 22 shots in the middle period and still emerged down a goal.

Further to that, Boston’s goalie Tuukka Rask left the game in the second period and did not return.

Per the Bruins at the beginning of the third period: Rask was not feeling well and would not return. Enter Zane McIntyre off the bench and the Penguins went on a scoring frenzy that ultimately ruined any chance of a Boston comeback.

Murray provided a little added salt in the wound, as he robbed Brad Marchand with the glove in close. That would not have had an impact on the end result. The Bruins were down four at the time, late in the period. That would’ve made the final score seem a tad more respectable. That’s it. But that missed opportunity seemed symbolic of their struggles to score.

They have lost four straight, although they remain third in the Atlantic Division.

The Bruins host the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday.

Tuukka Rask leaves game for Bruins (Updated)

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Times are a little tough for the Boston Bruins right now with losses in three consecutive games and speculation regarding the future of their coach.

What they do not need at this point is any kind of a significant injury to a key player, so it has to be a concern that starting goaltender Tuukka Rask had to leave Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins midway through the second period.

He was replaced in net by backup Zane McIntyre.

The Bruins have yet to offer an update as to why Rask left the game or what his status is. He allowed two goals on 22 shots before exiting.

Even though he has been slumping in recent weeks Rask’s play for most of the season (he entered play on Sunday with a .920 save percentage on the season) has been a big reason the Bruins have climbed back up the goals against rankings after doing little to improve their defense over the summer.

Updated: Per Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com, Rask suffered a migraine attack, forcing him from the game.

Bruins coach Claude Julien: ‘I’m not quitting on anybody’

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Following his team’s third consecutive loss on Friday night, Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien was in no mood to address the speculation that his job is in jeopardy.

He was more willing to address it on Saturday afternoon following practice.

In a lengthy answer, Julien said he is not worried about his situation because his job as a hockey coach is to fix things, not worry about his job status.

Here is more of Julien’s response, via Stephen Harris of the Boston Herald

“My job is to do everything I can. And if I become one of the reasons that we’re not doing well, then management has to make that decision. It’s not my decision.

“I’m not quitting on the team. I’m not quitting on management. I’m not quitting on anybody. I’m willing to go through the hard times. If it’s deemed my fault, then I shouldn’t be here. That’s all I can say. But that’s not my decision to make.

“We’re going with what we said we’d go with – that there would be some growing pains along the way. So be it. Did we put ourselves in a position earlier in the season to maybe (be) a team that all of sudden we believed was a playoff team? Absolutely. I still think we’re a playoff team, whether we can do it or not. My job is to everything I can to get us into the playoffs. That’s what I’m going to do.

“So, as far as rumors are concerned, I know they’re out there. But I don’t get concerned about the. Because worrying is wasting a lot of my time – and my time is about trying to fix things here.”

After narrowly missing the playoffs the past two seasons, and seemingly putting Julien on the hot seat after each one, the Bruins enter the weekend occupying the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division even though they are currently on pace for fewer points than they accumulated the past two seasons.

Overall, this has been a bizarre season for the Bruins.

The front office did none of what it promised to do over the summer and left Julien with a flawed roster in some key areas (especially on defense). Despite that the team has still had the look of a playoff team but hasn’t quite had the results go their way. After finishing the 2015-16 season as one of the highest scoring teams in the league, the offense has dropped off a bit this season even though they are one of the best teams in the league when it comes to generating shots and chances.

Just about the only thing that has worked out for the Bruins this season is Tuukka Rask bouncing back from a down year and returning to be one of the best goalies in the league (and helping to mask some of the flaws on the defense) and the division itself being a little worse.