The Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers may be the hottest teams in the NHL right now. They’re also teams that don’t exactly play nicely with each other.
The Bruins have won 14 of the past 15 games and have already won the Atlantic Division title securing a spot as one of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference. They may be the most complete team in the East as well with top-flight players like Tuukka Rask in goal, Zdeno Chara on defense, and Jarome Iginla and Patrice Bergeron up front.
Bergeron especially is dangerous because he’s scoring goals (26 this season) and more than capable of shutting down the opponents top scorers.
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Doing that against the Flyers means shutting down Claude Giroux. The Flyers captain has 21 points in 13 games during March and has thrust himself into the discussion for league MVP. Philly has won nine of the past 13 games and has seen the offense carrying the load for them thanks to Giroux and Wayne Simmonds.
Could this be a playoff preview? If it is, that means they’d likely have to face off in the Eastern Conference Final to make it happen.
A quick look ahead at some of the narratives at play this weekend…
Toronto and Detroit duke it out
There’s plenty to play for on Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre, when Toronto hosts Detroit in a huge game for Eastern Conference playoff implications.
The Wings and Leafs head into Friday’s action tied on points, with 80, though Detroit holds the final wild card spot thanks to more wins in regulation/overtime (28 to 27). Those standings could change, however — Toronto takes on Philly tonight with the opportunity to bounce back into a wild card spot.
Saturday’s game (7 p.m. ET) between these two Original Six foes will be their fourth and final meeting of the season and, if the last three matchups were any indication, it’ll be a tightly-contested affair. Detroit won the first game 5-4 in a shootout; Toronto won the second (the ’14 Winter Classic) 3-2 in a shootout; the third game was the only one not to go to extra time, but still ended in a narrow decision — 3-2, for the Wings.
Philly hosts Boston
The Flyers and Bruins will be seeing plenty of each other over the next week — they square off this Sunday at Wells Fargo (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC), then again six days later at TD Garden.
Those will be the second and third meetings of the year between the Flyers and B’s. In the first game, Boston scored a decisive 6-1 victory on the strength of two-goal performances from both Jarome Iginla and Zdeno Chara; Philly goalie Steve Mason was hooked after allowing four goals on 19 shots.
What Philly will want to do is replicate its blueprint from the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign. Like this year, the Flyers lost their first of three matchups with the Bruins… but then rallied to defeat Boston in the second and third head-to-head battles of the season.
The Boston Bruins just keep on rolling.
Patrice Bergeron scored twice and Tuukka Rask made 28 saves for the shutout, as the Bruins won for the 13th time in their last 14 games by defeating the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks 3-0 on Thursday.
In that lone loss over this terrific stretch, the Bruins still gained a point. So, yeah, they appear to be hitting their peak with the playoffs right around the corner.
The Bruins have been to the Stanley Cup Final twice in the past three seasons, winning in 2011. So, as good as a winning streak in March is, this team has a bigger goal in mind.
“We’re in right position right now as far as where our game is at. But satisfied is a word that doesn’t exist in our room,” said head coach Claude Julien, as per Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com.
The Bruins used the the quick-strike method to put the Blackhawks away in the third period. Carl Soderberg and Patrice Bergeron scored 13 seconds apart to increase Boston’s lead from one to three goals.
On the Bergeron goal, Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, who coughed up the puck behind the net and tried to recover in time, pushed the net upward from the back, which caused the puck to go out the other side instead of hitting the mesh. After a review, the original call on the ice – no goal – was overturned.
Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, either by accident or by design, pushed the net up from the back on what looked to be sure Boston Bruins goal in the third period of Thursday’s game.
Nice try. Didn’t work.
Crawford got caught on a giveaway after he played the puck behind the net. As Bruins’ center Patrice Bergeron was about to shoot into a wide open net, Crawford pushed the net up from the back, causing the puck not to hit the mesh but to go out the other side.
The referee closest to the play immediately waved it off. However, upon review, the call on the ice was overturned. It was Boston’s second goal in 13 seconds in the third period, as they defeated the defending Stanley Cup champions by a final of 3-0.
From the NHL’s Situation Room Blog:
At 5:41 of the third period in the Chicago Blackhawks/Boston Bruins game, the Situation Room initiated video review after the puck entered the Chicago net. The Situation Room supported the referees’ group decision on the ice that the net remained in its proper place when Patrice Bergeron’s shot crossed the goal line. Initially, the referee closest to the net had waved off the goal, but after consulting with the other officials, the referees’ group decision was a good goal. Video review supported that group decision. According to Rule 78.4 “The goal frame shall be considered in its proper position when at least a portion of the flexible peg(s) are still inside both the goal post and the hole in the ice”. Good goal Boston.
PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
Without much left to play for before the postseason starts, the Boston Bruins are looking for challenges to keep them sharp. They should get just that from the Chicago Blackhawks tonight. (CSN New England)
Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $1,200 Fantasy Hockey league for Thursday’s NHL games. It’s $10 to join and first prize is $275. Starts Thursday at 7:00 p.m. ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.
The Carolina Hurricanes have inked 20-year-old forward Phil Di Giuseppe to an entry-level contract. (Hurricanes.nhl.com)
Here’s a look back at the Jarome Iginla trade. (Calgary Sun)
How long will Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith be out? Details on the severity of his leg injury are still scarce, but one report suggests that he will miss two weeks. (Fox Sports)
This certainly hasn’t been a good year for Canadian-based teams. (Vancouver Sun)
New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault and forward Brian Boyle think Ryan McDonagh should be regarded as a serious contender for the Norris Trophy. (The Bergen Record)
While we’re on the subject of the Norris Trophy, here’s the case for Flames defenseman Mark Giordano. (Flames.nhl.com)
New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer is among those who have reservations about the NHL’s realignment after it left the league with two conferences of different sizes. (New Jersey Online)
Highlights from the New York Rangers’ 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers: