Both the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens faced an alluring proposition on Tuesday: they had the chance to improve their odds of winning the Northeast Division title by beating up on non-playoff teams. Each squad failed.
The Bruins lost to the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 while the Canadiens fell short of a comeback against the New Jersey Devils, ultimately falling 3-2.
Despite the score differences, one can quibble over which loss was worse. The Flyers have been playing better lately, as this marks their fourth win in five games. On the other hand, the Devils are closer to full strength with Ilya Kovalchuk back in the lineup.
Either way, those defeats represent missed opportunities. Check out the two teams’ remaining schedules:
Thursday: home vs. Tampa Bay
Saturday: at Washington
Sunday: home vs. Ottawa
Thursday: at Winnipeg
Saturday: at Toronto
The Bruins have that extra game in hand while the Habs have one extra regulation/overtime win (24 to Boston’s 23).
Depending upon how things shake out, Montreal’s season-ending Saturday game against the Maple Leafs might just be a playoff preview.
On what will be a busy night in the National Hockey League — 10 games all told — NBC Sports Network will be front and center with a pair of games in an East-West doubleheader.
Up first is Boston at Philly (7:00 p.m. ET), a game that has little meaning for the Flyers but plenty for the Bruins.
Boston is looking to secure points and stay ahead of Montreal for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference — currently, the B’s are tied on points with the Habs (59) but are ahead in the standings thanks to games played (44 to Montreal’s 45).
Neither team has played exceptionally well as of late. The Flyers are 5-5-0 in their last 10 and were recently bounced from playoff contention while the Bruins are 5-4-1 over their last 10, and have failed to surpass a slumping Montreal team in the points chase.
Once these two teams are done, focus turns out West for a huge game in terms of playoff jockeying.
The Dallas Stars are in San Jose to take on the Sharks (10:00 p.m. ET, and in a very unique position. Despite sitting 10th in the West, the Stars are technically in control of their own playoff fate as they have games remaining against the teams they’re chasing — Detroit, and Columbus.
That said, those upcoming games might mean little if the Stars can’t get a result tonight in the Shark Tank.
Not that it’ll be easy.
The Sharks are one of the best home teams in the league this year, posting a 16-2-5 record at HP Pavilion. San Jose also has plenty to play for tonight as they didn’t get any help on the playoff clinching front last night — if Phoenix had defeated Detroit (the ‘Yotes lost 4-0), San Jose would’ve automatically qualified for the postseason.
Now, they’ll have to do it themselves.
With Nathan Horton hurt, the Boston Bruins need recently scratched power forward Milan Lucic to get things right.
The question is, did they burn the bridge to some extent by sitting the struggling winger in the first place? Mike Milbury and Jeremy Roenick debate the merits for and against that move in the video below:
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Boston forward Nathan Horton won’t travel with the team to Philly for Tuesday’s game against the Flyers, according to CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty.
Horton, 27, left Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh with what appeared to be a hand injury after fighting Pens forward Jarome Iginla.
Bruins head coach Claude Julien didn’t offer many specifics about Horton’s condition following the game, but did acknowledge the injury occurred during the scrap.
“Obviously the injury came from the fight,” he explained. “I’ll let you guys know whenever the final evaluation is made.”
The Bruins can ill-afford to lose Horton for any period of time.
While he’s had a somewhat inconsistent year, he remains one of the club’s best net-front presences and is third in goals, with 13 — an important figure, as Boston only has four double-digit goalscorers at the moment.
After Tuesday’s game, Boston has three remaining: Thursday against Tampa Bay, Saturday at Washington and Sunday’s home date, the last game of the regular season, against Ottawa.
Normally, Boston Bruins players hand autographed jerseys to season ticket holders after a home game as part of a “Shirt Off Their Backs” promotion. This time around, Bruins fans inspired the team to make another great gesture in wake of the Boston Marathon Tragedies, as players presented those game-used sweaters to first responders following Sunday’s 3-0 win against the Florida Panthers instead:
Here’s a quick gallery of photos from that post-game ceremony, via Getty:
The Bruins and fellow teams respond to the tragedy
“Sweet Caroline” at Madison Square Garden
Bruins, Penguins tip their caps to Boston
Doc Emrick’s “Forever Strong” message
B’s honor victims, show support