NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the New York Rangers host the Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden at 8:00 p.m. ET today. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.
It wasn’t pretty during significant stretches of the 2014-15 season, but the Boston Bruins are looking like the Bruins team many expected to be one of the East’s top squads once again. The New York Rangers had their own issues before righting the ship this season, so tonight’s game stands as a nice gauge of where each franchise is as of early February.
Tuukka Rask stands out the most during Boston’s bombastic run.
The Finnish goalie is a big reason why Boston is 8-1-1 in its past 10 games. The 27-year-old has only allowed three goals once since Jan. 4. He finished last month with a brilliant .949 save percentage that strongly implies that he’s back to his Vezina form after some rare stumbles.
The Rangers really aren’t that far behind the Bruins, especially if you look back to early December.
New York is 18-5-0 in its past 23 contests, and while the Rangers are currently ranked third in the Metropolitan Division, they can take a slim lead if they win the two games they have in hand on the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Even after taking a puck to the throat, Henrik Lundqvist was game enough to help the Rangers beat the Florida Panthers on Monday. Both the Rangers and Bruins are currently on two-game winning streaks.
Milan Lucic is expected to shake off his flu-like symptoms and play, so Boston should be close to full strength. The Rangers hope to see Rick Nash & Co. stay sharp even against elite competition in the likes of Patrice Bergeron.
Boston took a Jan. 15 match between the two teams by a score of 3-0, so we’ll see if the Rangers get a little revenge or if the Bruins continue to strengthen their hold on a wildcard spot.
Claude Julien thought Saturday’s 3-1 victory over the Kings was one of the Bruins’ “better 60-minute efforts we’ve had this year.”
At the same time, Boston’s head coach doesn’t want his troops — the same ones who’ve won eight of their last 10 and suddenly look like a sure thing to make the playoffs — feeling too good about the way things have turned around.
“I don’t think there’s going to be any room for complacency with this group from here on in,” Julien said, per CSN New England. “I don’t think we’re happy where we are. It’s unfortunate we’re there, but if we can move up, that’s great. We had a tough start, but now we have should at least have a good second half that we can hopefully carry into the playoffs.”
Of note, the B’s have been awfully reliant on goalie Tuukka Rask lately, with the NHL’s third star of the month for January being forced to make at least 30 stops in each of his last four victories.
Not that there’s anything wrong with the star goalie playing well, but in their last 10 games, the Bruins have actually been a mediocre possession team. Hence, Julien’s insistence that there’s “a lot we want to get better at.”
Boston is in New York to play the Rangers tomorrow (on NBCSN).
Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares and Tuukka Rask have been named the NHL’s three stars for the month of January, the league announced on Monday.
Ovechkin led all players with 12 goals, six power-play markers and 59 shots on goal to power the Capitals (25-15-10, 60 points) to a 7-3-3 January and the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Tavares shared third in the NHL with 16 points (8-8—16) in 12 games to lead the Islanders (32-16-1, 65 points) to a 7-5-0 January and the top spot in the Metropolitan Division.
Rask went 7-1-3 with a 1.61 goals-against average, .949 save percentage and one shutout to backstop the Bruins (27-16-7, 61 points) to an 8-1-3 January and the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Also worth noting that, with his two goals against St. Louis on Sunday, Ovechkin became the fifth player in NHL history to record at least 30 goals in each of his first 10 seasons, joining Mike Gartner (15), Wayne Gretzky (13), Mike Bossy (10) and Jari Kurri (10).
While the Minnesota Wild remain longish shots to make the playoffs, they sure didn’t hurt their postseason chances by sweeping a three-game trip to Western Canada — a trip that included regulation wins over Calgary and Vancouver, arguably the two most vulnerable teams currently in a playoff position.
Sunday against the Canucks, the Wild were outshot 37-20 but managed a 4-2 victory thanks in large part to the play of goalie Devan Dubnyk, who’s been outstanding since joining the team in a trade with Arizona on Jan. 14.
“Confidence is one thing and a lot of credit has to go to (Dubnyk),” said Wild coach Mike Yeo.
And some of the credit has to go to GM Chuck Fletcher, who got the 28-year-old from the Coyotes for a third-round draft pick.
Among the 31 NHL goalies that have played the most this season, Dubnyk ranks eighth in five-on-five save percentage, right between Henrik Lundqvist and Tuukka Rask. Which isn’t terrible company to keep.
Whether Fletcher waited too long to make a move is a fair question to ask. By the time Dubnyk was acquired, the Wild had dropped 12 of 14 and fallen eight points out of a playoff spot. Today, after winning five of seven, the deficit has been cut to five points.
To give themselves a good chance at playing in the postseason, the Wild will need to go in the neighborhood of 19-11-3 in their final 33 games.
Not easy. But certainly doable.
Minnesota opens a three-game home stand tomorrow against Chicago (on NBCSN).
Tuukka Rask hasn’t been unbeatable of late, but he’s been close.
Following a 43-save performance against the New York Islanders on Thursday, the Boston Bruins goalie made 30 saves in a 3-1 victory over the L.A. Kings on Saturday, giving Rask seven victories in the month of January.
Brad Marchand had a pair of goals and seven shots on goal, and now has four points in his last five games.
The wins are important. That’s obvious. But Rask has recently shut the door on opposing shooters, allowing three goals in a game only twice in his last 11 starts this month. It’s a big reason why the Bruins were able to work their way out of previous struggles and back into a Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
Boston forward Loui Eriksson left the game late in the third period after taking a hard Robyn Regehr hit into the boards. It looked like Regehr’s right arm caught Eriksson near the back of the net.
According to Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com, Boston’s coach Claude Julien didn’t have an update on Eriksson but said he might have a sore neck.