Bruins looking like contenders again, win fourth game in a row

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There is a good chance we will see the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins playing each other at some point in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

If the standings remain as they are, it will be a First Round matchup. If Sunday’s 6-3 Bruins win is any indication of what we will see in that potential series, it could be madness. Sunday’s game featured an ejection (Garnett Hathaway for boarding Jared Tinordi), several big hits, post-whistle skirmishes, and what seemed to be an intense dislike between the two Stanley Cup contenders.

And let’s talk about that latter point for a little bit — contenders. Specifically, how the Bruins are starting to look like a force to be reckoned with again.

Boston hit an obvious lull starting in the middle of February that saw them win just 11 out of 26 games between February 13 and April 13. The secondary scoring was non-existent, were hit hard by injuries on defense, fell to fourth place in the East Division standings, and have been trying to hold off a surging New York Rangers team for that final playoff spot in the East Division.

Their win on Sunday extended their current winning streak to four games since the trade deadline, while they have started to look like the team Boston expected at the start of the season (and the team it saw in the first 12 games).

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Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Krejci each scored two goals on Sunday, while Tuukka Rask stopped 30 out of 33 shots in what was just his third start in more than a month.

The biggest development for Boston right now is the emergence of a second scoring line.

For most of the season Boston’s offense had been almost completely dependent on the trio of Bergeron, Marchand, and David Pastrnak. And while that trio combined for four of the Bruins’ six goals on Sunday, they are still getting way more from the newly formed second line of Taylor Hall, Krejci, and Craig Smith.

Hall has already scored two goals in his first four games with the team, while Smith has been on a roll over the past few weeks. With his two helpers on Sunday Smith now has 19 points in his past 16 games, including six multi-point games during that stretch. Smith was the prize addition of the Bruins’ offseason, and after a slow start is now finding his place in the lineup. The addition of Hall only makes that second line even more dangerous.

With Sunday’s result the top-four teams in the East are now separated by just six points. The Bruins have three games in hand on Washington, one more head-to-head matchup remaining (the regular season finale), and have seven games against Buffalo and New Jersey ahead. In other words: Do not count the Bruins out in that race.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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