The Boston Bruins might possess the second Wild Card seed, but they’ve placed their fate at the mercy of the Ottawa Senators after dropping five straight, including Sunday’s 5-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has been a bright spot for Boston in what has been a shaky season, but he couldn’t save them tonight. Tampa Bay found the back of the net four times on 12 shots before Boston pulled Rask in favor of Niklas Svedberg midway through the second period.
Svedberg surrendered a power-play goal to Ondrej Palat at 13:50 of the third frame, but he otherwise held his own. Meanwhile, Boston fought back over the final 20 minutes, outshooting the Lightning 11-4 over that span, but the damage had already been done.
While Boston is a single point ahead of Ottawa, it has played in two more games. The Bruins might not be in possession of the second Wild Card spot when their season resumes on Thursday depending on how Ottawa’s game against San Jose goes on Monday.
Boston’s recent slump has also put the Panthers back in the running. Florida is trailing the Bruins by four points and has played in one less contest. The Panthers still have two games left against the Bruins after earning a 2-1 shootout win against them on Saturday, so they still have an opportunity to make that gap close.
For the Lightning, this game puts them two points behind the Montreal Canadiens in the battle for the Atlantic Division title. Tampa Bay is also still in the running for the Presidents’ Trophy with just nine contests remaining in its schedule.
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The Boston Bruins should be feeling the pressure right about now.
They were unable to get two points against the Florida Panthers, losing 2-1 in a shootout on Saturday. And, just a few minutes before that result became a final, the Ottawa Senators beat the Toronto Maple Leafs to inch even closer to the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference, currently held precariously by the Bruins.
Brandon Pirri scored the winner in the shootout, while Roberto Luongo stopped all three Boston attempts.
The Bruins now lead the Senators by a single point for the Wild Card but Ottawa has a game in hand. The Panthers are hanging in there, just four points back.
“Was a tight game like it was supposed to be, but we’re basing ourselves on results, and we got a point — we want to get two,” said Bruins head coach Claude Julien, as per the club’s Twitter account.
Making matters worse for the Bruins is the fact defenseman Dougie Hamilton didn’t play the third period, leaving the game with an undisclosed injury.
The Boston Bruins were without defenseman Dougie Hamilton in the third period of Saturday’s game against the Florida Panthers.
The 21-year-old Hamilton, who recorded his 32nd assist of the season on Boston’s tying goal in the second period, left the game with an undisclosed injury, the Bruins announced via Twitter.
David Krejci continues to get closer to a return to the Boston Bruins lineup, although according to Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe, that’s not guaranteed to happen Saturday.
When he does come back, don’t bet on Ryan Spooner, Boston’s 2010 second-round pick, being taken out of the lineup to make room for Krejci.
On Thursday, in a loss to the Ottawa Senators, the 23-year-old Spooner scored twice and had seven shots on net. Earlier this month, he had a point streak that reached seven games, and it looks like his recent play has left a favorable impression on head coach Claude Julien.
“I think everybody here knows that Ryan Spooner is playing well. I’m going to be honest with you: he’s not coming out of our lineup playing the way that he is,” said Julien, as per CSN New England.
“That’s just doing the right thing and he deserves it right now. We’ll just have to figure out what we’re going to do from there [when Krejci does return].”
The Bruins are in Florida to take on the Panthers on Saturday.
It’s another important game. The Bruins are only two points up on the Senators for the final Wild Card spot in the East. The Panthers are still hanging around in the playoff race, sitting just five points back of Boston.
The Boston Bruins can’t afford to have many more nights like this. They certainly held their own against the Ottawa Senators and had more success opposing goaltender Andrew Hammond than any of his previous adversaries, but the Bruins still suffered a 6-4 loss tonight. While that was happening Boston’s only other serious rival in the battle for the second Wild Card seed, the Florida Panthers, earned a 3-1 victory against Detroit.
The Bruins still hold their Wild Card spot, but the Senators are now just two points behind despite having played in one less game. Florida is five points shy of the Bruins.
An obvious case can be made that Ottawa is the bigger threat to the Bruins at this point. Not only are the Senators closer in the standings, but they’ve been unreal lately with a 13-1-1 record beginning with Hammond’s first start of the 2014-15 campaign. The Senators have a great opportunity to continue that hot streak on Saturday against the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs, which they will play an additional two times after that contest.
By contrast, Florida has been largely treading water lately, but the Panthers got starting goaltender Roberto Luongo back tonight from a shoulder injury. He turned aside 25 of 26 shots in his return. Luongo’s return should help the Panthers cause, but more importantly, Florida has a golden opportunity to do direct damage to Boston as its scheduled to play against the Bruins three times in its final 11 games. The first of those meetings will occur on Saturday.
Meanwhile the Bruins have now lost three straight games in what has proven to be a roller-coaster season. They’ve come back from some serious cold streaks already in 2014-15, but they likely can’t afford to endure another with the Wild Card race this tight.