It was a memorable individual moment, and an important one for the Boston Bruins.
Bruins forward Ryan Spooner, playing in his 35th career NHL game, finally scored his first career NHL goal. And it turned out to be the overtime winner, as the Bruins defeated the New Jersey Devils by a final score of 3-2, after letting go of a two-goal lead early in the third period.
Spooner, selected by the Bruins in the second round of the 2010 NHL Draft, snapped a wrist shot that beat Cory Schneider. The win gives Boston a four-point lead over the Florida Panthers for the final Wild Card spot in the East.
The Boston Bruins will take this season’s frustrations to a whole new level if they don’t take advantage of a four-game stretch against teams currently not in a playoff position.
That stretch starts tonight in New Jersey. The B’s then return home for games against Arizona, Calgary, and Philadelphia.
Given the Devils and Flyers still feel they can catch the Bruins for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, those two contests in particular take on even more importance.
The B’s are coming off a 2-1 home loss to Vancouver in which they arguably deserved better. Boston finished with 41 shots to the Canucks’ 28, and Vancouver goalie Eddie Lack was named first star for good reason.
“I think that the only thing we talk about here is pretty simple: It’s not the offense; it’s the lack of finish,” coach Claude Julien said.
In fact, based on puck-possession metrics, the Bruins have actually been playing extremely well lately. In their last five games — only one of which they won (6-2 in Chicago) — they’ve had the best score-adjusted Fenwick in the NHL. Hence, GM Peter Chiarelli’s assertion prior to the Vancouver game that he was seeing some “promising signs” from his team.
Obviously, those “promising signs” have to start translating into wins — especially with the Florida Panthers (now featuring Jaromir Jagr!) just two points back and hosting last-place Buffalo Saturday.
There are rumors that Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien’s job being on the line this season, but he insists to CSNNE.com that those murmurs aren’t a problem.
“If they think I can do the job, that’s great. If they don’t think that the job has been done to the expectations of what should have been done, that’s their prerogative,” Julien said. “Those things don’t even faze me in the least bit. Trust me when I say that. I’m here, I’m happy and I’m doing my job working with players, and people around me, that I enjoy working with. When that doesn’t suffice anymore then you move on, and that’s the life of a coach.”
If nothing else, Julien boasts the sort of resume that would place him in high demand if his eight-season tenure with the Bruins does end. He’s won a Stanley Cup, made it two championship rounds, grabbed a Presidents’ Trophy and guided the B’s to a playoff berth in every season so far.
Heading into Thursday’s games, the Bruins have 67 points in 60 games played, good for the East’s final wild card spot. That lead is pretty slim, however, so Julien & Co. have to be feeling the heat a little bit.
That margin is even smaller with David Krejci on the mend. ESPN’s Joe McDonald reports that Krejci was placed on LTIR. While that doesn’t necessarily keep him out for the entire season, it’s another reminder that an offensively challenged Bruins team has its work cut out for it.
The Vancouver Canucks, inundated with injuries of late, will actually have a player returning to the lineup tonight in Boston.
Nick Bonino (11G, 14A) is expected to be back centering the second line. The 26-year-old has been out since Feb. 9, when he hurt his foot blocking a shot versus Minnesota.
“It’s always good when you get some guys back,” Canucks coach Willie Desjardins said, per NHL.com. “You know he’s a big part for us and we’ve missed him while he’s been out. So if he’s back it’ll be great.”
The Canucks will still be without a number of regulars versus the Bruins, including three key defensemen, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler, and Chris Tanev. Winger Alex Burrows is also expected to miss tonight’s game. And, of course, Ryan Miller will be sidelined for a while, leaving the starting goalie duties to Eddie Lack.
The Canucks have two games left on their five-game trip. They finish up Thursday in Buffalo.
Projected lines tonight:
Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Zack Kassian
Shawn Matthias – Nick Bonino – Radim Vrbata
Chris Higgins – Linden Vey – Derek Dorsett
Ronalds Kenins – Bo Horvat – Jannik Hansen