Patrice Bergeron knows this week is a big one for the Bruins. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)
Last Saturday was a sign of progress from the Bruins.
Not only did the Bruins pummel six into the net for a big win over the Flyers, but it came just two nights after the Bruins were stymied on all but one of their 36 shots on net in yet another one-goal loss, this time to the Preds by a 2-1 final. That loss really brought about the same old-same old vibes that the Black and Gold have struggled with this season in the sense that their shots were there, but the finish was not. That loss in the Music City turned what would could have been a six or seven point road trip into a five out of eight possible points trip.
The frustration was as understandable as it was obvious when the Bruins arrived back in Boston the next day, and came at the expense of the Flyers the following day. In other words, the Bruins did not let return to the struggles of old fester into a multi-game slide. In fact, the six-goal outburst against the Flyers gave the B’s their first six-game segment with at least 20 goals scored this season.
“I think we have to sustain it if we want to have success,” Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said of the team’s offensive surge over the last two weeks. “We have to find the consistency where we’re close to have to having that every night.”
Now comes a week where the Bruins can and should keep it rolling if they’re to be taken seriously this season.
Up first, a hapless Islanders club that’s racked up the third-fewest points in the NHL and have just five wins in 18 road games this season. Then a Red Wings club that sits nine points behind the Bruins in the Atlantic and are already on death’s doorstep. Then comes a Friday night head-to-head with the Blackhawks which has always served as a where-are-you-really kind of game.
“You have to take it one game at a time, but at the same time the first two teams are teams we’re trying to either push down or they’re in our division,” Bergeron said. “It’s about making sure these are points you can’t let slip by, and we’re aware of that.”
But the Bruins will be without one of their go-to defenders for today’s Monday matinee head-to-head with the Islanders, as Kevan Miller will sit with a concussion sustained on a board from Jakub Voracek in Saturday’s win. Puck-moving defenseman Colin Miller (lower-body) will also miss his third straight game for the B’s, too. That will draw Joe Morrow, a healthy scratch for the last 16 games in total, back into action for his first game since Dec. 12 against the Canadiens.
This isn’t the first time that the Bruins have been down a defenseman or two and they know it probably won’t be the last. And it won’t change what a defense that’s allowed the second-fewest shots per game does or expects out of one another.
“More than ever we’re a unit that way that we’re all working together,” B’s defenseman Adam McQuaid said.
“It doesn’t really matter a whole lot who’s in and out, we just try to stick to the same focus.”
Tuukka Rask gets the call in net for the Bruins. Rask made stops on 21-of-24 shots against in Saturday’s win over the Flyers, and has a 22-9-3 record and .925 save percentage on the year. The Islanders counter with Thomas Greiss. Greiss made a career-high 48 saves in his last game against the Bruins and has 10 wins and a .921 save percentage in 19 starts this season
This is the second of three meetings between the B’s and Isles this season.
The Islanders took the last one by a 4-2 final at TD Garden back on Dec. 20.
Here are the expected lines and pairings for the Bruins…
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Frank Vatrano – David Krejci – David Backes
Tim Schaller – Ryan Spooner – Riley Nash
Austin Czarnik – Dominic Moore – Anton Blidh
Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid
Joe Morrow – John-Michael Liles