The Bruins still have a decent chance of making the playoffs after Thursday's win. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)Teams that fall out of the playoff structure often end up needing help from other teams to get where they want to go.



The Bruins haven’t been able to get their offense and defense going at the same time too often this season. They did so emphatically on Thursday.

The Bruins haven’t been able to get their offense and defense going at the same time too often this season. They did so emphatically on Thursday.

Playing what was essentially a must-win to keep realistic playoff hopes alive, the Bruins scored a pair of goals the first three minutes of the first and two goals in the opening minute of the third as they raced to a 5-2 victory over the Red Wings at TD Garden. The B’s held Detroit to 15 shots on goal, with Tuukka Rask making 13 saves.

The Flyers were surprisingly losing to the Maple Leafs at the time of Boston’s victory over Detroit, but a late goal for Philadelphia with their goaltender pulled forced overtime.

Thursday’s victory also left open the possibility of getting the third spot in the Atlantic Division. The B’s and Red Wings are now tied with 93 points on the season, with Detroit having the edge in regulation and overtime wins. If the Bruins win Saturday against the Senators and the Red Wings either lose in any way or win in a shootout Saturday against the Rangers, Boston will get the third spot in the Atlantic.

Here are four more things we learned Thursday:

BRUINS GET ANOTHER 30-GOAL-SCORER

A late scoring change revealed that what looked to be a David Krejci goal was indeed tipped by Loui Eriksson, giving him 30 goals on the season.

This marks the first time since 2002-03 that the Bruins have had three 30-goal-scorers, as Eriksson joined Brad Marchand (37 goals this season) and Patrice Bergeron (32) goals as Bruins to reach the plateau this season.

KRUG DOES EVERYTHING (WHICH FINALLY INCLUDES SCORING)

Big news from the Krug family:

Torey Krug blasted a shot from the point on a second-period power play for his first goal in 55 games. That made for the second point of a three-point night for Krug, as he also had the primary assist on Marchand’s goal and did a great job keeping the puck in the zone prior to a third-period Lee Stempniak goal. Krug would have had a fourth assist, but Loui Eriksson hit the post after Krug fed the forward on a third-period power play.

It wasn’t all pretty for Krug, however. With the Bruins on a first-period power play and the puck having been cleared into the Bruins’ zone, Krug sent the puck in front of Boston’s net to Jonathan Ericsson, who fired a puck from the slot that Tuukka Rask mercifully stopped to keep Detroit scoreless in the first. Krug was also called for holding fellow Michigan native Dylan Larkin in the third period.

SPOONER TAKEN OFF TOP UNIT, MOVED TO WING

Ryan Spooner, who is believed to have been dealing with a lower-body injury for much of the second half of the season, was moved to left wing for Thursday’s game. Typically Boston’s third-line center, Spooner moved to the second line to play with David Krejci and Eriksson as Max Talbot centered the third line.

Spooner began the game on the Bruins’ first power play unit in his customary spot on the half wall, but uneasiness with the puck and a bad pass to the point that ended up clearing the puck eventually led Claude Julien to take him off the unit.

The move paid off for the B’s, as Eriksson replaced Spooner on the half wall and Matt Beleskey moved to the front of the net for second-period power play on which Krug scored.

Spooner, who had two even-strength points in his previous 12 games, ended up chipping in on a third-period goal. The 24-year-old forward wheeled around to throw a puck towards the front of the net that David Krejci and then Eriksson redirected past Jimmy Howard for Boston’s fifth goal, which chased Howard from the game.

FOURTH LINE A KEEPER

Claude Julien juggled his lines quite a bit in Wednesday’s practice and into Thursday’s game. For the most part, all of them fared well:

Marchand-Bergeron-Stempniak
Spooner-Krejci-Eriksson
Beleskey-Talbot-Pastrnak
Vatrano-Acciari-Ferraro

Among the major takeaways, however, was that the B’s might have themselves a strong fourth line for the time being in Noel Acciari between Frank Vatrano and Landon Ferraro. The line drew a pair of penalties and also turned in a key shift against Detroit’s third line in the second period shortly after Detroit scored to cut Boston’s lead to two. The shift, which saw Vatrano essentially play keepaway at points, eventually forced an icing from Detroit.

Claude Julien deployed the fourth line against Detroit’s third line and used Talbot line against the fourth line.

Should the Bruins reach the playoffs, Vatrano should be in the lineup and perhaps be moved up and down depending on the needs of that game a la Rich Peverley in years past. For now, he looks like a good fit on what could be a strong fourth line.

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean

Max Talbot will be in the lineup for the Bruins Thursday night against the Red Wings, marking his first NHL game since Feb. 20. Talbot is playing in place of Jimmy Hayes, whom the Bruins say is injured.

Max Talbot will be in the lineup for the Bruins Thursday night against the Red Wings, marking his first NHL game since Feb. 20. Talbot is playing in place of Jimmy Hayes, whom the Bruins say is injured.

Talbot skated on the third line in Wednesday’s practice, centering Matt Beleskey and David Pastrnak. Talbot being in and playing center makes it likely that Ryan Spooner will play left wing. Spooner was on the left of David Krejci’s line with Loui Eriksson in Wednesday’s practice.

The 32-year-old has played 36 NHL games this season, scoring two goals and adding four assists for six points. In 23 games for Providence, Talbot has nine goals and 11 helpers for 20 points.

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean

If the Bruins had to pay a dollar for every time they said something about “controlling their own destiny,” they might be at risk of having overages against the cap next season.

They can no longer say that, however, and their words these days aren’t as flowery.

Torey Krug

Torey Krug

If the Bruins had to pay a dollar for every time they said something about “controlling their own destiny,” they might be at risk of having overages against the cap next season.

They can no longer say that, however, and their words these days aren’t as flowery.

“Obviously we need a little bit of help,” Torey Krug said Thursday afternoon.

Even though the Bruins can’t be eliminated until Saturday at the earliest, they should consider Thursday night’s game against the Red Wings a must-win. Beating Detroit would increase their not-so-great chances of either getting the third seed in the Atlantic Division or the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, which would send them to the Metropolitan Division to play the Capitals in the first round.

“We have a job to do. Unless we do our job, we’re going to be out of luck,” Krug said. “It’s pretty much a do-or-die attitude and for that we’ve just got to come out with a good start tonight and make sure we set off on the right foot and have the right mindset.”

The Red Wings are coming off a 3-0 win over the Flyers on Wednesday. They have not fared well in the second games of back-to-backs this season, dropping nine of their last 10. The Bruins, meanwhile, last played Tuesday and did not have a morning skate Thursday.

“We’re focused and we’re feeling confident,” Brad Marchand said. “I think we believe in our team and our group and I think we’re going to be prepared tonight.”

The Bruins failed to control their own destiny by giving away points recently against non-playoff opponents such as Carolina and New Jersey. Now, they face pressure to get points while hoping that either Detroit or Philadelphia will falter in their remaining games.

While the Bruins say they’re determined, determination is only part of it. The bigger issue is that they aren’t playing well, having lost eight of their last 10 games (2-7-1).

“Obviously, as of late, our play hasn’t been where it should be and we haven’t been getting the results that we wanted, so [it’s] a little bit [surprising], but at the same time, you can’t sit there and wonder what if,” Krug said. “You’ve got to make sure that you take the opportunity you have at hand and make sure you go with it and put your best foot forward.”

 

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean
Claude Julien

Claude Julien

Regardless of how Thursday’s meeting goes, the B’s can forget about the Red Wings after Thursday night. This is because the race for the third spot in the Atlantic Division seems all but settled.

Detroit has a two-point lead over the Bruins and has won two more games in regulation or overtime than Boston. The Wings also play the Rangers in their final game of the season; the Rangers’ current standing as the third team in the Metropolitan Division might give them incentive to lose in an attempt to slip to the first wild card spot so they can play in the Atlantic, which figures to be the easier division.

At any rate, the Bruins should consider a regulation win over Detroit the only acceptable outcome of Thursday’s meeting. Not only would it keep faint hopes of getting the Atlantic spot alive, but it would give the B’s a decent chance of getting the second wild card spot given that the Flyers lost to the Wings in regulation Wednesday. In other words, the game that put the Wings firmly in the driver’s seat for the Atlantic spot also made Philadelphia’s spot more attainable for Boston to grab in the coming days.

When it seemed the Bruins would be an Atlantic playoff team, a two or three-round run in the playoffs seemed at least possible given the lack of legitimate contenders in the Eastern Conference. If Boston gets in on the second wild card spot, however, it would mean they would face the Presidents’ Trophy winning Capitals in the first round.

So while the B’s would still make the playoffs, their stay likely wouldn’t be long. The Caps are the class of the Eastern Conference and beat the B’s in all three regular-season meetings (Boston went 0-2-1 in such games).

One percent chance at Auston Matthews aside, barely making the playoffs and then getting rocked in the first round would still be better than missing the playoffs altogether. Postseason experience for players like Ryan Spooner, David Pastrnak and Frank Vatrano would be valuable. Furthermore, reaching the postseason could save Claude Julien’s job if it’s in jeopardy.

The Bruins who were made available to the media Thursday said they wouldn’t hang their heads if they got in as a wild-card team instead of as an Atlantic team. They just want to be there.

“It would have been nice to be in first, right?” Dennis Seidenberg said. “We’re in a position where we’re battling for the second wild card spot or third in our division. At this point, we’re just worried about getting into the postseason. Everything else doesn’t really matter right now.”

Perhaps it’s for the best that the B’s are aiming for that divisional spot, even if the chances of getting it might be unrealistic. At least that way they’ll be motivated to execute against Detroit for a win they could use in either scenario. Should the B’s win Thursday and Saturday in regulation, they’ll get in as long as the Flyers lose one of their final three games.

“We win tonight and Detroit’s got one more game left in New York,” Brett Connolly said. “The pressure kind of switches a little bit and it will come down to one game. That’s what we’re hoping for. We’ve got to obviously take advantage of these two games.

“Our goal is to get into the playoffs, no matter how that is. If we can take care of the next two games, we’ll give ourselves a good chance to do that.”

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean
Brett Connolly

Brett Connolly

The Bruins are saving every ounce of energy they can for a technically-not-but-still-pretty-much must-win game against the Red Wings.

There was no morning skate or coach availability Thursday morning, as the majority of the team was told to stay home for the morning. Claude Julien, who usually meets with the media at 10:40 a.m. or 11 a.m. on game days, will speak to the media at 5:50 p.m. Players will be made available in the afternoon.

Coming off a 3-0 win over the Flyers Wednesday night, the Red Wings did not have a full morning skate. Goalie Petr Mrazek was on the ice, however, suggesting that Jimmy Howard will be in goal for Detroit for the second straight day. Howard had a 30-save shutout Wednesday.

The Red Wings have won the second game of back-to-backs just once in their last 10 attempts and the Bruins are 2-1-0 against Detroit this season.

The only Bruins to skate Thursday morning were rehabbing players Chris Kelly and Brett Connolly, the latter of whom said he is unsure as to whether he will play Thursday night. Connolly has missed the last three games with a lower-body injury suffered last week in a game against the Devils. Dennis Seidenberg has not skated since leaving Monday’s practice early.

Jimmy Hayes was also at the Garden Thursday morning after missing Wednesday’s practice with an undisclosed injury. Hayes also said he is unaware of his status.

The Red Wings can clinch the third spot in the Atlantic division with a regulation win over the Bruins Thursday night. There is no scenario in which the Bruins can be eliminated from playoff contention before Saturday, even if the Bruins lose in regulation and the Flyers beat the Maple Leafs in regulation or overtime Thursday night. The B’s could still be a wild card team in that scenario by winning their final game in regulation or overtime and having Philly drop its final two.

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean
Zdeno Chara

Zdeno Chara

WILMINGTON — The Bruins have had many moments over the last decade in which their leaders have found various ways to get whatever they could from their teammates.

Back in 2011, Shawn Thornton decorated the Bruins’ dressing room with old pictures of Bruins Stanley Cup moments and Mark Recchi brought in his Stanley Cup rings in an effort to motivate the B’s to bounce back from a Game 6 loss to the Lightning in the Eastern Conference finals and push their way to the Stanley Cup Final with a Game 7 win.

That’s a well-known example, but there are likely several others that haven’t made it out of the Bruins’ room: words of wisdom, pissed off speeches, etc.

The B’s are 2-7-1 in their last 10 games. They’ve slid out of a playoff spot and, with two games remaining in the regular season, need help from teams in front of them if they want to return to the postseason.

Though a tiny possibility exists that the B’s could make the playoffs even if they lose Thursday to the Red Wings (it would involve Detroit also beating Philly Wednesday and the Flyers then losing at least two of their final three games), Thursday is essentially a must-win.

So is this a time for optimism or a time for an angry captain?

“My job is, most of all, to lead by my play and the way I act,” Zdeno Chara told WEEI.com Wednesday. “It’s easy to be pointing fingers and easy to be saying, ‘Hey, I’m disappointed,’ and looking at the glass as half-empty, but the situation we’re in, that’s the way it is and we’ve got to make the best of it.” 

This is a team that was mighty proud of itself when it was on pace for a wild card spot at the All-Star break because it felt that many had counted them out prior to the season. If they thought they were exceeding expectations then, perhaps they’re meeting expectations now.

Whether the Bruins are what observers thought they were or are better and just underachieving, a playoff spot was within reach and the B’s have distanced themselves from it.

Chara’s not alone in preaching patience over frustration at this point. Old-school Bruins fans will find that to be a source of frustration in and of itself, as “just go out there and hit somebody” is a viable game plan to local devotees.

“Nobody likes losing,” Claude Julien said. “I don’t think it’s unique to the individual. You hope it’s unique to the group. That’s what we have to deal with: the fact that we’ve been through this and we’ve got to find a way to win hockey games.”

Whether they like losing or not, they’ve done quite a bit of it at the wrong time. Injuries have factored into some performances (most notably Sunday in Chicago), but the B’s have failed to take very attainable points from games against teams like Carolina in New Jersey.

Now the Bruins need to beat a Detroit team that stands in their way if they want a realistic shot of playing games past this weekend. They’ll either be up for the challenge or they’ll be out for a second straight season.

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean