By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
Sometimes the better team wins. That’s what happened on Thursday night when the Bruins dropped a 2-1 decision to the New York Rangers, courtesy of the birthday boy – who was nearly unbeatable – Henrik Lundqvist.
Lundqvist, who turned 35 on game day, literally stole the game from the B’s; a game which, at times, had a playoff feel. The Rangers did what the Rangers do, and that is score goals in the third-period – they have done it a league leading 86 times, in contrast to the Bruins 23rd overall ranking with 51 – as, they potted two to the B’s one to win a tight game.
Granted, if the Bruins hope to make the playoffs, they can ill afford to come away without a point too often down the stretch. With 18 games remaining – and with the standings in the Atlantic Division tighter than a pair of yoga pants – interim head coach Bruce Cassidy knows that his team needs more than solid efforts to do so.
“The takeaway is we lost and at this time of the year, we need points. That’s the big picture. But certainly we look at every game and say ‘well, what did we do well?’ We started well. We didn’t finish the way we’d like to in terms of scoring in the first period. We did a lot of things well, but not enough obviously,” said the man who calls himself Butch post game.
And while it is true that his team needs to come through when it comes to putting pucks in the net in order to make it to hockey’s second season, the fact that his team fought one of the better teams in the East with so much on the line, is a great experience builder for the many inexperienced Bruins players.
In essence, every game the team plays now is a playoff game. This is why – for the future of the team and not for today – general manager Don Sweeney and team president Cam Neely did the right thing by pretty much standing pat at the trade deadline.
The Bruins roster is riddled with players who have little, or no, playoff experience. What better way to gain such experience by playing post-season type hockey a month before the playoffs begin? The benefit is twofold, not only do the younger players get the taste and feel of what it is like to play in games that matter so much, it gives the B’s brass the opportunity to see who steps up, and who shies away when their backs are up against it.
Already we have seen the emergence of David Pastrnak – whose stick handling around two defensemen to set up Brad Marchand for the B’s only goal in the third broke the ankles of guys on the Rangers bench – and the line of David Krejci, the newly recalled Peter Cehlarik, and Pastrnak looks like they could be a legitimate complement to the top line of Patrice Bergeron, David Backes, and Marchand.
Frankie Vatrano and Ryan Spooner – co-chairs of the Claude Julien He Hate Me Club – have both shown signs of playing to their potential since Cassidy took over. Defenseman Brandon Carlo – who got beat badly on the Rangers second goal of the night – has been playing top pairing minutes since the beginning of the season and overall, has done a good job for a 20-year-old kid who wasn’t expected to make the team entering training camp.
For as much as the last month plus of the season for the B’s is about a playoff push, it should also be looked upon as a training tool for the kids on the roster; many of which are seen as the potential building blocks for the next contending Bruins club.
Making the playoffs would mean a lot for a team that is trying to rebuild on the fly, but it is – and should be – secondary to exposing the youth on the roster to the stormy seas you have to navigate to get there, and seeing who among them will sink; and who will learn how to swim.