BOSTON -- Its too bad the Bruins couldnt find a way to get through this first round series against the Washington Capitals.<br><br>The Bs could have been looking at a manageable, weakened opponent like the Ottawa Senators in the next round, and they would have had a skilled young player in Tyler Seguin that was finally starting to come around. The 20-year-old potted his second goal in as many playoff games during Wednesday nights 2-1 loss in Game against the Washington Capitals in Game 7, and provided the only real offensive energy for the Bs in a tired, flat defeat at the hands of underdog Washington.<br><br><img src="commonglobal_imagesblog_divider.png">With last year obviously winning it and all you feel lucky and fortunate. But you dont really grasp the whole worth of the Stanley Cup, said Seguin who lead both teams with seven shots on net and numerous scoring chances during Game 7. I think more and more you get to learn and losing here, we definitely get a new feeling.<br><br>Seguins goal was a thing of blue collar beauty as he fought through Washington defenseman Karl Alzner and John Carlson to get to a Johnny Boychuk shot that had trickled through Braden Holtbys pads before settling in the blue paint. Seguin barreled through both Washington defenders before flipping the loose puck in the back of the net.<br><br>I tried going in front of the net and I actually fell in front of Johnny Boychuk's shot, said Seguin. I kind of saw the puck laying there so I just dove in and whacked it with my stick.<br><br>Its the exact kind of grit and willingness to engage in one-on-one battles that those around the Bruins team have been waiting for to see in the youngsters developing offensive game. The humble pie served up when Bostons leading scorer during the regular season had been shut down in the first five games of the series will be exactly the kind of motivational burn Seguin is looking for while getting ready for next season.<br><br>I think the more games you play in playoffs the more experience youre going to gain, the more confidence and composure youre going to have for the next time it happens,: said Seguin. I look forward to next year.<br><br>That goes double for everybody around the Bruins organization thats looking for another big leap next season for a talented 20-year-old that tripled his point output from last season and became the youngest player in franchise history to lead the team with 29 goals scored.<br><br>Whats left to wonder is what kind of encore the ridiculously talented forward is capable of this early in his career, and how hungry an unlikely first round exit will make the premium hockey talent next season.
The Kevin Shattenkirk-to-Bruins rumblings are done for the remainder of the season.
Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Dispatch is reporting that the Blues have traded defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to the Washington Capitals.
According to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, the “main parts” the Blues will receive in the deal are 2017 first-rounder, a second-rounder in 2018 and Zach Sanford
More to come. . .
The Bruins are going to snap their two-year drought and get into the Stanley Cup playoffs this spring.
Sure, it’s going to be a tight race. And it'll come down to the last few games, befitting a team that's lived on the Atlantic Division bubble over the last three years. But in the seven games under interim coach Bruce Cassidy, the Bruins have shown they have the goods to get into the postseason. There's every reason to believe they’ll sustain their winning ways over the final two months of the regular season.
There's a long way to go, of course, but a third-place (or higher) finish would ensure the B's a berth in the Atlantic Division playoff bracket, and they could conceivably advance a round or two based solely on the poor quality of clubs in their division. With 20 games to play, the Bruins are now third in the division and have a one-point cushion (70-69) over fourth-place Toronto, though the Leafs have a game in hand. If Toronto passes them, they currently have a two-point lead over the Islanders (70-68) for the eighth and final spot in the conference playoffs, though the Isles also have a game in hand.
And that's not to say Boston couldn't climb higher. The B's are only four points behind the first-place but spinning-their-wheels Canadiens (20-20-7 since their 13-1-1 start), and they're even with the Habs in games played. They trail second-place Ottawa by two points, but the Senators have two games in hand.
All that, however, is another story for another day (even if it is a reason for Boston adding, rather than subtracting, at Wednesday's NHL trade deadline),
So how can we so stridently state that the Bruins are going to make the playoffs, and assure that this seven-game run isn’t just a flash in the pan?
Clearly they're playing with more urgency, higher compete levels, and a consistent focus that wasn’t there in the first 55 games under Claude Julien. They've now scored first-period goals in nine straight games and scored first in each of the four games on the highly successful Western swing through San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Dallas over the last week.
To put that in perspective, the B's had gone 1-8 in California over the previous three seasons, when those late-in-the-year road trips spelled the beginning of the end for Boston.
But even more convincing is a simple look at the numbers, the production and the reasons behind the surge forward.
The Bruins have long needed their two franchise centers operating at a high level at both ends of the ice, and consistently playing the 200-foot game that can cause major problems against teams not blessed with frontline talent in the middle. That wasn’t the case under Julien this year, but things have changed.
David Krejci has three goals and eight points along with an even plus/minus rating in seven games under Cassidy. Patrice Bergeron posted three goals and nine points along with a plus-7 over that same span of games. With those two big-money, big-ceiling players operating at their highest levels, the rest of the team has shown its true potential . . . and the talent level is considerably higher than many thought.
It wasn’t long ago that many Bruins fans, and some major Julien apologists in the media, would have had you believe that Claude was keeping together a substandard NHL roster with a MacGyver-like combination of duct tape, chewing gum and an offensive system that only a dump-and-chase, trappist wonk could love. Now we’re seeing there's offensive talent on a group that’s been given the green light to create and produce.
To wit, the Bruins' third line is now winning games for them after serving as a liability for the first half of the season. Ryan Spooner, Jimmy Hayes and Frank Vatrano have combined for 6 goals, 15 points and a plus-11 in the seven games under Cassidy after never getting a chance to work together under Julien because they weren’t in his defensive circle of trust.
There's also the elevated level of production -- across the board -- from Boston’s defensemen. Not to mention Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak continuing to produce offense at elite levels. Marchand just set a career-high with his 64th point on Sunday afternoon, and still has another 20 games left in attempting to become the B's first point-per-game player since Marc Savard (88 points in 82 games in 2008-09).
All of it amounts to a Bruins offense that’s now choosing quality shots over quantity: Boston is scoring 1.5 more goals per game under Cassidy while averaging a significant 4.5 fewer shots per game. The Bruins have finally ditched the weak perimeter attack that so entralled the Corsi crowd -- it was putting up 40-plus shots per game, yet only about 2.5 goals -- and are instead honing in their offensive chances between the dots and in closer to the net .
Should people still be wondering if this current B’s run of entertaining, winning hockey is sustainable? They certainly can if they want to wait until the season is over to decide, but the jury is in for this humble hockey writer.
Bruins fans should take the cue and start lining up for their postseason tickets.
Because there is going to be playoff hockey in Boston this spring. Remember, you heard it here first.