Thomas provides silver lining in loss to San Jose

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Thomas provides silver lining in loss to San Jose

SAN JOSE, CA While the Bruins couldnt sustain enough momentum to transfer a modest two-game winning streak from the TD Garden onto the road, there was still a silver lining to the dull situation.

The Bruins may have dropped a 2-1 decision to the San Jose Sharks and they may have sputtered to a season-low 17 shots on net in defeat. There may have even been some serious soul-searching by the Bs forwards as a group following the defeat.

But Bs goaltender Tim Thomas once again played at the top end of his abilities and seems to be showing no signs of slowing down despite having just appeared in his 14th straight game in the loss to the Sharks.

Both goals allowed were off egregious turnovers near each of the blue lines: the Joe Pavelski goal was a second-effort scramble in front after a Milan Lucic turnover and the Daniel Winnik score was a rocket after Tyler Seguin couldnt handle a David Krejci drop pass at the offensive blue line.

Timmy made some big saves to allow us to stay into the game. The goal in the third period: the guy put a lot on it and went top shelf when we couldnt keep the puck at their blue line, said Claude Julien. We allowed two goals and we didnt allow a ton of shots. Offensively we just didnt have the legs to create a lot of attack.

Thomas stopped 25 out of 27 shots in the loss, and was keeping the Bruins in the game in the second period while making 12 stops as the Bs were outshot by a 12-4 margin. His scrambling stop of a Dan Boyle slapper from the high slot with Dominic Moore buzzing in front of him was the kind of stop he wasnt making when he was in the height of his struggles, and a leaping stop of a 2-on-1 from Logan Couture to Marty Havlat was some textbook Thomas.

Even Thomas had to admit that hes feeling pretty good at the moment: hes stopped .942 of the shots that hes facing over his last three games, hes got a 1.67 goals against average during that time period and hes giving the Bruins a chance to win each time out.

I feel like Im in a pretty good spot personally right now, said Thomas. Were having a hard time picking up and keeping momentum for long periods of time. The good news is that weve just recently shown how well we can play. We have to pick that up again Saturday.

If you had asked me before the game I would have thought we would carry it over. I felt like wed turned a corner. Hopefully we still have. Its hockey. Youre not going to win every game. Last year we won the Cup and won three Game 7s and that meant we lost three out of those seven games.

The irony shouldnt be lost on anyone that the 37-year-old goaltender playing in his 14th straight game might have been playing with the most energy of everybody on the ice. Now his teammates are going to need to match that for the remaining two games in California.

Backes: Bruins are back to playing 'winning hockey'

Backes: Bruins are back to playing 'winning hockey'

BOSTON -- It felt very much like a welcome return to the good parts of the Bruce Cassidy Era on Tuesday night.

The Bruins jumped out to a strong, early lead, utilized strong, disciplined defense and good goaltending and closed things out strongly in the third period in a 4-1 victory over the Nashville Predators at TD Garden. The win really allows last weekend’s big two points against the Islanders to be a turning point, and gives the Black and Gold a three-point cushion for a playoff spot over a Tampa Bay Lightning group that just doesn’t seem to be going away.

The victory also improved the Bruins to 8-3 in 11 games at home under Cassidy, and that’s a big key knowing that they’ll be playing 5-of-6 games at the Garden to close out this season’s playoff push.

“We had a couple of boo-boos there in front of our net where we probably got going a little too quick, but at the end of the day, [it was] more positives than negatives, and that’s kind of how we want to play everywhere, but particularly in this building,” said Cassidy. “Let’s establish the energy level, be on our toes, be ready to play, and again, that was something we weren’t pleased with the last game in here. I addressed that, and that was one of the most satisfying responses from [Tuesday’s] home game.”

So it looks and sounds safe at this point to say the Bruins are out of their mini-tailspin and this won’t be the same kind of epic collapse that doomed the Black and Gold in each of the last couple of seasons. The Bruins blocked 24 shots, they put four goals on the board and they never trailed in a game against a Western Conference playoff team.

Sure, they might still miss the cut when it’s all said and done. But they’ve got a 70.3 percent chance of making the playoffs with just six games remaining in the season, so that’s about as good a position as they could hope for at this point.

“It was certainly a vindication of how we were playing on the Island [New York], and it wasn’t highlight reel or pretty – maybe Pasta [David Pastrnak] had a couple nice moves coming down the wall,” said David Backes. “But we made a lot of hard plays, blocked a lot of hard shots when we needed it, and that’s winning hockey. It showed up tonight in droves from a lot of different guys. It’s no secret that’s how you win games this time of year. It was awesome to see from all the guys.”

Now the Bruins need to simply bottle up the compete level and execution they showed on Tuesday night, and repeat it six more times while looking to snap the two year spell that’s had Boston out of the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

Drellich: Breaking down Hernandez vs. Selsky

Drellich: Breaking down Hernandez vs. Selsky

Who’s on first? A middle infielder, maybe.

Hanley Ramirez, Josh Rutledge and Mitch Moreland aren't fully healthy. So the 25th man on the Red Sox has become a matter of corner-infield triage.

Rutledge was gearing up to play some first base with Ramirez restricted to DH because of his throwing shoulder. But Rutledge is hurt now too, likely headed to the disabled list with a left hamstring strain, Sox manager John Farrell said Wednesday morning in Florida.

Here’s the easiest way to think about who takes Rutledge's place: Who would the Red Sox like to see less against left handed pitching, third baseman Pablo Sandoval or first baseman Mitch Moreland? 

If it’s Sandoval, then you carry Marco Hernandez, who can play third base.

“He’s a very strong candidate,” manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida on Wednesday. “He’s one of a few that are being considered strongly right now.” 

If it’s Moreland, than you carry Steve Selsky, who has a history playing first base.

“He’s a guy we’re having discussions on,” Farrell said. “Any guy in our camp that we feel is going to make us a more complete or balanced roster, Deven Marrero, they’re all in consideration.”

The additional wrench here is that Moreland has the flu. If he's not available at all for a few days to begin the season, then the Sox probably have to carry Hernandez.

Why? Because Brock Holt can play some first base if Moreland is out. But then, you’d need another back-up middle infielder, and Hernandez gives you that. 

Hernandez is also hitting .379 in 58 at-bats this spring entering Wednesday.

Moreland isn’t the only one who has the flu.

"It’s running through our clubhouse," Sox manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida on Wednesday, including the Providence Journal’s Tim Britton. "Probably be held out for three days for a quarantine.” (LINK:http://www.providencejournal.com/sports/20170329/with-josh-rutledge-and-mitch-moreland-ailing-first-base-depth-compromised-for-red-sox)

That means the Red Sox won't have Moreland for their exhibitions against the Nationals on Friday and Saturday in Washington D.C. and Annapolis, Md. Moreland could still be ready for the regular season, but would likely be at less than full strength.

Having Ramirez available would sure make things a lot simpler for the Sox.

Both Sandoval at third base and Moreland could use right-handed bats to complement them. Or more specifically, they could use people who can hit left-handed pitching to complement them.

Hernandez is a left-handed hitter who might actually be able to hit lefties. But the Sox haven't used him at first base, and there's no indication they will.

“As we look at the upcoming games, there is the potential for two left-handed starters in Detroit,” Farrell said. “So there’s a number of things being factored right now.”

Early in spring training, Farrell was asked what player had started to catch his eye.

The guy he mentioned was Selsky, an outfielder and first baseman the Red Sox feel fortunate to have picked up off waivers because he still has minor league options remaining.

Now Selsky, who has already technically been cut from major league spring training, has a chance at making the opening day roster. He's 27 and hit .356 in 45 Grapefruit League at-bats.

Chris Young isn't going to have an easy time finding at-bats as it stands now, but the Sox aren't considering moving him to first base.