Though they’ve been playing much better of late, the postseason is far from a certainty for the Boston Bruins. And for a team and franchise with such high expectations on an annual basis, that’s not good enough.
The latest case was their loss on home ice to the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night, a game in which they were outplayed in the third period and gave up three goals in the final 20 minutes. In what was a 1-1 game through two periods, the Bruins felt they made too many mistakes, something that has to change if they’re to climb the standings.
Entering Friday night’s slate of games, the Bruins (53 points) were tied with the New Jersey Devils for the two wild card spots in the Eastern Conference. Boston has won three of its last four games, but prior to that, had lost five of six after a strong run got them back in the playoff mix.
They’re in a stretch of playing three of their final pre-All-Star games on home ice at TD Garden, which presents a prime opportunity to gain some ground: the Bruins are only one point back of third-place Detroit in the Atlantic Division and four points behind the division-leading Florida Panthers, who they don’t face head-to-head again until March.
A few things on the Blue Jackets: they will be without coach John Tortorella on Saturday night after he suffered two broken ribs during a collision in Friday's practice. Associate coach Craig Hartsburg will resume his duties behind the bench. Matt Calvert (knee) and Nick Foligno (upper body) were both activated off IR on Friday and could return to the lineup in Boston.
Anton Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo are back together as the goaltending tandem after Sergei Bobrovsky left Thursday's game with a groin injury.
In the last meeting between these two teams, it was Matt Calvert making a difference in the third period. Tied at 1-1 after two periods at TD Garden, Calvert scored both the go-ahead goal with 3:03 left and also the insurance marker into the empty net with 38 seconds remaining.
It was an impressive road victory for the Blue Jackets, who also received a superb goaltending effort from Curtis McElhinney. The 3-1 win snapped a four-game Blue Jackets losing skid away from Nationwide Arena and also brought a halt to the Bruins’ five-game winning streak.
It feels as though Patrice Bergeron has been around forever, but he’s only 30 years old and in his 12th NHL season – all of those with the Bruins, the team that drafted him in the second round (No. 45 overall) in 2003.
Bergeron is thought of as a perennial Selke Trophy candidate and the ideal two-way player who can log big minutes in all situations, but he’s also leading the Bruins in scoring this year (18 goals and 42 points). He’s on pace for his best offensive season in eight years.