NEW JERSEY — When you’re riding a nine-game winning streak in the midst of the most important stretch of the season, it can be easy to get caught up in the highs. But right now, the Bruins are concentrating on making sure that doesn’t happen to them.
Monday night’s win over Minnesota put the Bruins 16 points ahead of their closest competition in the Atlantic Division and five points ahead of Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference. Their offense is clicking, their D corps is clicking and the goaltending of Tuukka Rask and Chad Johnson has been resoundingly solid since the conclusion of the Olympic Break.
But, as they prepare to face the Devils on Tuesday night in the tail end of this back-to-back, the Bruins are the first ones to say that they are far from perfect.
“We had some stuff to look at before [the game] — in case you guys didn’t know that,” Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said following Monday night’s 4-1 win over Minnesota. “Just another one of those games where goaltending was good. Again, too many breakaways or good scoring chances, and we have to fix that.”
“But again, we played well enough to win. I think offensively, we did a lot of good things. Again, we just got to make sure we continue to fine-tune our game and don’t get complacent. We’re young back there and there’s still some things guys need to learn.”
Tuukka Rask has continued to prove himself to be one of the NHL’s elite goaltenders. He finished the night with 33 saves, including a highlight reel stop on Mikko Koivu from point-blank range in the second period to preserve a 1-0 Bruins lead.
Rask has now won six straight, but backup goaltender Chad Johnson has been an equally significant component of this winning streak. He has won his two most recent starts at Florida and against Carolina, and his consistency has been imperative to keeping the Bruins rolling, given a jam-packed March schedule that features 17 games in total and plenty of back-to-backs.
“Our goaltending has been outstanding all year, without question,” said forward Jarome Iginla after Monday’s win. “We’re very fortunate to have them on net, and they do give us a chance every night. Big momentum shifts.”
“We also feel as the game goes on, the physical style that we play, we can start taking the game over as it goes on and try to wear teams down. We take a lot of pride in being a real good third period team and having that great goaltending.”
If the Bruins want to extend this winning streak to 10 games, they’re going to need another solid performance from whoever ends up in net. In the first matchup between these two teams this season, the Devils won 4-3 at TD Garden on October 26. Rask made 28 saves that day, but the Devils capitalized on two late power play chances to get to the best of the B’s.
After Monday’s game, Rask said that while the streak has been impressive, the Bruins need to be better if they want it to continue.
“It’s good that we get those wins,” he said. "But I don’t think that we’ve played our best hockey all of these games, giving up those breakaways, stuff like that. But for the most part, I think we’re playing pretty good; the offense is good.”
Another Milestone for Iggy
Bruins forward Jarome Iginla keeps racking up the milestones of late. Since recording his 550th career goal back on March 10 against Florida, he hasn’t slowed down.
Iginla has five goals in his last three games, netting two against the Wild. In another milestone achievement, Iginla played in the 1300th game of his career against the Wild, becoming just the fifth active player to do so.
Now, with 555 career goals, he is now one goal shy of tying Bruins legend Johnny Bucyk for 25th place on the all-time goals list. While the personal achievements are certainly nice, Iginla is staying focused on what this team is trying to do right now: hold on to that top spot in the Eastern Conference.
“It feels good, but we’re really trying to stay focused on our game and what we’re trying to improve on,” Iginla said on Monday. “There’s some things we go over that we do need to improve on. I thought we were pretty solid [last night]. Minnesota is a good club and they came out very strong.”
“I thought it was a fun game to be a part of, I thought we pushed back psychically, and I thought it was a good hockey game. Feels good to win it.”
Johnny Boychuk Day-to-Day
Defenseman Johnny Boychuk did not play in Monday’s game against Minnesota after going awkwardly into the boards in the third period of Saturday's game against Carolina.
Following Monday’s pregame skate at TD Garden, Julien had deemed Boychuk day-to-day and said that the defenseman had been unable to skate on Monday due to soreness. The Bruins dressed seven blueliners for warmups, with Corey Potter eventually sitting out as the healthy scratch. Head Coach Claude Julien's pregame availability in New Jersey will take place around 5:50 p.m. ET, and there will likely be an update then on Boychuk's status (follow on Twitter @NHLBruins ^JI).
Bruins Projected Lines vs. New Jersey
Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Jarome Iginla
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Reilly Smith
Chris Kelly - Carl Soderberg - Loui Eriksson
Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton
Defensemen: Zdeno Chara, Andrej Meszaros, Matt Bartkowski, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller, Corey Potter, Dougie Hamilton, Johnny Boychuk*
*Day-to-day, per Head Coach Claude Julien
Goaltenders: Tuukka Rask // Chad Johnson