What We Learned: Why can’t Boston Bruins close deal on playoff spot? (Puck Daddy)
- Updated: March 23, 2015
(Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.) So we’re at the point in the season where the standings are starting to look worrisome for some teams and hope springs for those clubs that are on the outside looking in. The odds that you make up a point or two in the standings might not be great, but hell if they don’t feel great, and isn’t that the important thing? The majority of the playoff spots are more or less sewn up. Clubs don’t have a lot of mobility whether they’re locked in or not, but the eighth and ninth spots in both conferences remain very much up for grabs. Calgary has a rather narrow lead over Los Angeles and you can’t exactly feel good about that game in hand if you’re the Flames. For all the talk about how easy the Flames’ schedule is down the stretch, it features a lot of road games and some pretty tough opponents, including what’s likely to be a pair of make-or-break games at the end of the season with those same Kings and at Winnipeg. Worrisome to say the least, but clock-watching with cross charts in hand at least gives you some amount of certainty as to the outcome. Out East, though, what happens on the playoff bubble is just about anyone’s guess. Boston seems to have no ability to control which Bruins team shows up on any given night; some games they look like juggernauts, and others they go down meekly in a shootout against Florida. Does there seem to be any rhyme or reason to it? Sure doesn’t. Tuukka Rask can be either great or, umm, less so (though this month it’s been the former far more often), and the offense can be a buzzsaw or a pop-gun. Which makes for a nervy final nine games here. Especially because Andrew Hammond and the Ottawa Senators seem dead-set on never losing again. They’ve dropped one game in regulation since Feb. 18, which doesn’t seem like it should be possible but here we are. They’ve taken the long hard road out of hell based on an incredible run of unsustainable goaltending, yes, but if people think the Senators haven’t turned a major corner here under Dave Cameron, they are very much fooling themselves. Since Feb. 1, the Senators have become a pretty good possession team; that 52 percent of theirs and plus-13 goal differential at even strength alone tells quite the story. It’s certainly a step up from the 49.5 percent seen in the first four months of the season, and the farther away they get from Paul MacLean’s influence, the better off they appear. And that portends some pretty good things not only for this final stretch run but how tough of an out they’d be if they actually make the playoffs (which by the way is starting to look more likely by the day). In that same stretch, the Bruins’ possession numbers — and that includes that run where they looked nigh unbeatable again, going 8-1-1 from Feb. 21 to March 14 — are a little bit worse at 51.5 percent, but what really stands out is the goals-against number: 34 at evens in just 22 games. And the possession, too, has hit the skids of late. They started the season well enough, as you’d expect, then cratered, then rebounded, then cratered, then rebounded, and now they’ve cratered again. A lot of that can be linked to injury, specifically those to Zdeno Chara and David Krejci.