The quest for the Stanley Cup will run through Boston, at least on the East coast.
Behind a career high four assists from Loui Eriksson, Milan Lucic’s two goals and a strong third period, the Boston Bruins clinched the top spot in the Eastern Conference with a 5-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers in front of 17,565 at the TD Garden. Here are a few superlatives from the B’s 53rd win of the 2013-14 regular season.
Most flexible option: Loui Eriksson
There were some high hopes for Eriksson after the Bruins acquired him in the “Tyler Seguin blockbuster” from Dallas, a deal that also included “7th Player Award” winner Reilly Smith. After battling a concussion for the first half of the season, Eriksson’s road has been much smoother lately, and he made another good stride forward Saturday afternoon.
With Jarome Iginla out of the lineup for the second time in three games, Eriksson was slotted alongside Milan Lucic and David Krejci on the B’s first line. Even though he was accustomed to playing with Carl Soderberg and Chris Kelly on the third line over the last few months, Eriksson adjusted nicely with Krejci and Lucic en route to an afternoon that included four assists and seven shots in 20:29 of ice time.
Like former Bruin Rich Peverley, who was also part of that summer blockbuster trade with the Stars, Eriksson is pretty comfortable skating with anyone, including Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. And even if it takes a few games to get used to new partners, Eriksson’s versatility could very well become an X factor for the Black and Gold during the postseason.
“It’s definitely a nice feeling to have,” Eriksson said about playing with Krejci and Lucic. “Like I said, they are such smart players to play with and they do a lot of good things out there. I’m just trying to help them out today and I thought we played really well.
“I’m just trying to do my best when I get the chance. I thought we’ve been creating chances every night, so it’s been good.”
Most usages of “unhealthy scratch” - Jarome Iginla and Kevan Miller
Iginla returned to the lineup against the Maple Leafs Thursday night after missing his first game of the season 24 hours prior in Detroit due to a lower body injury. So one would think Iginla would be good to go, right?
Well, Iginla, who took a hard hit from Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo last week and challenged him to a fight afterwards, did not take part in warmups and was out of the Bruins lineup for the second time in three games. Kevan Miller, meanwhile, missed his first game since Jan. 9 against the Los Angeles Kings.
Not to fear, however. Head coach Claude Julien confirmed that both had the day off due to maintenance. Both of whom should be back in the lineup this week, but with the East wrapped up, it wouldn’t be surprising if either had more time off to heal their bodies before the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Best new tradition: Old Time Hockey jacket
Former Bruin Andrew Ference always thought of a tradition when the Bruins were entering the playoffs. Three years ago, the 80’s Starter jacket etched its place in The Hub of Hockey lore during the B’s cup run. That followed by a chain during the first round loss to the Caps and last year the Army Ranger jacket.
With Ference gone, had to find a new tradition before the playoffs. Enter, Zdeno Chara and Johnny Bucyk.
The Bruins captain asked the legendary Chief if he had something to donate to the team. Bucyk, the Hall of Famer, surely did, and it’s as “Old Time” as it gets.
Much like the first tradition started by Ference, Milan Lucic was the first recipient of the Old Time Hockey jacket after tallying two goals and an assist in 16:07 of ice time. And yes, that is something he can tell his kids and grandkids when his hockey career is done.
Quote of the game When it comes to the third period, the Bruins are quite dominant. Their plus-53 goal differential in the final twenty minutes is tops in the league.
So what has attributed to the B’s third period success?
“It shows that our team is well conditioned, it shows that our team is capable of keeping their focus and determination for 60 minutes, and that’s been a good sign,” Julien said about the Bruins in the third period. “It’s a reason why we’ve had a fairly good amount of success [this year].”
This is certainly a trend that the Bruins want to keep going forward.
What’s next -With four games left and the Eastern Conference wrapped up, the Bruins, if they choose, can set their sights on capturing the Presidents Trophy. They currently have a two point lead on the St. Louis Blues, who fell to the Colorado Avalanche Saturday afternoon.
On the other hand, with the playoff grind ahead of them, the B’s will look to rest some guys, as they did with Iginla and Miller on Saturday. We’ll see what happens Tuesday night when they travel to the Twin Cities to face the Minnesota Wild.
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