For the next four games, the Boston Bruins head west to face four different Central Division teams who all need any points they can get in order to secure a spot in the playoffs. With the playoff race tightening, the Bruins will need to capitalize on the trip.
Boston Bruins Head West For Next Four Games
The Bruins will first take on the St. Louis Blues – a team that they beat in February. The Bruins have battled hard with the Blues over the last few seasons, coming away with only three wins in their last five matchups. The Bruins win this season over St. Louis resulted in Tuukka Rask’s 19th straight game with at least one point back in February.
The Blues are currently two places out of a Wild Card spot, but only by three points. The game will be much different this time, as Rask has not been as hot as he was over a month ago. Additionally, the Blues cannot afford to let games slip away if they want to make it into the postseason.
Two days after the St. Louis game, the Bruins will take on the Dallas Stars. The Stars are only one point closer to a playoff spot than the Blues, which means that the Bruins will have to play back-to-back games against teams that will give everything they have.
The history between Boston and Dallas has been physical ever since the game where three fights occurred in the first four seconds of the opening period. Many of the games afterward between the teams have gotten physical, which could be a good warm up to the grind of a postseason series.
Their third game of the trip will come against the Minnesota Wild – a team that is inside the playoff picture. While they are on the inside, the Wild do not have a definitive place in the structure. It is unlikely that they will move up, given the next-highest opponent is eight points ahead of them. But the Stars are looking for that third spot in the Central Division and Minnesota will need points to keep that six-point buffer between them and Dallas.
Boston may get lucky though. A game against a non-conference team may give Minnesota a little incentive to play a backup goaltender or more of their underdeveloped players. But with the game happening a little under a week from now, it is too early to determine who will play.
To end their trip, Boston will face off against a hungry Winnipeg Jets team who are looking to find solid ground in the playoff race. Winnipeg missed the playoffs the last two years and the year they did make it, they got utterly embarrassed by the Anaheim Ducks in a four-game sweep.
Without much of a history in the playoffs, the organization likely won’t choose to get comfortable, despite the small window to advance or drop in the standings. Winnipeg only has nine games left, and perfecting their postseason game plan may be exactly what the Bruins see.
What this Trip Means for Boston
In the past, the Bruins have used these trips to give their starting goaltender Tuukka Rask a break. But with the season winding down and just 11 games left as of now, Rask may not receive that break he’s received in the past.
Rask has had some very shaky games of late, compared to his 21-game streak where he recorded at least one point. In his last game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, he allowed five goals on 25 shots. While a few were rather lucky bounces for the Blue Jackets, the stat sheet does not care.
Fortunately for the Bruins, backup goaltender Anton Khudobin has been playing incredible hockey. This allows part of the workload to be lifted off the shoulders of Rask, unlike recent years when Rask would play more games than he should have. If the Bruins do decide to rest Rask for Khudobin for a few games, it may charge him up to complete the season and begin the playoffs.
The Bruins only need one point to clinch a playoff spot, but with the top seed in the Atlantic yet to be claimed, they can use every point available in this trip. The Toronto Maple Leafs are also hot on their trail, only six points behind them.
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