It’s been a season of ups and downs, but following a 3-0 win in New Jersey on Monday, the Bruins have officially punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup Playoffs and are now 10-2-0 since the trade deadline.
Nick Ritchie, Patrice Bergeron and Matt Grzelcyk lit the lamp and Tuukka Rask earned his third shutout of the season with 20 saves as the Bruins took care of business with a professional performance in Newark.
Here are three key takeaways from the game.
Injuries on the blue line and in goal, even-strength scoring troubles, division realignment, and an unprecedented schedule... the Bruins have faced their fair share of adversity en route to making the playoffs for a fifth-consecutive season under Bruce Cassidy.
While it’s been a grind for the Bruins and all teams for that matter, what’s encouraging is that the obstacles that once hindered the Bruins this season are rapidly becoming their strengths.
With the recent return of Kevan Miller and imminent return of Brandon Carlo, the black and gold are soon to be at full health on defense as playoffs approach -- not to mention the addition of puck-moving defenseman Mike Reilly.
The other trade deadline acquisitions, Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar, have completely changed the landscape of the Bruins’ offensive lineup as they now have a lethal first and second line, while the bottom six are beginning to excel both on and off the score sheet.
The script of a once frustrating and oftentimes discouraging regular season has completely flipped and the Bruins now get ready to enter the postseason with optimism and as high hopes as any Cup contender.
2. Good times keep rolling for new-look third line
The Bruins’ new third line of Sean Kuraly centering Charlie Coyle and Nick Ritchie continue to build on their rather immediate chemistry, combining for a fourth goal in their last three games.
After one-timing a nifty pass from Jakub Zboril, Ritchie broke a scoreless tie in the second period for his fourth goal in his last seven games.
What was encouraging about the goal was that all three members of the line touched the puck while exercising speed, motion and creativity. In the defensive zone, Ritchie moved the puck to Kuraly, who sped through the neutral zone before dropping a pass back to a trailing Colye -- Coyle then found Zboril and he and Ritchie did the rest. This new trio offers size, speed and skill -- everything a team wants in a third line.
3. Bergeron nets his 20th
Highly regarded for his elite defensive prowess, Patrice Bergeron once again exemplified how good he offensively, collecting his 12th 20-goal season during the third period of the Bruins’ victory over the Devils.
As many of the top line’s scoring chances originate, Brad Marchand -- playing in his 800th career game as a Bruin -- outworked defenders beneath the goal line before centering a back-handed pass to Bergeron, who made no mistake in giving the Bruins a 2-0 lead.
While David Pastrnak played a role in gaining the offensive zone leading up to the goal, it’s fitting that the tandem of Marchand and Bergeron combined on the tally during a milestone night for both of them.
Sure, they have all-world skill, but Bergeron and Marchand also have an all-world work ethic and earn all of the chances they create and capitalize on. This wasn’t an empty-net goal or a fluke that bounced off equipment -- it was a goal that started and ended with effort, determination and execution, the perfect goal that encapsulates the careers of both Marchand and Bergeron.