March 26, 2012

Bruins back on track between the pipes

By Jesse Connolly

Despite their status as defending Stanley Cup champions and the hottest team in the National Hockey League when the calendar turned to 2012, no one expected the Bruins’ offense to be able to keep up its out-of-this-world pace. 

Everyone knew the array of nightly annihilations couldn’t go on forever, that cold streaks were bound to strike and that the power play would endure stretches of futility.

What no one ever saw coming was a near meltdown in net. Not to the Boston Bruins. Not to a team that had been all but immune to goaltending woes over the past few seasons.

But for a while there, the B’s began giving up goals by the bushel. In their first nine games in March, the Bruins allowed less than three goals just one single time. By comparison, when the Black and Gold were still riding high, Boston allowed three or more goals on just two occasions in 12 December contests.

One week after Tuukka Rask went down with a groin injury, the wheels began to fall off. During a four-game stretch from March 10-15, the Bruins unconscionably allowed a combined 21 goals to the Capitals, Penguins, Lightning and Panthers. In many instances, the game felt over before it had even really begun.

The Ides of March was rock-bottom for a Bruins team that had strung together back-to-back wins just once in more than two months. Ever since then, however, order has been restored between the pipes.

Over the last five games, the B’s have allowed the opposition to light the lamp just eight times, giving them – due to an extra session in a win over Philly – a 1.57 goals-against average in the last quintet of contests.

Tim Thomas, who indicated he was under the weather after Rask went down, proceeded to earn wins over the Flyers (3-2 in the shootout), Leafs (8-0) and Kings (4-2) after getting torched by Florida. Even in Boston’s lone loss in the past five games, a 2-1 setback in San Jose, the 37-year-old netminder was superb.

After a downright embarrassing opening period in his first start as a Bruin, Marty Turco didn’t see action for 12 days following his abysmal performance against the Lightning, but the veteran netminder kept the good times rolling when he got his shot at redemption on Sunday.

Turco stopped 25-of-27 out in Anaheim, helping the Bruins beat the Ducks 3-2 to earn his first win as a member of the B’s. And just like that, the once-sputtering Bruins look like a team that’s rounding into form.

Winners of four of the last five games, the B’s are coming back home after a successful trip out west. They’ll welcome the Lightning to the Garden on Tuesday before playing host to the Capitals on Thursday night.

Squaring off with two of the teams that put a pile of pucks past them during their four-game skid might sound ominous, but if their recent turnaround in goal is any indication, history probably won’t be repeating itself.