Boston Bruins Clinch Northeast Division with 2-1 Win Over New York Rangers

The Boston Bruins have clinched the Northeast Division title and are moving swiftly toward the playoffs on a streak of pretty good luck. Better yet, they beat the New York Rangers 2-1 to do so, and beating the Rangers hasn’t exactly come easily to the Bruins as of late. Plus, they denied the Rangers the ability to clinch the Atlantic Division–a nice side benefit.

Though the Bruins started the game with good energy, they allowed the first goal, Marian Gaborik‘s 40th before the game was five minutes old. But after that, try as the Eastern Conference’s best would, nothing went past Tim Thomas. It was good that Thomas got his rest, though, because the Rangers certainly did make their attempts because they knew what was on the line. If they’d earned a single point from this game, even in an overtime or shootout loss, they too would have clinched their division.

The rest of the first period was quiet, at least in terms of scoring. In terms of noise, it was the exact opposite of quiet, especially on NBC Sports Network, where the on-ice noise was frequently louder than the commentators.

But then in the second stanza, the Bruins tied it up on a slap shot from Dennis Seidenberg. He got help from Brad Marchand and fellow defenseman Zdeno Chara, who extended his points streak by providing the assist. Chara kept the puck in New York’s zone even as Rangers attempted to get it out, working it around and around until taking it safely to the blue line, passing to Seidenberg and watching the newly-healthy Seidenberg slap it into Henrik Lundqvist‘s net.

For one of the most, if not the absolute most, reliable faceoff men in the league, look to Patrice Bergeron. He took 19 draws and won all but two of them. By comparison, the Ranger to be at the dot the most in this game, Brad Richards, took 22 draws but only won nine (including just one against Bergeron).

Bergeron doesn’t just exceed in the circles, though–he can also score, of course, and score he did. Actually, he scored on the power play, which at 17.4 percent is good for only a middling 14th in the league. He did it, though, going short side on Lundqvist after taking a pass from Tyler Seguin. Though they didn’t produce as much as they did against the Islanders, for obvious reasons, the Marchand-Bergeron-Seguin line still collected a goal and two assists.

Bergeron now has 61 points this season, his best season points-wise since 2006-07, and his +36 rating tops the entire league. The way he plays the game–with dedication to excelling in every aspect, all the time no matter what, even if he doesn’t officially get on the score sheet–makes him an ideal candidate for the Selke Trophy. Even the announcers on NBC Sports Network felt like he’s an ideal candidate for the trophy given to the best defensive forward.

Since that power play goal would later become the official game-winning goal, the third period was all about holding that very slim lead. Thomas kept the door shut, the penalty-killers did a great job when called to do so and the Bruins held on tight to get two points. They are the first Eastern Conference team to clinch their division.

Here’s some news from the injury front: Claude Julien feels that Tuukka Rask could be back on the ice soon. Adam McQuaid‘s eye is feeling better and he should skate with the team on April 2. Gregory Campbell is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

Next for the Bruins is one final regular-season visit with the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 3.

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