The Boston Bruins are entering into their annual stretch of Groundhog Day hockey. The reference being to the Bill Murray film in which he lives the same day over and over before learning how to free himself from the existential shackles of an unexamined life. Whether the Bruins are learning anything that will free them from a path to playoff hockey exile remains to be seen.
Last night the Bruins dropped a 3-2 decision to the Ottawa Senators in Boston, making it back to back games in which they lost to teams either directly behind or in front of them in the standings. The Toronto Maple Leafs moved closer to catching and passing Boston on Monday, and the Senators have now widened the gap of their lead over Boston. The Bruins? They remain stuck in limbo, with more games in the next few days against teams that are like those objects in the mirror closer than they appear, and if they don't break out of this vicious circle of losing close games they must win down the stretch, it'll be a third straight season of waking up to Sonny and Cher singing "I Got You, Babe" and watching other teams play post-season hockey.
What's maddening for Bruins fans is the pattern. Each of the past two seasons they've had brilliant stretches where they've won a majority of games, like going 11-3 since interim coach Bruce Cassidy took over, and then dropping a series of contests at critical times when points must be secured to actually get into the playoffs. They're doing it again now. They fell behind Ottawa 1-0 and then 2-1 last night, and should have ridden the momentum of a spectacular goal by defenseman Torey Krug, who rushed the length of the ice from his own zone, skated through and around three Ottawa defenders and lasered the tying goal over the glove of Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson. But just a few minutes later Dominic Moore got called for slashing, his second ill-timed penalty in as many nights, and the Senators scored on a deflected shot from the point just as the penalty was expiring, and that was all she wrote. Even a regulation tie and loss in overtime would have been a crucial point in the standings but the Bruins are now stuck at 82, with Toronto at 81 and about to pass them because they have a game in hand.
Next up, a date with the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team within striking distance of Boston at 77 points, and the one thing that went right for the Bruins is that the Lightning lost to Arizona last night. Then the Bruins take on the NY Islanders in Brooklyn, a team with 78 points, just two games back of Boston, so, stop me if I'm repeating deja vu all over again, but the Bruins' next game is a critical must-win, as is the game after that and the game after that...
Yes, moving on. The Montreal Canadiens are trying to keep first place to themselves in the Atlantic division and they gained a point despite losing to the Detroit Red Wings in overtime at the Bell Centre last night. Anthony Mantha got the game winner 4 minutes into the extra frame, his 15th goal of the year. The OT strike spoiled a dramatic game tying goal by Montreal's Artturi Lehkonen with two and a half minutes left to go in the third, but that goal did secure the one point for the Habs. The Red Wings have now won three of their last four, playing well even though they won't be making the playoffs this year for the first time in 26 seasons.
Elsewhere, the NY Rangers also lost in OT 3-2 when Joseph Blandisi tallied the game winner for the New Jersey Devils.
The USA will face Pureto Rico in the finals of the World Baseball Classic after beating Japan 2-1 ion the semi finals last night. Luke Gregerson closed out the victory keeping the one run lead intact in the bottom of the 9th. The title game is tonight at Dodger Stadium.