It was a ground hog day of sorts, different score, same outcome, a Bruins win. Last Saturday in Philadelphia, the Bruins defeated the Flyers in an old time hockey style game that left Boston skating out of Flyers territory with a 4-3 shootout win. Just one week later, the Bruins repeated their winning tactics, topping the Flyers 5-2 and clinching first place in the Eastern Conference, giving them home ice advantage when the playoffs skate into town beginning April 16th.
“Well, something, I guess, we wanted to do but it wasn’t really our main goal, everyone knows what our main goal is,” said Bruins Rask on clinching the conference. “But it’s good to finish off first and we still have a few games left and try to finish strong and then really feel good about going in to the playoffs.”
Dropping their last two contests, the Bruins looked to put a halt to losses and move forward with wins.
“Yeah, we talked about that before the game,” said Bruins Loui Eriksson on needing to win after two losses. “We were not satisfied with losing two straight games. I thought at the beginning of the game we were kind of slow but I thought we took over the game and it was a big win for us to get back on a winning streak here.”
With just four games in the regular season remaining, the Bruins have an opportunity to nab the Presidents’ Trophy, awarded to the team holding the most points in the NHL. Currently reigning supreme with two points over St. Louis, the Blues have one game in hand on Boston. Rolling four lines deep on a nightly basis and exuding camaraderie on the ice, the Bruins are on the fast track to the ultimate goal. But a key component to their success is that no one is a star player, it has always been and will continue to be, a team affair. That mindset doesn’t mean that recognition goes unnoticed though.
One player that’s been an exceptional addition to the roster since becoming a member of the organization, Reilly Smith. The efforts of the young forward did not go unnoticed as fans nominated the 23-year-old as NESN’s 7th Player. Awarded annually, fans vote on the player who has exceeded expectations throughout the season. Smith will receive $5,000 to donate to a charity of his choosing.
“Yeah it’s remarkable. It’s something you wouldn’t expect joining a team,” said Bruins Smith on the Boston fan base. “The fans have been great here. It’s a treat everyday being able to come to the rink and play in front of fans that are really knowledgeable and who understand the game. You know they’re always there to support you. So it’s been great all year, and I don’t think anything will change going into the playoffs.”
In his first season with the Bruins, Smith has recorded 19 goals (fifth on the team) and 30 assists (tied for fourth on the team) for 49 points (fifth on the team), marking NHL career-highs in all categories. The winger had a season and career best seven-game point-streak from January 14 to January 28 that saw him rack up three goals and five assists with a plus-eight rating. In addition to his three game-winning goals this year (10/17 at FLA, 12/10 at CGY, 12/23 at NSH), Smith has recorded deciding shootout goals twice, with his tallies against the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 8 and the Philadelphia Flyers on March 30.
An asset to the team, Smith has pushed hard game in and game out to impress not only fans, but teammates and coaches as well.
“Yeah, it is important, and I thought that Reilly was even better again tonight. I see his game picking up again to where it used to be and tonight, I thought he had good jump and he’s a smart player,” said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien on Smith. “He makes plays, he’s pretty nifty with the puck as well, and he’s a good heads-up type of player. He sees the ice very well and he’s starting to show that he’s willing to go to those dirty areas as well. He’s not a big player but he’s trying to play big and go into the areas we’re asking him to go into.”
Sunday will be a day of rest for Boston, before traveling to St. Paul to face the Wild on Tuesday.
Want to see a few photos from the Eastern Conference Clinching Game? Check out our Game Night Album!