The Bruins (21-10-6, 48 points) are feeling strong after taking seven of their last eight points in grinding games against the Flyers and Capitals, including back-to-back wins with rookie goaltender Jeremy Swayman stopping 71-of-75 shots in his first two NHL starts. The Philadelphia Flyers (18-15-6, 42 points) enter today’s game in a must-win situation trailing the Bruins by six points for the final playoff spot, with Boston holding a pair of games in hand.
For the Bruins, it’s clearly been about elevating their game at “crunch time” and both Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand taking their respective games to a different level. Bergeron had a hat trick in Tuesday night’s win over the Flyers in Philly and Marchand has shorthanded goals in back-to-back games while padding his Hart Trophy resume.
“This is a big week for our team. We’re playing Washington a few times, Philly, teams that we’re trying to catch and teams that we’re obviously trying to stay head of. It’s crunch time. We have to continue to separate from the teams below us and we have to build toward the playoffs, regardless of who is in and out of the lineup every night,” said Marchand. “We have a goal every day and it’s ‘progression.’ We don’t need to be great at the start of the year. It’s how you finish, and I think we’re building and getting better at the right time.”
The Bruins are now 6-2-2 in their last 10 games and have won six of the first seven games played between the Bruins and Flyers. This will be the last regular season matchup between Boston and Philadelphia.
As for the Flyers, they have lost two in a row and won just three of their last 10 games and are running out of time against the four teams above them if they want to push into a playoff spot. Certainly, they may get some help at the NHL trade deadline, but the time is now for them to start winning if they want to finish in the top four spots in the East Division.
“Sometimes we don’t get bounces and that’s the game of hockey. We just have to show up to every game as prepared as possible,” said Flyers goaltender Carter Hart. “We’re playing hard, and I think we’re going to get rewarded. We just need to stick to the process. I know it can be hard, but we just have to bear down.”
Swayman, the 22-year-old rookie, is getting his third straight start for the Bruins after an impressive first two games (2-0-0, 2.01 goals against average, .947 save percentage) before giving way to either Dan Vladar or Tuukka Rask on Sunday. Carter Hart (8-10-5, 3.78 goals against average and .873 save percentage) was solid in a Thursday night shootout loss to the Islanders.
–Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo has been downgraded from day-to-day to week-to-week with his upper-body injury and isn’t expected to return to game action for the Boston Bruins anytime soon. Carlo had just returned on March 30, from a month-long absence due to a concussion suffered after a Tom Wilson headshot. The good news is that Carlo’s current upper body injury isn’t related to the concussion, which could have been very problematic. Boston Bruins winger Ondrej Kase remains on IR with an upper-body injury. While Kase has been skating, his return date is not known. Tuukka Rask (upper body) is back practicing with the team and hasn’t been ruled out from a return on Sunday night against the Washington Capitals.
–Brad Marchand scored his 30th career shorthanded goal on Thursday night in a highlight reel play and now sits 22nd on the all-time NHL list while holding the Boston Bruins franchise record and the NHL lead among active players. He is truly the most dangerous penalty killer of his generation.
–Patrice Bergeron has scored in six of the seven games against the Flyers in the season series, including three games in which he has three or more points. He leads the Bruins with 13 points (7g-6a) in seven games and a +6 rating against the Flyers this season.
— Boston Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller (missed the previous 20 games with a knee issue) and fourth line forward Chris Wagner (a healthy scratch for the last few weeks) both returned to the B’s lineup this week. Not-so-coincidentally both rugged veterans played a role in the gritty victory for the Bruins over a Flyers team chasing them in the standings. Miller didn’t skate on Friday in Philly as the Bruins are careful with his workload, but he’s expected to be in the lineup against the Flyers on Saturday.
–Charlie McAvoy is “feeling better” and hasn’t been ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Capitals, but he is back in Boston and is out for Saturday’s game vs. the Flyers.
—James van Riemsdyk remains the guy to watch in these Bruins/Flyers games as he has four goals and eight points in seven games against the Bruins this season. Likewise, Jakub Voracek (two goals, seven points), Kevan Hayes (two goals seven points) and Travis Sanheim (two goals, four points and the OT game-winner on Tuesday night) have been very good for the Broad Street Bullies against the Bruins this season.
–The Flyers have loaned fourth line forward Tanner Laczynski to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the AHL and added defenseman Derrick Pouliot to the taxi squad.
Boston Bruins Lines
Brad Marchand- Patrice Bergeron- Craig Smith
Nick Ritchie- David Krejci- David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk- Charlie Coyle- Karson Kuhlman
Trent Frederic- Sean Kuraly- Chris Wagner
Matt Grzelcyk – Kevan Miller
Jakub Zboril – Steven Kampfer
Jeremy Lauzon – Connor Clifton
James van Riemsdyk – Sean Couturier – Joel Farabee
Scott Laughton – Kevin Hayes – Nolan Patrick
Travis Konecny – Claude Giroux – Jakub Voracek
Michael Raffl – Oscar Lindblom – Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Ivan Provorov – Justin Braun
Travis Sanheim – Robert Hagg
Sam Morin – Shayne Gostisbehere