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Monday, March 23, 2009

Bruins clinch Northeast Division and playoff spot

A majority of sports fans were transfixed by the NCAA men's basketball tournament yesterday (finding out the last Sweet 16 teams), myself included, but I managed to change channels during CBS' repetitive ads and see much of the Bruins' 4-1 win over the New Jersey Devils at the Garden.

I've been especially busy the last few weeks so I haven't blogged at all and I picked a good time since the Celtics and Bruins in particular have been how you say, shitting the bed?

Of course, it's not all doom and gloom since both will be heavyweights in the playoffs, but it's a sign of these teams' championship potential that we expect deep runs, not just simply making it.

The Bruins clinched a playoff spot (the eighth seed) in the second to last regular season game last spring. Yesterday, they secured their first division title in five seasons while also locking up a playoff spot.

The win was especially satisfying for the B's (46-17-10) and its worrisome fans, since the Devils (47-22-3) are the No. 2 team in the Eastern Conference and one of the NHL's hottest teams.

Boston won by playing like it did for much of the season (save for the last month and change): balanced scoring, strong goaltending and physical, smart hockey.

They're not splitting atoms over at the Garden, playoff hockey tends to be pretty meat and potatoes compared to the more wide-open, run and gun regular season. The great unknown is how this largely young, inexperienced team will handle being one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup once the calendar turns to April.

Michael Ryder staked Boston to a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal (his 25th of the season) late in the first period. Marc Savard passed to Mark Recchi who relayed it to Ryder. He didn't get anything on the shot but it deflected off a New Jersey player's skates, past Martin Brodeur (26 saves).

The B's put it away with three more goals in the second period. Chuck Kobasew put a clever backhander (18th of the season) past Brodeur with assists to Patrice Bergeron and Recchi.

Savard made it 3-0 with a power-play goal (his 23rd) from Matt Hunwick and Ryder.

Andy Greene got the Devils on the board later in the second period but that's as close as New Jersey would get.

Milan Lucic ended a long goal-scoring drought and potted his 14th of the year from Phil Kessel and Mark Stuart to wrap up the scoring for the game in second period.

Bruins goalie Tim Thomas improved to 31-11-7 with an impressive 41 saves on the afternoon.

Only nine games remain on the regular season schedule for Boston and they won't play again until Saturday in Toronto.

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