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Bruins Clinch Eastern Conference, Silence the Doubts

Loui Eriksson (Michael Dwyer/ WCVB.com

The Bruins clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference with a 5-2 victory over Philadelphia in this weekend’s matinee matchup. Loui Eriksson, who’s really been looking great lately, led his team with four points and shut down a flailing Flyers team.

This victory pushed away a few (small) seeds of doubt in the back of my mind. The Bruins have had some trouble against desperate teams lately, and a loss to the Flyers would have created a real honest-to-God problem.

Recent Troubles

It started last weekend in Philly, when the Bruins let up an uncharacteristic come-back against the Broad Street Bullies. With under a minute to go, Bergeron failed to chip the puck out of the zone and Boychuk whiffed on it, giving Lecavalier a chance to tie it with just 25 seconds remaining. The Bruins were able to win with a Reilly Smith shootout goal, but it was still a scary game.

They then blew a 2-1 lead against Detroit on Wednesday to lose after a fantastic Nyquist goal. Second “uh-oh” game in a row. Things got even more sketchy when the Bruins found themselves down 3-1 against Toronto. It took a familiar comeback rally to tie the game and force it into overtime, but Nazem Kadri was left alone in front of the net and sent the Bruins packing.

For a team that leads the league in points and wins following a torrid 15-1-1 March, it might seem a little ridiculous to get too negative after two losses. But to me, it wasn’t just that they lost, it was the way they lost. The B’s played three games in a row against three desperate, on-the-fence playoff teams and had three subpar performances.

It stuck out to me as a major red flag that the Black and Gold had trouble shutting down teams late in games. In the playoffs, you’re going to be matched up against teams with their backs against the wall and if you can’t close it out, you’ll be hard-pressed to make a deep playoff run.Rask Stuffs Voracek (Brian Babineau/NHL.com)

So yes, I was confident in my team. But admittedly, there was a little bit of anxiety about this.

Silencing the Doubts

The Bruins proved me wrong Saturday afternoon, of course. They played exactly the kind of hockey that suits them and showed Philly why they’re the best team in the game right now. Rask was phenomenal, as usual, and came up with some huge saves.

All four lines looked solid, and I really liked what I saw from Eriksson. He played with Lucic and Krejci to give Iginla another day off, and although Iginla will take his spot on that line when he returns, it’s good to know that the Bruins have the kind of depth where they can plug guys in on different lines and not miss a beat.

I really liked the play from the young defenseman today as well. Krug was moving the puck, Bartkowski was good in all 3 zones, and Hamilton kept doing his thing shutting down top lines. Man, is that kid gonna be a star.

The one negative thing I did take out, however, was the sloppy play of Andrej Meszaros. For the most part, I really liked this move by Chiarelli and felt that Mez was an underrated depth guy who would surprise people. He’s been okay in a Bruins sweater; he likes to shoot the puck and he can hold his own physically. But he makes some bozo mental mistakes that make me cringe. There’s been a lot of discussion as to who will be the sixth d-man come playoff time: him or Bartkowski. The more I watch, the more I want Bartkowski. And if Meszaros is playing, I want him paired with Chara or Boychuk, not Krug or Miller.

The Bruins have four games left, including a road trip to play Minnesota and then Winnipeg. If I’m Julien, I leave Chara behind for the roadie to get him some much needed rest. Continue to play Meszaros and see exactly what we have with him. But we all remember how worn out Chara looked in the Cup Finals last year. He’s not getting any younger. Get the man some rest.

But overall, I’m very confident in this Bruins team moving forward. Besides, it’s been a few months since we’ve had a parade in Boston and I’m itching for another one.

About Tim Wirzburger - @burga17

Tim is a new contributor to Sports of Boston and couldn't be more excited. He'll be posting about the Bruins, Red Sox, and Fantasy Sports. He loves chatting with other fans so comment below or follow him at @Burga17.

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