Bruins-Red Wings Preview: Playoff Spot On Line In Atlantic Division Showdown

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It’s officially arrived: the most important game of the Boston Bruins’ season.

The Bruins will host the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night at TD Garden. If the Red Wings win in any fashion, Detroit would clinch the Atlantic Division’s third and final playoff spot, leaving the Bruins to pray for a full-blown Philadelphia Flyers collapse.

The latter still is possible. If the Flyers, who were shut out by the Red Wings on Wednesday, lose each of their final three games in regulation, the Bruins would be playoff-bound regardless of how they fare against the Wings on Thursday and Ottawa Senators on Sunday. There also are a few other scenarios in which Boston could bypass Philly and earn a first-round date with the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals.

So, Thursday’s game is not technically a “must-win” for the B’s. They can’t be mathematically eliminated regardless of the outcome, nor can they clinch any sort of playoff berth. But if they’re unable to knock off the Red Wings — losing their ninth game in 11 tries in the process — they can pretty much kiss any hopes of postseason hockey goodbye.

There’s no reason the slumping Bruins can’t beat the Atlantic’s newest member, though. Thursday’s game is Detroit’s second in as many nights, and Boston won two of the teams’ first three meetings this season and lost the third by a single goal.

Here’s a look at how the B’s fared in each of those three matchups:

Nov. 14 at TD Garden: Bruins 3, Red Wings 1
The Bruins scored three times in the second period and got points from nine different players in this one. B’s goalie Tuukka Rask also was perfect save for a third-period power-play goal by Justin Abdelkader, stopping the other 22 shots he faced.

Boston dropped the following game to the San Jose Sharks, then went on to earn at least a point in 14 of its next 15 contests.

Nov. 25 at Joe Louis Arena: Bruins 3, Red Wings 2 (OT)
The Bruins’ young guns led the way on Thanksgiving eve. Rookie Frank Vatrano and Colin Miller each tallied a goal and an assist, with Vatrano tipping in a Miller shot for the overtime game-winner.

The B’s also received strong netminding from ex-Wing Jonas Gustavsson, who recorded his third-highest save total of the season (32) in the win.

Feb. 14 at Joe Louis Arena: Red Wings 6, Bruins 5
This might have been the craziest game the Bruins have played all season.

Brad Marchand opened the scoring just eight seconds after puck drop, and by the time 13 minutes had elapsed in the first period, Boston already led 3-1.

Detroit scored the next four goals, however, and although the B’s responded with tallies from Dennis Seidenberg and the since-demoted Joonas Kemppainen, one by Danny DeKeyser with 12:23 to play proved to be the game-winner for the Wings.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p24HM3b8IL4

Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images

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