4 things we learned in the NHL: B’s proving they can bottle Lightning

Tuukka Rask made 23 saves as the Boston Bruins beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-0

There were shutouts around every corner, some clashes between top contenders, and plenty a highlight-reel play to keep the NHL faithful satisfied.

That said, here are a few things we learned around the league on Saturday night.

Bruins proving they’re Lightning’s biggest Eastern threat

The Eastern Conference isn’t going to be a cake walk for anyone, but it’s pretty clear who the top dog is at the moment. While last year’s champs are surging and a number of other clubs are climbing the ladder, the Tampa Bay Lightning have sat on the throne since Day 1. And with the most potent offensive duo in the game in their midst, the Lightning still look pretty immovable.

But Saturday night in Tampa Bay, the Boston Bruins made clear why they’re the Lightning’s toughest test in the east, a puzzle that will have to be solved sooner rather than later if Steven Stamkos‘ club wants a crack at the Stanley Cup this summer.

The Bruins topped the Lightning 3-0 on Saturday, becoming the only team to shut out the offensively dominant Bolts this season. While Andrei Vasilevskiy was solid in the cage, Boston’s win came by committee, as the club limited Tampa Bay’s scorers to just 23 shots on the night. Prior to their meeting, Tampa Bay had posted 23 or fewer shots just six times through their 71 games this season.

One of those sub-23-shot nights came on Nov. 29 — the Bolts’ only other game against Boston this season. The Bruins held them to 21 shots on net, and walked away with a 3-2 victory. But that’s not even the most interesting part of this whole equation.

Saturday’s shutout loss also marked the first time Tampa Bay was blanked since April 4 of last season. The opponent that night?

The Boston Bruins.

Make no mistake, Tampa has a Bruins problem. And if they can’t get it figured out in either of their next two meetings with the B’s this season, Boston is as good as the Eastern Conference favourite heading into the playoffs.

Kreider’s hitting another level on rebuilding Rangers

The New York Rangers have found themselves in an odd position since declaring themselves a rebuilding club and selling off their top stars.

While the likes of Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh now ply their trade with other clubs — the two teams mentioned above, in fact — the Rangers haven’t wilted, earning points in seven of nine games following the Feb. 26 trade deadline.

And what of this? After averaging 0.56 points per game through the first 39 games of the season (posting 22 points in that span), Kreider has averaged 1.11 points per game in the nine games since the trade deadline, posting 10 points in those tilts.

The bulk of those recent points came against the rival Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday, when Kreider took his club on his back and threw down a four-point outing, factoring in on every Rangers goal as they won 4-3. Saturday night, he nearly did it again.

New York was bested in overtime this time around, but Kreider finished the evening with another multi-point affair, including this madness:

The Vancouver Canucks still know how to score goals

After what seemed like an eternity without a single puck in a single opposing cage, the Vancouver Canucks proved they still have plenty of offensive firepower in the lineup on Saturday night.

Nikolay Goldobin scored 10 minutes into Vancouver’s tilt with the San Jose Sharks, finally ending the team’s three-game goalless streak after 118 Canucks shots failed to do the job.

Vancouver firmly put the drought in the rear-view in the second period, however, when Bo Horvat and Alexander Edler added two more goals to the pile, proving the team does indeed still have some offensive juice without The Brock Boes Monster in the lineup.

Those three goals in two periods equalled the total posted by the Canucks over the previous 15 periods of hockey, however. So it’s safe to say the club’s draft lottery chances are still looking decent heading into the season’s home stretch.

Ottawa’s Jim O’Brien is an NHLer once again

It’s been a long, winding road for Ottawa Senators centreman Jim O’Brien.

Drafted 29th overall by the Senators back in 2007 — just a few picks after David Perron, a handful before P.K. Subban — O’Brien went on a tumultuous journey that took him from the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds to the AHL’s Binghampton Senators, up to the NHL level, back to Binghampton, over to the KHL’s Novokuznetsk Metallurg, back to the AHL to suit up for the Hershey Bears, then the Albany Devils, then the NHL-level Devils, then back to the AHL for the San Antonio Rampage, then the Belleville Senators and then, finally, the 2017-18 Ottawa Senators.

Still following?

Now back with the big club, O’Brien registered a point on Saturday night, assisting on Ottawa’s lone goal during their 2-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

While it might not have been enough to get the Senators in the win column, there’s a fair chance O’Brien was happy to take it either way.

That point was the first at the NHL level for the 29-year-old O’Brien in five years. And it came almost to the day, as his last point was registered on March 16, 2013 — an assist on a Chris Phillips goal in a Senators win over the Buffalo Sabres.

Here’s to sticking with it.

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