|Patrice Bergeron beats Ottawa Senators' goalie Craig Anderson for a first period goal. The Bruins won 7-2.|
The players that did show up, well, the Boston Bruins gave them a painful parting gift.
From Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron's Ice Capades exhibition to the Bruins' defensemen holding court along the blue line to Kevan Miller punking anyone who came within the radius of his fists, the Bruins aggressively took the action to the Senators, who wilted under the intense pressure...
...Bergeron scoring twice, backup Goalie Chad Johnson standing on his head and twelve different Bruins marking the scoresheet as the Bruins sent the Senators off on their Olympic break with a good old fashioned 7-2 butt kicking at TD Garden in downtown Boston on Saturday afternoon.
As well as the Bruins are playing, it's a shame to disrupt their momentum, going 7-1-1 since returning from a protracted road trip against Western Conference foes, and have built a season-high nine point lead in the Atlantic Division with closest rivals Tampa Bay and Montreal in a sub-500 funk to close out the pre-Olympics schedule
Playing even better than the white-hot Toronto Maple Leafs and closing the gap on the seemingly invincible Pittsburgh Penguins to five points in the Eastern Conference with 24 games to play when the schedule resumes the last week in February.
The Senators, on the other hand, appeared to relish the thought of the break so much that - well - the Bruins happened to them. Hard.
The rout began midway through the opening frame with a textbook give and go on a floating triangle, Bergeron finding Carl Soderberg with an entry pass on the left wing, then splitting the defensemen down the slot and reaching for the return pass from Soderberg...
....gathering it in with one hand on the twig, pulling it back and getting his other hand on the stick and flipping the puck past starting goalie Craig Anderson, who at that very moment probably realized how the rest of his day was going to go.
His defense abandoning him, Anderson had no chance at stopping the second goal either, Chris Kelly taking a perfect pass from the left wing on the diagonal from defenseman David Warsofsky, potting it top shelf over Anderson's glove for a 2-0 lead that the Bruins took into the room at the first intermission - but not before centerman Zack Smith got up in defenseman Kevan Miller's face...
...his attempt at firing up his teammates backfiring badly, Smith taking a brutal one-sided beating at the hands of the Bruins' newest tough guy from their seeming bottomless well of talented blue liners - Smith heading straight to the room for repairs.
Bergeron put the game out of reach five minutes into the middle frame, completely abusing Ottawa star defenseman Erik Karlsson, freezing him with a shoulder feign while drawing Anderson wide with the same move, displaying some deft stick work to poke the puck into the open net as he slipped past both of them like they were gargoyles.
The Senators' offense was almost as bad, but even when they showed a spark of life, the Bruins' doused their flame quickly.
Bobby Ryan took advantage of a rare Bruins' miscue in the neutral zone, taking a lead pass from Kyle Turris, walking it right into the attacking zone, swooping in from the left wing and firing a shot through Boston netminder Chad Johnson's wickets...
...but just over a minute later the Bruins again took advantage of Ottawa's pillar defense, David Krejci setting up shop parallel with the goal on the left wing and waited for a passing lane, which opened up a few seconds later for Jarome Iginla, who had shivered Karlsson out of the crease and easily tapped the puck past Anderson for 4-1 lead heading into the second break.
The Bruins came out for the final period with their ears pinned back, Milan Lucic chasing Anderson with a nasty snap shot from the high slot - Ottawa coach Paul MacLean conceding defeat and replacing the bewildered netminder with Robin Lehner, who immediately became target fodder, Brad Marchand potting his 19th of the season and Soderberg his ninth as the Bruins set their season high for goals scored.
And, yes - now 17 days until the NHL schedule picks up again, with no organized practices allowed until after the Olympic games have concluded, though five Bruins will have no layoff at all, as Patrice Bergeron will be in Sochi as part of the loaded Canadian team, Goaltender Tuuka Rask between the pipes for the Finns, toothless Loui Eriksson skating for the Swedes and David Krejci joining up with the Czech Republic team while captain Zdeno Chara leads the Slovakian contingent...
...for everyone else, it's see-you-in Buffalo to start the home stretch run on February 26th against the Sabres.