Before Monday night, the last time the Boston Bruins had lost a game was March 1. The best team in the East was on a 12-game winning streak until Montreal snapped it in a hard-fought 2-1 win that was decided in the skills competition, dulling the senses of hockey fans everywhere.
Seeing a mammoth streak like that end is bad enough, but to have it come at the hands of a hated historic rival adds salt to the wound.
The Bruins, though, have a 17-point lead in their division and a seven-point lead over Pittsburgh for top spot in the East. They’re very clearly the team to beat in the conference and the winning streak was bound to end at some point anyway. So while the loss burns, it's not really that big of a deal. No one was hurt or suspended.
The Phoenix Coyotes on the other hand – things just got real for them.
The Desert Dogs started the night with a two-point lead for the final playoff spot in the West on the Dallas Stars and on a roll. The only team Phoenix had lost to since March 8 was the Bruins (twice), who of course had been the most unstoppable team in the league.
But by the end of the night, Phoenix’s lead on Dallas was cut in half and their goaltender had left the game with an injury.
Is this a good time to mention Dallas also has a game in hand of Phoenix?
Smith was listed with a lower-body injury, which doesn't tell us as much about what his status will be as does his painful reaction on the ice. The Coyotes have 10 games left on the schedule and need their goalie to pull them through the most pressure-packed portion. Minor? Major? Phoenix's season could hinge on the seriousness of Smith's condition.
If the Coyotes do have to turn to their backup for the playoff push, Thomas Greiss isn’t the worst option, though his numbers have been trending in the wrong direction. He has a .924 save percentage and 2.38 GAA, both of which are better than Smith. Those numbers were accomplished over a much lighter workload, though, and most of Greiss’ best action came early in the year. Over his past five appearances – which dates back to Jan. 11 – Greiss has allowed 13 goals, including two on nine shots Monday night. Having to go with Greiss would be an uncertain turn that could lead to a similar nightmare the Toronto Maple Leafs are currently experiencing.
The Coyotes did manage to get a point in their 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Rangers, which opened a three-game road trip that will take the Coyotes to Pittsburgh and New Jersey. Dallas won their game against Winnipeg 2-1, pulling them to within one point of Phoenix for the final playoff spot.
Phoenix’s last game of the season will come against Dallas, but they’d prefer to have a playoff spot locked up by then.
They’d also prefer to have a healthy Mike Smith.