BOSTON -- Certain players and teams lost aspects of their game during the lockout. The Boston Bruins are no exception to that.
But now with a 2-0 start to the shortened season, the Bruins still have one thing they know they never lost: their identity.
For a refresher course, prior to the lockout, the Bruins were a strong defensive team, committed to keeping the shots to the outside, allowing their goaltender to see those shots cleanly. And with that solid defense came offensive opportunities.
Through two games, the Bruins still play with that identity. And that defense-first style has translated into a penalty kill unit that's aggressive and instinctive, quick to prevent the opposition's power play to set up shop and get the shots or passes through the slot that they yearn.
Forget about the power play. If you can keep the other team from scoring on their man-advantages, and carry that defensive identity into even-strength play, you can win in this league. Just ask the core group of this Bruins team who hoisted the Stanley Cup back in 2011.
That said, the Bruins don't get a banner raised for opening this season 2-0. But they are showing that they're in a good place, especially if their penalty-kill unit plays like it did on Monday afternoon, in a 2-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets.
"That's what made the difference today," said Bruins coach Claude Julien after the win. "And I thought our penalty kill has been good the first two games. A 5-on-3 last game against the Rangers, and then two 4-on-3's today. Especially in overtime, it was a tough call on Zdeno Chara, obviously, and to have to kill that to finish the game, our guys did a great job, the two D's that were out there, but also Patrice Bergeron and Chris Kelly were switching over up front. They were breaking up a lot of plays once they got over the blue. So, again, that's probably a good reason why we're sitting here today with a win."
The Bruins killed off all four Jets power plays, with two coming at crucial points in the game.
Johnny Boychuk was called for high-sticking with 1:11 left to play in regulation with the game tied at 1-1. That resulted in the Bruins having to be down 4-on-3 for the first 49 seconds in overtime (the overtime period is 4-on-4 at even strength).
The B's killed that off, but then Zdeno Chara was called for a holding penalty with 1:28 left in overtime. It was a questionable call for sure, as Chara chased Blake Wheeler down the right side of the ice. Wheeler attempted to cut hard inside to the net with the puck, and Chara put a body on him. Wheeler tripped and went flying into the net, and the refs gave the Jets a 4-on-3 power play for the rest of the game.
But the Bruins also killed that one off, and then won the game in a shootout.
"It's important that we do the job on the PK, especially in overtime like that," said Patrice Bergeron. "It happened twice, and we found a way. So give credit to everyone that was on the ice, but also Tuukka Rask. He made some great saves for us."
The Bruins also referenced the chewed up ice at the end of the game, as being a reason for the penalty-kill success in overtime. But through the first two games, it's clear that their success stems from more than just a slower surface.
"I think we were pretty aggressive right away, right off the bat," said Bergeron. "We didn't give them time to set up, and I don't think they got the plays they wanted because we were so aggressive.
"I think we all know where to be. We communicate a lot on the ice. Also, coach does a great job to make it more, I guess, black and white. Then it's about instincts and just making sure you do the right plays."
It's their identity.