It’s safe to say the Bruins are finally finding their way for the first time this season.
The 3-0 whitewashing of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday afternoon gave the Black and Gold three wins in a row and pushed them into second place in the Atlantic Division just behind a Tampa team they’ve dominated all season. Tuukka Rask was excellent as he’s been all season, while Torey Krug and the David Krejci/Milan Lucic/Jarome Iginla kicked in their usual offensive contributions in victory.
Sure the Bruins have neutralized the Lightning while outscoring them by an aggregate 11-1 total this season, but Monday’s matinee win was more about the B’s finally finding their way after an early-November crisis. It was about the Bruins taking full advantage of their longest home stand of the season, making unmistakable statements by beating divisional opponents in the Panthers, Maple Leafs and Bolts.
Now Claude Julien’s crew is riding a three-game winning streak with only the struggling Blue Jackets standing in the way of nine out of a possible ten points over the five-game home stretch.
“I think our team is playing better all the time, I thought we looked a little bit more like the team we want to be [on Monday]. We played a pretty good team and I thought our guys handled themselves well,” said Julien. “Our team had been going through a bit of a slump here. We didn’t play with the energy, and the cohesion, that you need to play well.
“Through a schedule like ours in hockey with 82 games, you get those [stretches]. We had been trying to fight our way out of it. I think right now we’re finding our game slowly but surely.”
While Boston's cohesion and energy has clearly been raised, it also seems that individual slow starters are beginning to find their way after an erratic first month out of the starting gate.
Gregory Campbell registered his first point of the season in springing Daniel Paille for an energy goal from the fourth line in Monday’s tipping point during the second period, and that line had one of its best games in recent memory.
Patrice Bergeron, Loui Eriksson and Brad Marchand clawed for Boston’s first goal of the game in the first period on a play kick-started by Marchand skating full speed into the offensive zone.
The Nose Face Killah had his best game of the season while creating a handful of scoring chances for himself and others, even if he didn’t end up with a point at the end of the victory. The dogged, aggressive attacks on the net and the creative playmaking with the puck were altogether missing from Marchand’s game in the first month of the season, but they returned and showed just important they are to Boston’s team success.
On the other side of the ice, Dougie Hamilton did a nice job pairing with Zdeno Chara to shut down Tampa Bay’s top offensive players in another good step of development for the 20-year-old defenseman.
It won’t be like this every game for the Bruins, but wins like Monday afternoon remind the B’s dressing room full of players just how good they can be when their vast potential is achieved.
“I thought we had a lot of drive, a lot of energy. We were skating well and moving the puck really well,” said Chara. “We got into a little trouble in the second, but for the most part I thought we had a really strong 60-minute game. Even if it was zero-zero after the first twenty, we stood better than them.
“Eventually we got nice goals, kind of like that second effort goal by Patrice and then great effort by Danny [Paille] to skate out D-men and take the puck to the net. It was really nice scoring those goals and giving us some life, and really continuing to just play the same way. We never changed, really, our game plan or the way we played. We played pretty much the same way the whole game [against Tampa].”
When the Bruins execute their game plan and each player carries out their assigned task against a specific opponent, beating the Black and Gold is a lot easier said than done. Florida, Toronto and Tampa Bay found that out over the course of the last week.