Bruins finding identity in early-season winning streak

Bruins finding identity in early-season winning streak
October 25, 2013, 10:15 am
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The Bruins might not have started the season firing on all cylinders as they incorporated some new pieces into their lineup, but it appears things are now coming together for the Black and Gold amid a four game winning streak. The victories are coming in different ways as well.

Tuukka Rask stole Thursday night’s 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks in a game where they were outshot 38-17 by their rested Western Conference counterparts, but there have been all manner of victories over the last two weeks. They defeated an inspired Tim Thomas in Florida during his first game against his old team, and then lit up the hottest goalie in the league at the time in Tampa Bay netminder Ben Bishop.

Then came a gritty, solid victory against the Buffalo Sabres where the Bruins put up five goals and put down a disorganized, unruly Buffalo group that seems destined for major organizational changes in the near future.

There’s nothing more telling than a character test early in the season where Milan Lucic gets his face ripped open by a puck that requires five stitches to close, and then scored a determined, focused goal on his first shift of the following period. That’s the kind of fearless, defiant response that sets a tone in the B’s dressing room, and helps them find their way when they lose a key contributor like Loui Eriksson for an undetermined amount of time.  

Jarome Iginla has finally scored his first goal as a member of the Bruins, and Brad Marchand was finally reunited on a line with Patrice Bergeron Thursday night when the Eriksson concussion opened up a spot for him.

One of the keys that B’s coach Claude Julien sees is that every player has now shifted into their midseason gear.

“I think what I like is that everybody seems to be playing fairly well. The guys that have struggled a little bit are starting to find their game, and are getting better every time they step out on the ice,” said Julien. “So that’s encouraging . . . it kind of gives you the indication where your team is heading, and that’s why I think we’re getting better. Guys are getting better, the guys that had slow starts and they’re catching up to everybody else.”

The Bruins have also caught up in the standings, and the Black and Gold now sit atop the new Atlantic Division with 14 points in nine games played along with an Eastern Conference-leading plus-14 goal differential. Some of that is clearly Tuukka Rask with his ridiculous 1.26 goals against average and .957 save percentage in his first eight games of the season.

“That’s why he gets paid the big bucks, right?” said Lucic. “I think he’s been great all year, and you could definitely say he’s been the team’s MVP up until this point in the season.”

That great stretch of goaltending allowed the Bruins to find themselves a bit as a team, and that’s where they are now while readying for their third game in four nights on Saturday against the New Jersey Devils. It will also be the return of Michael Ryder and Jaromir Jagr to TD Garden for a visit, and perhaps a midnight skate on the Boston sheet for the Czech living legend just for old time’s sake.

It will be another test for the Bruins, but they’re now starting to find their identity while other teams like the Sharks and the Colorado Avalanche get more of the early season hype that will have faded away by the time May and June roll around on the hockey calendar.

“Early on in the season we’re learning how to win games in different ways,” said Krejci. “[The San Jose] game was a tough one, but we found a way to get it done. Right now it’s good to be on a team that’s winning hockey games, and hopefully we can keep it going.”

Don’t look now, but the Bruins are one of the hottest teams in the NHL riding a four-game winning streak while getting all those new pieces to fit right into their winning way of doing things.