Bruins hoping to build on bright end of road trip

Bruins hoping to build on bright end of road trip
January 13, 2014, 8:00 am
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The Bruins needed a good effort last weekend in San Jose at the end of a forgettable week in California.

More importantly they also required a good result with the Stamkos-less Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens trailing them by three points or less in the Atlantic Division. So it was a joyous reason to exhale when the Bruins pulled off a mistake-free 1-0 win over the Sharks to become the first Eastern Conference team to walk away from the SAP Center with a regulation win this season.

The jury is still out as to how badly the Bruins need a veteran top-4 defenseman in the warrior mold of the injured Dennis Seidenberg, and how much of that was a direct factor in the Bruins allowing nine goals to the Ducks and the Kings. But it certainly didn’t help matters and played into Tuukka Rask’s subpar outings over the last two weeks. Both the beleaguered defense and the frazzled Rask needed to respond with strength and resolve, and help spin the team’s energy in a different direction as they prepare for Tuesday night’s home tilt against the Maple Leafs.

Rask did that with his fifth shutout of the season, and the B’s defense didn’t bend, didn’t break and didn’t many cracks at all in their own zone. The lockdown performance clearly put Claude Julien into his happy place, and was a return to “Bruins Hockey”, as Rask referenced after collecting the big two points against the Sharks.

“I mentioned that it was a team win, and it was from the back end to the front end," Julien said. "[Tuukka Rask] plays well when everybody plays well in front of him. We kind of asked our guys to do their jobs, and to do them well. We had some guys trying to do other people’s jobs because they felt they weren’t doing them well enough, but eventually everybody has to take that responsibility.

“We talked about everybody taking of their own first and foremost, and that’s the name of the game after allowing nine goals in two games.”

With Loui Eriksson and Shawn Thornton back in the lineup, the Bruins essentially have the lineup they’ll feature moving forward minus Chris Kelly.

Now they need to get back to normal, and find out exactly what they’ve got with the trade deadline still distantly in the future on March 5. The Bruins need more than one goal from David Krejci, Jarome Iginla and Milan Lucic during the month of January, and could use a few more players heating up offensively aside from Carl Soderberg (four points in five January games). They need Matt Bartkowski to continue proving his mettle while averaging 20:35 of ice time during the month of January, and sporting a plus-4 that’s tied with Daniel Paille for the best among Bruins players over the last five games.

Bartkowski was literally throwing his body in front of shots aimed at the Boston net in the final minutes of Saturday’s win over the Sharks, and setting the bar for where every player’s compete level needs to remain in the dog days of the season.

The Black and Gold have swallowed their medicine on the road against the Big Three in California, and won’t have to do that again for the rest of the regular season. The Bruins have also handled their share of injuries – and then some – to their player roster, and should be in store for some good health moving forward if the hockey gods have any sense of fairness.

That’s no guarantee, but things can’t get much worse than losing your No. 2 defenseman for the rest of the season with a blown out right knee. There will be plenty of clamoring for an immediate veteran defenseman body from the trade market to bolster their D corps, and some will be willing to pay a hockey king’s ransom for a solid performer like Dan Girardi.

But the problem at this relatively early part of the season is that most teams aren’t yet willing to part with their assets. Only Buffalo and Florida are truly out of a playoff spot in the East where every team in the mediocre Metro Division is still within eight points of a playoff spot. In the West, Calgary and Edmonton are completely out of it with Nashville and Winnipeg also heading quickly toward “wait until next year” mode.

The problem is that none of those teams can really offer the Bruins exactly what they’re looking for in a Girardi, Chris Phillips or Andrew MacDonald kind of player. So they’ll wait until the trade talks loosen up a bit, and continue building on the “Bruins Way” of winning after rediscovering the formula Saturday night in San Jose.

Now it’s about rinsing and repeating for the Bruins first against the Maple Leafs at home, and then against some Western Conference foes with the Dallas Stars (road), Chicago Blackhawks (road) and Los Angeles Kings (home) all standing as formidable challenges as the B’s collect their bearings.

Last weekend in San Jose was a good start, and nobody could quibble with that.

But the only way to build on one promising effort is by moving onward and upward with solid, smart two-way hockey rather than players cheating offensively or moving outside their strengths.

The Bruins saw enough of that while getting outscored 9-4 by Anaheim and Los Angeles starting around this time last week.