Bruins play extra stingy over last two games

Bruins play extra stingy over last two games
December 1, 2013, 7:15 pm
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(AP Photo)

One thing the Bruins and coach Claude Julien had to be happy about seeing was the return of a stingy B’s unit over the last couple of games.

The Bruins held both the New York Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets to under 20 shots on goal in back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday, the first time they’ve done that in consecutive games since back in April 2002. Bruins fans might remember those as the last two games (Games 5 and 6) in a first round playoff defeat at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens when Jose Theodore stole a pair of games for the Habs by stopping 87-of-89 pucks while outplaying Lord Byron Dafoe.

The 14 shots allowed to the offensively bereft Blue Jackets in Saturday night’s 3-1 win was a season-low for opponent’s shots on net, and had a couple of different things at work making it happen.

One was the clear and nearly perfect attention to detail defensively against opponents that reside in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season. Combine that with the NHL’s top defensive unit allowing 2.0 goals per game, and the shot totals make plenty of sense.

But it’s also about a group of Bruins players that have been playing the puck possession game: getting pucks in deep, avoiding turnovers at the blue line and playing the cycle game in the offensive zone while pounding the other team’s defensemen corps.

The zone time statistic is all the rage, and the Bruins hold it in their favor in a big, big way.

“The fact that we’re moving the puck up the ice quickly, we’re playing more of a north, south kind of game where we’re putting it in deep and putting it in areas where we’re able to recover it and managing the puck in the offensive zone means you spend more time there,” explained Claude Julien. “We just try and – we’ve done a pretty good job of minimizing our time in our own end and spending more time obviously in the other end. Our guys were on the puck and that’s part of working together, and moving the puck around and managing it.”

The Bruins can sometimes give up bigger shot totals to opponents that are also misleading with all of the attempts coming from the perimeter with Tuukka Rask getting a clean look at them. But that wasn’t the case against New York or Columbus, and Patrice Bergeron says that’s the Bruins at the top of their two-way system of hockey.

“That’s our system – every time we do play to that system and we take care of it, take care of the puck, it seems like we don’t give up too many shots. Or if we do, it’s going to be from the outside,” said Bergeron. “So we obviously have to keep doing that.

“I think there’s some instances where we have to, I guess, get better and a little sharper, but obviously I think the last two games have been really good.”

The error-free games at both ends of the ice against both New York and Columbus in a back-to-back setting are clearly impressive on their own merits, but take on a different meaning coming off the heels of the dreadful loss to Detroit.

It sends a message to the rest of the NHL that they don’t stand much of a shot when the Eastern Conference’s top dog decides it’s time to get down to business.