Bruins start key stretch with gritty win over Ducks

Bruins start key stretch with gritty win over Ducks
November 1, 2013, 11:00 am
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BOSTON - It wasn’t anything close to a beautiful win, but it was exactly what the Bruins needed to cut short a two-game losing streak.

The conditions were far from perfect, but those are the tests that separate average teams from the hockey clubs that will still be standing at the end. That’s exactly what the B’s have been over the last three years, and that’s what they want to continue to be this season and beyond.

It certainly didn’t start beautifully as it took more than 18 minutes into the first period for the Bruins to finally generate their first shot on goal of the game. That registered as the B’s most ineffectual period of hockey in over five years dating back to a one-shot third period in a Jan. 5, 2008 win over the New Jersey Devils. Some of that can be excused as the second half of a back-to-back following a tough road tilt against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night, and some of it is simply a hockey team that’s still not firing on every cylinder.

“It’s something we definitely have to improve, our starts. It seems like maybe when we get behind then we start feeling the urgency to start playing with more energy and more pressure,” said Zdeno Chara. “But we just have to have better starts. We can't be waiting the whole time to fall behind and then start chasing those goals. That’s an area we have to improve for sure.”

But credit for the Bruins for getting grittier in the second and third periods, as well as overtime in the 3-2 shootout win, against an Anaheim Ducks team that wasn’t exactly lighting the world on fire either on Thursday night. So many things that didn’t happen against the Penguins did start to take place against the Ducks: the B’s got tougher on the boards, they shut down Anaheim’s best offensive players and the B’s third line turned into a play-producing asset rather than a liability.

There was perhaps no greater embodiment of the transformation than Carl Soderberg, who went from bonehead defensive turnover leading to a Ducks goal in the first period to a partial breakaway score in the second period before raising his head and arms to the rafters in goal-scoring exultation.

“Good teams find a way to get wins, and it’s important for us," said Torey Krug, who created the game-tying goal in the third period when he saved a puck from getting cleared out of the zone during a last-gasp power play. "We didn’t have the greatest game, but at the end of the day we have two points. We get to move on from here. We’re not going to accomplish everything at once; it’s a process.

“We go game-by-game, and what you’re trying to do is just put a complete 60-minute effort together, 20 minutes at a time. You’re able to go from one period to the next and that’s what we’re trying to do. It wasn’t pretty tonight but we got the job done.”

While the 8-4-0 record isn’t groundbreaking stuff for the Black and Gold one month into the season, there’s also something to be said for it given the teams Boston has played thus far. But nine of their 12 games have been against teams that are in playoff position at this point of the season, and they faced the three best Western Conference teams in Colorado, San Jose and Anaheim while getting four out of six points in those tilts.

That meant Claude Julien wasn’t ready to go off the deep end with his hockey club after seeing clear and marked improvement in the gritty shootout win over the Ducks when his team was clearly on fumes caused by back-to-back games.

“I think the expectations are high for our hockey club. So when we don’t come out well, we’re going to get criticized and all that stuff. I’m not saying it’s not justified; we need to come out better. But I think at the same time, we’re really hard on ourselves to start with,” said Julien. “Obviously from the outside, the expectations are high. So I’m just looking at the whole scenario of we come back from a back-to-back game.

“I thought from maybe the midway point of the first period, we seemed to get our legs going again. I don’t think we were a bad team in the second. I don’t think we were a bad team in the third. So I’m going to be careful here on how much I want to criticize our hockey club. At the end of the day, like I said, give them credit for how they gutted it out [for a win].”

Zdeno Chara played a season-high 29:45 while pulling extra duty once Johnny Boychuk went down, but still had enough in the tank to shovel in the game-tying power play goal with 2:50 left in the third period. Torey Krug and David Krejci pulled out plays to set up that Chara goal after soldiering through less-than-stellar performances prior to that final special teams’ possession.

Formerly struggling players like Carl Soderberg and Brad Marchand seemed to turn their games around, and find solutions while on search for their games.

“It’s something when you go through stretches when you’re not playing at your best hockey, and those [bad] things happen,” said Tuukka Rask. “You just have to battle through, and try to score some goals.”

The B’s did just enough of that capped off by Jarome Iginla’s sniper shot to the glove-side top shelf for the shootout winner in Boston.

Now, the Bruins move on to the month of November where they need to solidify their playoff position by Thanksgiving. There’s a chance to set themselves up for the rest of a hockey season with justifiably lofty expectations.

That means grimier, grittier wins they don’t necessarily deserve like the two points they pulled out against the Ducks after the mother of all pungently bad first periods.