Boston Bruins hockey is about depth, toughness and being hard to play against, and it always has been since general manager Peter Chiarelli began constructing the team six years ago.
But it’s also about unbreakable team defense that never beats itself, and instead relies on counterattacking when an opponent finally runs out of patience and makes a mistake. The defense in front of the net and in the neutral zone has been inconsistent through the first half of the 2013 season, and it was noticeably poor in third period collapses turned losses to the Canadiens and Capitals over the last week.
So it was encouraging to see the Bruins learn from their lessons after blowing a three goal lead to Washington on the road earlier this week, and this time they turned up the defensive heat after a three-goal outburst in the first period. The Bruins managed to shut down a talented Flyers bunch and take a 3-0 shutout victory over Philadelphia at TD Garden.
“The two games we lost, we gave up quite a few goals compared to what we’re usually doing. We were up 3-0 right before [against Washington], so we obviously learned our lesson the two times that we were up 3-0 [and lost],” said Johnny Boychuk. “So to be up 3-0 and clamp down defensively and not give them anything is extremely good, especially because their power play is one of the top power plays in the league.”
Tuukka Rask called it the team’s best defensive performance of the season thus far, and it was hard to argue when the Bruins really locked the sleeper hold on in the second period and limited the Flyers to seven shots on net. There was no “getting cocky” or “losing focus” like in the second period against the Capitals when they allowed a pair of goals, and gave Washington hope of victory.
This time the Bruins just kept getting the puck out of their zone quickly, burying it deep into Philadelphia’s end of the ice and then squeezed Philly’s life out with their fore-check. It’s quite a defensive accomplishment to keep Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek without a shot on net, but the stalwart B’s defense did just that through 60 minutes of textbook team defense.
“Our guys stuck to the game plan. We looked more like the team that had those leads in the past. We had a little glitch there for a couple of games, we’re hoping to turn the page on that,” said Claude Julien. “But I don’t know if I can say back on track until I see it on a consistent basis.
“Today was probably the first day that I felt much better about our game without the puck in our defensive zone. We didn’t give much. They didn’t have a ton of scoring chances. Obviously we’ve got two tough games—Ottawa, who’s playing extremely well, still, and Pittsburgh on the road. We’ll need that kind of [defensive] game to win those.”
If Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and the rest of the Bruins play the same kind of suffocating defense as they did on Saturday afternoon, then the Senators and the Penguins have their work cut out for them next week.