B's have good start to achieving pre-Olympic goals

B's have good start to achieving pre-Olympic goals
January 21, 2014, 1:45 am
Share This Post

BOSTON – The Boston Bruins will have a full day off on Tuesday that was well-deserved after a hectic, challenging 30 hours of hockey, travel and earned success.

Any back-to-back game situations in the NHL regular season are perilous even before travel is added, and then elite Western Conference competition in the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings must be factored in as well.

The Bruins concluded a convincing, impressive two days of high level hockey with a 3-2 win over the LA Kings at TD Garden on Monday afternoon, and finished off a five day stretch where they took five-of-six points against the Stars, Blackhawks and Kings.

It was easily their best stretch in more than a month.

“We’re very happy. [It was] two very good teams and back-to-back situation with travel,” said Brad Marchand, who set things off and running when he fooled LA’s three best players (Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Quick) for the game’s first goal. “This game was definitely a tough one to be ready for, but we got to be happy, we played a great game yesterday, played a great game in Dallas, and again tonight so hopefully we continue to play the same way.

Color the Bruins coach just as impressed as everybody else, and Claude Julien can be a difficult one to please given his fair and considerable demands.

But the Bruins did some really good things. Brad Marchand is in a stretch where he’s accounted for 50 percent of the Bruins offense in the last four games with six of the team’s 12 goals. The Bruins clamped down and held the Kings to four shots in the second period while protecting a lead – a nice performance in a troublesome area for the Black and Gold this season.

The Bruins power play also looked back to normal with Torey Krug scoring with his big shot, and Zdeno Chara installed back down low in front of the net with Zach Trotman able to handle point duties on the second PP unit.

There was also some mandatory Bruins snarl to go along with the skill: Milan Lucic went straight after Kings big boy Jordan Nolan after he crunched Torey Krug in the corner during the first period, and rookie Kevan Miller trucked Dustin Brown with a couple of big hits that knocked the Kings captain clear off his skates.

Zdeno Chara averaged almost 27 minutes a game in the two big tilts against the Blackhawks and Kings, and picked a very good to play some of his best shutdown hockey of the season.

It was a heavy game between the Bruins and Kings, but also a weighty stretch of the schedule against the West that saw the Black and Gold find their range.

“I’ve got to be honest here. I was pretty impressed with our team, and the way we’ve handled these last three games, actually,” said Claude Julien. “I thought we had a good start in Dallas with that win, and then yesterday was one of those great games you as a fan like to see.

"[We] wish we could’ve had that extra point, but to come out here today and play an afternoon game against a team that’s a real good team—one of the elite teams in the league—and obviously waiting for us here. I thought we did a good job of coming out. In the first period we had a good start. I thought that was important for our team to come out there, and let them know we’re ready to play.”

Part of the reason the Bruins were ready to play?

Prior to the B’s road trip through Dallas and Chicago, Julien laid things out to the Bruins players in pretty simple terms: the team had 10 remaining games prior to the Olympic break in early February, and Boston’s bench boss wanted his team to find their game and retain their place atop the Atlantic Division.

Through the first three games of that mission, the Bruins appear to have taken that message to heart.

“What we had talked about before the Dallas game is that we had 10 games left, and we needed to finish on a strong note here for all the right reasons. We want to stay where we are right now. We want to feel good about ourselves leading into that break,” said Julien. “I think it’s always better when you can take a break feeling good about yourself versus the other way around.

“Those were the goals. So far in these first three games, we’ve done a good job. But there’s seven more [games] to go here and that’s the goal. We haven’t set points or anything like that more than about [improving] our team game. I always tell the guys, if we worry about our team game and how well we play, the wins normally follow.”

The challenge will continue for the Bruins in the remaining seven games with dates against hated foes from Montreal and Vancouver mixed in there, and a couple of possible games Boston will need to play without the services of Zdeno Chara. The idea of Matt Bartkowski-Johnny Boychuk as a shutdown defenseman pair against the St. Louis on Feb. 6 could be problematic given the high level of the last meeting between the Bruins and the Blues.

But the B’s have noticeably elevated their game over the last week after a short depression following the news about Seidenberg, and appear well prepared for the challenges ahead in the next three weeks. The B’s 11-4-3 record against the Western Conference and 7-3-0 record against the Pacific Division speaks for itself.

It should be a resounding message to the rest of the league that’s it still really difficult to beat the Bruins unless they’re busy beating themselves, and that’s not an option for them right now.