Haggerty: Bruins did what they had to do at home

Haggerty: Bruins did what they had to do at home
November 15, 2013, 10:30 am
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It’s amazing what a couple of weeks can do for a hockey club struggling to find their identity.

The Bruins opened a five-game homestand as an uninspired bunch of guys playing like individuals while facing a reunion week of Tyler Seguin, Tim Thomas and Phil Kessel coming back to Boston looking for sweet revenge. They were on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture with the important Thanksgiving date looming just a few weeks away.

Now the Black and Gold are riding a four game winning streak after taking nine of a possible 10 points in the season’s longest homestand, and they sit second in the Atlantic Division with an Eastern Conference-leading plus-19 goal differential on the season. In other words, they look much more like the Bruins team that everybody has come to expect.

“I think when you look at the record, it’s what you wanted; to have a good homestand, and we did. Nine out of 10 points is something certainly to be happy with,” said Claude Julien. “Now we have to bring our game on the road and we have three tough road games coming up. So hopefully tomorrow’s a good start to it.

“It’s one of those things . . . there were breakdowns. I’m not standing here saying I’m happy, but the guys worked hard. At the end of the night, we won a game. We had more scoring chances than them. We weren’t perfect, we aren’t a perfect team; but we are a good team.”

Clearly there were breakdowns. Both Dougie Hamilton and Zdeno Chara vacated the front of the net in the first period to leave things wide open for Blake Comeau’s goal in a clear defensive mistake. Chad Johnson left a fat, juicy rebound in the slot for Nick Foligno’s game-tying goal in the second period, and the Bruins needed a series of big saves from their backup goaltender in the third period to preserve the victory.

But the good trends also continued for the Black and Gold.

Loui Eriksson scored to give the Swedish forward a four-game point scoring streak as he settles into the Boston while the shooting star he was traded for potted four goals Thursday night for Dallas. The Merlot Line kicked in a goal for the second straight game, and is now back to expending the kind of contagious energy levels that the rest of the Bruins team needs to keep their forward lines rolling.

Milan Lucic snagged his team-leading eighth goal of the season that puts him on par with this season’s offensive production for guys named Jason Spezza, Martin St. Louis, Logan Couture and John Tavares. It was the bruising left winger’s first career overtime goal in a season that’s quickly becoming special for a Boston power forward that has high hopes to make Team Canada for the Winter Olympics.

Though it was a Columbus team that has lost five straight road games and hasn’t beaten the Bruins since 2010, it was still a gritty, hard-hitting game that saw David Krejci knocked out of the proceedings for much of the first period after Brandon Dubinsky smashed his head into the boards. The Bruins found a way to win a game they most definitely should have, and that’s the mark of a hockey club headed in the proper direction.

“We found our way again tonight. It was a pretty hard fought game both ways. I think Looch [Milan Lucic] did a great job for us at the end, and got us the W,” said Shawn Thornton. “I think that’s obviously the most important thing. So, hopefully we continue that momentum into tomorrow.”

The hero of the day, Lucic, scraped for his first career overtime goal after speaking openly about his disdain for the shootout this week, and put his performance where his mouth was. In the Boston power forward’s mind, it was about everybody on the Boston roster getting back to playing their specific roles on the team.

“I think we just got back to supporting one another and moving the puck better, and our transition game has been better. We’re coming up the ice again as a five man unit, and I think when we got into that skid, and that funk, that was the main thing that got away from us.

“We were trying to play too much as individuals instead of a team game, and we’re getting back to that. I think there’s still room for improvement to where we want to be and we have to stay on ourselves, and stay on each other to keep getting better.”

Now that the Bruins have righted the ship at home, it seemed the perfect time to hit the road and see what three other Eastern Conference teams have cooking in their first showdowns of the season. The Ottawa Senators have started to hit their stride after struggling early, and they’ll be looking to make a statement against a Bruins team that’s owned them from seemingly the very beginning of the Claude Julien/Peter Chiarelli era in Boston.

Then it’ll be trips to face the Hurricanes and the Rangers for the first time this season now that the drama of facing so many jilted ex-players has passed into the rear view mirror. Sure, the Bruins will be seeing old friend Benoit Pouliot at Madison Square Garden, but that won’t be quite the same as watching Seguin and Rich Peverley pick corners for game-winning scores in the shootout.

Now it’s about winning games and piling up as many points as possible for the Bruins when they’re a well-rested crew with a slew of home games on the schedule. That’s going to change after they send upwards of 5-6 players to Russia for the Olympics in February, and then get greeted with a 17-game schedule of games in March that will undoubtedly knock the Bruins around.

So taking full advantage of the five-game homestand was a mandatory thing for the Black and Gold, and they did exactly that while capping things off with a gritty, basic overtime win against a hearty Columbus club.