Haggerty: Bruins middle class leads the way in win

Haggerty: Bruins middle class leads the way in win
March 22, 2013, 10:30 am
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KANATA, ON --  It’s a good thing the foot soldiers all showed up for work in Ottawa Thursday night for a Bruins team that badly needed a win.

While Boston’s big guns floundered and fumbled their way to another ineffective group performance, Dennis Seidenberg, Daniel Paille and Anton Khudobin made all the key plays the Bruins would require in a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over the Senators at Scotiabank Place.

For the record that's a meat-and-potatoes defenseman, a fourth-line winger and the backup goaltender all serving as difference-makers for a Bruins hockey club that wasn’t close to satisfied with their performance after the dramatic third-period victory. One struck for the game-winning goal that somehow found a path through traffic in front of the net and through Robin Lehner’s pads, one potted the game-tying score in the last two minutes of the second period with the Bruins searching for offensive inspiration, and one made big and small among his 27 saves that kept Boston in the game when they were largely being outplayed by a quicker, hungrier opponent in the game’s first 40 minutes.

In essence, it was the Bruins' middle class of players that saved the day for many teammates that have been riding far too much on reputation this season.

“Today was a struggle for all of us,” admitted Seidenberg, who scored his first goal of the season with 1:04 remaining in the third period to guarantee victory for Boston. “It seemed like we didn't really skate that well, but at the end it was [about us winning] two points."

Like many games this season for the Black and Gold, it wasn’t close to their best, but they still ended up with a win in the end. Perhaps the end result shouldn’t have been so surprising given that it was also Boston’s eleventh straight win over a star-crossed Senators club at Scotiabank Place.

But things didn’t look very good for Boston after the first 38 minutes of hockey on Thursday. Ottawa had a slim one-goal lead after shootout prodigy Kaspars Daugavins beat Anton Khudobin in the second period, and the pesky Sens were doing an admirable job keeping Boston shooters outside to the perimeter.

But part of that situation was caused by Boston’s group of players simply not firing on all cylinders – a fact they’re all too aware of after dropping the first two games of their current road trip before Thursday’s victory.

“This was a gritty win. You're going to have those games where you're not as sharp,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “We haven’t played great hockey lately, and we have to play through it. We had some guys that had to battle through it and we knew it was going to be pretty.

“But by battling through it we kind of got close to where we need to be playing in the third period, and we have to build on it. I think the will, the desire and the effort and all that stuff is there. But I think when the confidence is lacking a little you don’t see the execution you might at other times.

Julien issued something of a pregame wakeup call to all his players when he opted to sit underperforming forward Rich Peverley as a healthy scratch. It should have been a message heeded by other underperforming Bruins players, but judging by the game played in Ottawa it seems that many of them didn’t quite interpret the message.

How else to explain that the fourth line of Paille, Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell had more shots on net (14) than the other three forward lines combined? Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton were non-factors through the entire 60 minute affair, and the Bruins’ third line doesn’t seem to even exist anymore.

There was none of the board-rattling intimidation that took place in Boston’s dominant win over the Washington Capitals last weekend at home. Instead there were countless odd-man rushes surrendered by the Bruins defense that usually spells doom for the Black and Gold.

It was far too easy for the Senators to enter the offensive zone with speed because the Bruins weren’t putting up any fight in the neutral zone. That allowed the Sens to generate offensive chances right around the Boston net, and that’s not Boston’s defensive game plan.

It’s among a number of things the Bruins still need to fully address by the time the four-game road trip is over this weekend in Toronto.

Do the Bruins believe they still have work to do?

“Definitely. We made some mistakes and obviously created some chances against,” said Paille. “But the effort was better tonight. We battled for it and that’s all we could ask for. With the way that we’ve played the last couple of games we know it’s not going to be perfect, but it was good to see a much better game from everybody today.”

David Krejci had several good scoring chances despite hobbling around on a painfully bruised right knee, and Tyler Seguin was a consistent offensive threat with his four shots on net in 20:42 of ice time. But the team's other forwards could have been better, and needed to look at the effective fourth line as a tone-setting example of what everybody else should be doing.

Thornton logged a season-high 13:37 of ice time, and that was no coincidence with his line doubling the ice time of struggling Jay Pandolfo, Jordan Caron and 21-year-old rookie Ryan Spooner. The hockey artists formerly known as the third line finished with less than 10 minutes of ice time as a group, and only Spooner had a shot on net as Pandolfo and Caron were effectively bottled up for the entire game.

On the other end of the spectrum the Bruins energy line played with an attitude and confidence they hope will rub off on the rest of Boston’s players currently struggling with their confidence.

“We definitely wanted to battle and out-work them, and I think we definitely did that today,” said Paille.

At least guys like Paille, Seidenberg and Khudobin came to Ottawa to punch their time clock for an honest day’s work. Now they need the rest of their more “well known’ teammates to start picking up their considerable end of the slack as the road gets more difficult for the Bruins.