SAN JOSE, Calif. The Bruins have harkened back to their hard-earned defensive way of life, and its shown results.
Claude Julien called it protecting the house in front of the net, and the Bruins are starting to chase the burglars and the brigands away after letting the oppositions have their way in the slot for far too long. The Bruins allowed 4.00 goals per game during the first nine games of March and were gashed for six goals against both the Lightning and the Panthers and that was the breaking point Boston needed.
They woke up last weekend, saw they were the seventh place Boston Bruins and all of a sudden played with the urgency that had been missing for far too long. That meant the Bs goaltender stopping 95 percent of the shots hes facing, that meant a staunch Bruins defense holding the Leafs to only 13 shots on net in a 60-minute hockey game and that meant allowing only two goals to accomplished offenses like the Flyers and the Leafs.
After meandering far too far away from their defensive principles, everything is back in line with the way the Bs coaching staff prefers it.
Obviously a lot of teams are playing desperate hockey fighting for the playoffs and fighting for home ice advantage. Its about playing like theres no tomorrow and playing with a lot of desperation. Thats playoff hockey and thats what were doing right now, said Tyler Seguin. I think we are playing more Bruins style hockey. Were playing with a bit of a chip on our shoulders competing and winning battles.
Thats when we start playing well: when were competing, winning battles and doing all of the little things while paying attention to detail. We like winning more than losing and thats what makes us happy.
The Bruins were able to do all of that in the friendly confines of the TD Garden after theyd caught their breath and exhaled from a disastrous road trip through Florida. Now the Bruins must get in touch with their inner road warrior and carry on the competitiveness and defensive awareness after a six-hour plane ride plopped them in California for the next five days.
With only 10 games left in the regular season the Bruins shouldnt have any more speed bumps along the way, and they know they cant afford it with the Senators and Panthers still well within striking distance.
PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: With the B's on a two-game winning streak, Marty Turco might be the player that needs his tires pumped the most. The 36-year-old netminder hasnt seen the light of day since his disastrous outing against the Tampa Bay Lighting, but he does have some obscenely bright yellow goaltending pads hes ready to rock when he does get the call. If the Bruins are able to win the first couple of games of their swing through California, then perhaps theres a shot Turco will get his redemption chance against the Ducks. But it wont be against the Sharks.
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: You could tell in our game against Toronto and also on Saturday afternoon against Philadelphia that we really wanted to turn things around, and maybe it was a blessing in disguise that Ottawa did pass us because maybe there was that fire that needed to be re-lit. Milan Lucic talking about the wakeup call provided by the Ottawa Senators that should last them for the rest of the season.
KEY MATCHUP: The Bruins need to find a way to match Brian Rolston and the Bs third line up against Joe Thorntons line in San Jose, and perhaps create a flashback effect when he sees Rolstons No. 12 in Black and Gold. Perhaps even fool him into making a bad pass or when Rolston calls for the puck like he was still one of his teammates as they were for five years in Boston. One would expect the Zdeno CharaDennis Seidenberg combo would get the draw to neutralize Jumbo Joe and his linemates and that could be a challenge given the urgency they should be skating with after dropping out of the top eight in the Western Conference.
STAT TO WATCH: .952 the save percentage for Tim Thomas in the Bs last two wins while stopping 40-of-42 shots, which is much closer to normal for the 37-year-old netminder.
INJURIES: Tuukka Rask (groin strainabdomen strain) and Nathan Horton (mild concussion) are long term injuries for the Bruins. Peverley skated with the team on Thursday and is closing in on a return from a sprained knee. San Jose forwards Michal Handzus (undisclosed), Tommy Wingels (upper body) and TJ Galiardi (upper body) are all questionable for Thursday's game against Boston.
GOALTENDING MATCHUP: Tim Thomas will get the call for the Bruins, and hell be appearing in his 14th straight game for the Black and Gold including a pair of relief appearances. Thomas is 5-5 with a 3.36 goals against average and an .863 save percentage during the month of March, but looks like hes on the upswing. Antti Niemi will make his 13th straight start in net for the Sharks. Hes 4-0 with a 1.96 goals-against average and .930 save percentage in four career games against Boston, and got the win in San Joses 4-2 win over the Bruins back in October.