Physicality has been "a missing element" for the Bruins

Physicality has been "a missing element" for the Bruins
April 11, 2013, 5:00 pm
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BOSTON -- There are plenty of emotions after a hockey player is victimized on the ice with a dirty hit, and lays most likely concussed on the ice in the aftermath. Brad Marchand was the unwitting recipient of an Anton Volchenkov elbow to the side of the head with five minutes to go in the third period of Wednesday night’s 5-4 win over the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center.

Gregory Campbell, Jaromir Jagr, Johnny Boychuk and Andrew Ference were all on the ice when Volchenkov leveled Marchand with a head shot that earned him a four game suspension. So the natural reaction is "where was the Big Bad Bruins’ reaction to a New Jersey defenseman taking liberties with one of Boston’s best offensive players?"

Claude Julien didn’t want to single anybody out, but admitted that his team might have reacted differently a couple of years ago while still stinging from the criticism that they never reacted immediately to the Matt Cooke/Marc Savard incident.

“We’ll deal with it internally. I don’t throw my guys under the bus. There was a situation that happened last night… would we [have responded physically] in the past? I think you would’ve seen that. Is there a reason why it didn’t happen? Not really,” said Julien. “You guys can do what you want, but I’m going to let the negativity – for example you guys saying we’re not hitting enough, or we’re not going to bat for each other. My job is to right the ship and make sure that we’re ready for the playoffs. “The battle is with ourselves to be better, and the battle is to battle against [the media] where you guys find those kinds of things. We’re not going to let that creep into our dressing room.”

Reviewing the video a second and third time, Jagr does react by giving Volchenkov a shove before the officials grabbed the Russian defenseman and bounced him with a five minute elbowing major and game misconduct. Campbell was looking down for the puck and didn’t appear to see what had happened to his linemate, and Boychuk was across the other side of the offensive zone and wouldn’t have been able to reach the area in time to react.

Andrew Ference had just hopped on the ice for Zdeno Chara, and said on Thursday morning that he hadn’t actually viewed what happened until he watched replays the morning after the game.

“I literally saw it for the first time this morning. Brendan [Shanahan] will take care of that,” said Ference. “[There should be a response] if people saw what happened. I think most people saw it for the first time this morning and how it really went down.”

The Bruins alternate captain is one of the first guys to stand up for his teammates, so it’s not difficult to believe Ference when he said that he didn’t get a look at what happened to the Nose Face Killah. But the bigger issue was this: the lack of response on the ensuing power play and in the third period when physicality and serious attitude should have been the order of the day from an angered Black and Gold bunch.

That’s where the “revenge” should have shown up, and instead it was more sleepwalking from a Bruins team that hasn’t consistently looked like themselves this season.

Instead the Bruins flailed their way through a five minute power play where a Milan Lucic turnover worsened into a short-handed goal for New Jersey, and then they just hung out for a white knuckle one goal victory in the third period. There was little physicality from Boston with 11 total hits in the game – and only five for everybody not named Zdeno Chara and Boychuk in the game day lineup – and that’s a trend that troubles Ference more than his team’s immediate reaction to the Marchand hit.

“It’s a good point. On a five minute power play you definitely want to do something in their end…regardless of something that happened like [the Marchand hit]. Part of having an identity is not just talking about what your team should be like, it’s about doing it and it’s about actions,” said Ference. “[Its’ about] strong fore-checks and hits, and things that are within the game."

“It’s not about gooning it up or anything like that, but just having that physical presence. For sure it wasn’t just in the third [period] last night, we’ve had stretches of many games where it’s been a missing element. In the past it’s been something that’s put us over the top.”

It might have taken watching one of his teammates get laid out while he was on the ice, but Ference is admitting what many that have watched the Bruins all season are starting to recognize: the Black and Gold aren’t playing like they did two years ago when they won the Cup.

There’s a sense of accomplishment with this group of hockey players, and rightfully so after bringing the Cup back to Boston. But that was two years ago and now they’re just one of 30 teams looking to prove they’re better than everybody else.

For the Bruins it might be a little extra than that, however. It’s proving that they’re just as good as they were during their Cup run, and that they haven’t lost their way despite mounting evidence to the contrary this season in an admittedly difficult 48-game shortened season.