BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins want their home ice to be a place of fear, loathing and dread for their opponents . . . now, and especially in the playoffs.
They’ve done a pretty good thus far of making TD Garden inhospitable for visiting NHL teams, continuing shabby treatment of their guests with a 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night. The victory gave the Bruins a 12-0-2 record in their last 14 games on home ice, dating back to a ugly loss to the New Jersey Devils on Oct. 26.
They're an impressive 15-3-2 overall this year in the House that Rene Rancourt built. They’ve outscored opponents by a 42-23 margin in the last 14 home games.
“It’s important,” said defenseman Torey Krug. “Early on in the season we were flirting with .500 in our home building and we sat down as a group and talked about how we’ve got to make this a harder place to play for a visiting team. For us, we’re just kind of taking it one game at a time and we’ve been rolling now. We’re going to keep it going.”
Zdeno Chara has really set the tone for the Black and Gold in the friendly confines on Causeway Street.
All 9 of Chara’s goals, and 13 of his 15 total points this season, have come in the Bruins' 20 home games. In addition, the 6-foot-9 intimidator makes it uncomfortable for opponents everywhere on the ice as well: witness his battles Saturday with Sabres captain Steve Ott, who had the unfortunate circumstance of angering Chara on what the B’s captain thought was a slewfoot.
He later checked with teammates and watched the video and realized it was little more than a happenstance trip during the game. But Chara was cross-checking the daylights out of Ott in front of the net until he went crashing to the ice, and later snapped his own stick like a twig chopping it down on Ott’s and drew a slashing penalty on the Sabres pest, a clear blown call by the refs that wiped out a 5-on-3 advantage for Buffalo in the third period. It's a pretty clear indicator of the different level of juices that are flowing at home for Chara, and for the rest of the Black and Gold this season.
In the past the Bruins have been a good. but not dominant, team at home, not capable of influencing games before the opponent even hits the ice for opening puck drop. Now the B’s players are starting to get that invincible feeling at home this season after going nearly two months without a regulation loss.
That’s something they could clearly get used to as points get more and more difficult to come by.
“That’s what you try to do every year,” said Milan Lucic. “You want to make your building a tough one to play in, and the crowd’s been great. They’ve helped out a lot so far throughout the year.
“On the other hand I think we’re 9-7 on the road. So if we can clean that part up and get points on the road, we can move ahead in the standings. But we definitely want to do whatever we can in our power to make this a tough place to play.”
Lucic’s point is well-taken about Boston’s road record. The Bruins have traditionally been among the league’s best road teams, and they hope to get back to that as the schedule gets more and more road-heavy over the next couple of months.
But that will be a mission for the beginning of next month when they head out to tangle with the Western Conference power trio in Los Angeles, San Jose and Anaheim. Now, as they battle through a spate of injuries, they're looking to end 2013 with a flourish.
“Every season we start talking about it -- how to create that atmosphere and get the fans in it and be a tough team to play against at home -- because you’re always disappointed when you lose the home games,” said Tuukka Rask. “This season we’ve been able to win a lot of games at home, and its huge going forward.”
It’s certainly a “huge” home advantage moving forward through the rest of a challenging regular season for the Bruins, but it truly becomes another level of intimidation once the Stanley Cup playoffs begin months down the road.
The Bruins are already building that machine, block-by-block.