Bruins ready to remove bad taste of last year's Florida swing

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Bruins ready to remove bad taste of last year's Florida swing

WILMINGTON, MA The last taste in the Bruins mouths from a trip to Florida was a little bit of a bitter one last season.

The swing through the Sunshine State came when things were falling apart for a tired Bruins bunch in the middle of March last season as they were swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers, and were outscored by a 12-3 margin over the course of those two hockey games.

That was in the middle of a stretch losing eight of 12 games for the Bruins when Tuukka Rask was lost to injury against the New York Islanders, and the bottom was dropping out as they prepped for the postseason.

The Lightning and Panthers are obviously different teams this season with both hockey clubs moving in different directions this year but the fact remains that Boston went 1-3 in four road games in sunny, welcoming Florida last season.

Of course the Bruins were also 6-2 in road games against the Panthers and Lightning over the previous two seasons, so theres that as well.

It could have been the time of the season or something like that, said Milan Lucic. Weve had other seasons where weve had a lot of success down there. It definitely is a little different getting ready for a game with the warmer weather, but we need to do whatever we need to do to have more success in the warmer weather this week.

Instead the Bruins are looking forward to a week on the road with the swing through Florida, Tampa and the New York Islanders that qualifies as their first real extended time away from TD Garden and Boston this season. For a team thats racked up some of the best road records in the Eastern Conference over the last three seasons, that is something that the Bruins actively welcome a month into the abbreviated NHL season.

Some of the Bruins are just happy they can put away the shovels for a week while traveling to a warmer part of the country. But theyll also need to be vigilant against a pair of teams in the Panthers and Lightning that are outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, and hungry to get back into the top eight teams in the East.

After what weve all been through these last two weeks with the snowstorm being cold around here, it will be nice to get some warm weather in and some Vitamin D, said Lucic. But even though thats a good thing we cant lose sight of what this trip is all about, and thats getting some wins in Florida. We have to enjoy our first true road trip where we get to spend some time together as a team, but the focus is playing some good, hard hockey so we can get some wins.

If the Bs are looking for motivation, however, they should just watch some game tapes from the back-to-back abominations they produced against Florida and Tampa in the middle of March last season while the second round of the Stanley Cup hangover was in full effect.

Win vs. Islanders 'a nice building block' for Bruins

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Win vs. Islanders 'a nice building block' for Bruins

BROOKLYN, NY – It wasn’t particularly entertaining and it won’t be all that memorable down the ride aside from the timing and importance of the meeting between the Bruins and Islanders. But it was a solid 2-1 team win for the Bruins over the Islanders at the Barclays Center on Saturday night with the B’s grinding all the way down to the end while protecting a one-goal lead through much of the third period.

Nearly everybody across Boston’s roster contributed in the major victory over the team trying to bypass them in the wild card standings, and it was a beautiful thing. Anton Khudobin stepped up when Tuukka Rask couldn’t start Saturday night’s showdown with a lower body issue, and Riley Nash supplied both Boston goals from a fourth line that’s played some of their best hockey lately.

It was unlikely heroes all around for the Black and Gold in the tightly-wound contest, but that diversity of talent and production can be a very good thing for a team looking to make that playoff push.

“You have to stay with it. You have to stay in the moment and stay with the game no matter what’s happening during the game. That’s how you get results, and that’s how you find ways to persevere through adversity,” said Patrice Bergeron. “We just got back to playing stingy, especially in the neutral zone. We got away from it the last few games, and it was nice tonight to be back playing a low-scoring game like what we’re used to playing.”

When it was all said and done the Bruins only allowed 19 shots on net and also killed off six penalties in the kind of grinding defensive showdown that you haven’t seen all that much out of the Black and Gold lately. It was exactly what Cassidy was looking for to snap the four-game losing streak, and once again start pushing the Bruins upward into the playoff chase.

“That’s the type of win that goes a long way in the room when your goaltender is battling hard and fighting that hard to see pucks and find pucks and your D are blocking shots. And you kill that many penalties. It was a nice building block for us,” said Cassidy. “From the goalie on out, everybody was in there [in the win]. It was a tough game. It was a nice Bruins win. We had been doing it with offense earlier, and we’ve got to be able to do it both ways. You need to be able to win 2-1 hockey games, and it had been awhile.”

Now it’s simply up to the Bruins to be feeling good about their latest win while going back to basics, and looking for more next time around after ending their worst losing streak of the season.

Anton Khudobin battles for a huge win filling in for Tuukka Rask

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Anton Khudobin battles for a huge win filling in for Tuukka Rask

BROOKLYN, NY – Things didn’t go so well last season for the Bruins when Tuukka Rask suddenly wasn’t well enough to play in the last game of the season, so there was good reason for the B’s to be a little nervous when their No. 1 goalie again couldn’t answer the bell Saturday night vs. the Islanders.

Anton Khudobin had won four games in a row headed into Saturday night, of course, and in his previous start he’d helped snap a 10-game winning streak for the Calgary Flames. So perhaps it wasn’t all that surprising when Khudobin stood tall for the Bruins making 18 saves in a tight, nervy 2-1 win over the Isles at the Barclays Center.

“You don’t have that many shots, but maybe 10 scoring chances…that can be tougher than seeing 30 shots and same amount of scoring chances,” said Khudobin. “But I’m glad got the job done, we got our points and we got the ‘W’.”

It wasn’t wall-to-wall action in a game where both teams combined for 37 shots on net, but it was still impressive that Khudobin and the B’s special teams killed off six Islander power plays in such a tight hockey game. After the B’s backup netminder was lauded for the way he battled in the crease and competed for pucks like his team’s very life was on the line in a pivotal game.

“That’s the type of win that goes a long way in the room when your goaltender is battling hard, and fighting that hard to see pucks and your D are blocking shots. And you kill that many penalties. It was a nice building block for us,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I loved his performance. He’s a battler. He got swimming a couple of times, but that’s Dobby. He keeps it interesting for you. He’s a battler and he always has been. That’s what we needed tonight.”

One could spend days analyzing Cassidy's words and wondering much of that was deserved, appreciative praise for Khudobin, and how much of that might have been a veiled message to Boston's No. 1 goaltender sitting back home in Boston. 

The best save of the night probably won’t even count as a save for the Russian netminder. It was John Tavares, after having beaten Khudobin once in the first period, moving into the offensive zone with speed during a third period power play, and getting an open look at the net front in the high slot. Khudobin thought quickly and dropped into the unconventional double-stack pad save that seemed to throw Tavares off just a little, and the Isles sniper smoked the shot off the crossbar rather than tying up the game.

“I didn’t touch it. I didn’t really have time to get there, so the only thing I tried to do was the two-pad stack, old school Bob Essensa-style,” said Khudobin, who has now improved to 6-5-1 with a 2.60 goals against and an .899 save percentage this season. “Then he hit the crossbar. You need to get some luck in this league, and if you don’t get luck you’re going to lose games.”

A little luck and a little good, old-fashioned battling between the pipes was enough for Khudobin and the Bruins in Saturday night’s mammoth win. Now the questions become whether or not to go right back to Khudobin again on Tuesday at home against the Nashville Predators.