BOSTON - If there was a necessary first step back into Bruins hockey from the recent slump for Claude Julien’s crew, Boston inched forward with progress and required results in a victory over the hurting Florida Panthers.
Call them slump-busters, call them Atlantic Division tomato cans, or just call them a bad hockey team. The Panthers qualify as any of those undesirable items. They weren’t able to do any damage against a Bruins team that was barely treading water in the first period.
The roof caved on Florida once things started going Boston’s way in the third period, and the Bruins finished with a solid 4-1 victory over the Panthers at TD Garden. That hands the Panthers just one win in their past 11 games as they fade into divisional oblivion, along with the Buffalo Sabres.
The victory came after a stretch of four losses in five games for the Bruins, with the hope that confidence will carry them through an important stretch of games against divisional opponents.
“I think right now we’re a ...I don’t want to say a fragile team...but we’re not at the level that we want to be at. It kind of showed in the first period,” said Chris Kelly. “I think that the effort was there from everyone; it was just somewhat of the execution maybe wasn’t. We stuck with it, and stuck with the game plan. I thought we got better as the game went on.”
The first period was definitely a blah first 20 minutes that’s been par for the course from the Bruins as of late, but they worked toward a dominant third period that essentially saw Florida pack it once Brad Marchand scored to put Boston up by two goals. In the end, the Bruins got goals from three of their four forward lines, and also saw their defensemen kick into the offense with another goal from Torey Krug.
Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton also dropped the gloves, and brought some of the scrappiness and toughness that’s always been a hallmark from Boston’s fourth line. Loui Eriksson picked up an assist in the third period on Marchand’s goal, and referenced a team discussion that took place on Wednesday while yielding results 24 hours later.
“I thought we had a good talk yesterday, the whole group. Everyone wants to come up and show that they can play good,” Eriksson said. “I thought we did a better job today. That obviously shows – we won the game, too. Hopefully that shows confidence to get back on the winning track, and keep it going.”
Julien called for all his players to up their ante team-wide on Thursday morning heading into a game against a Panthers team just looking for an excuse to lose, and that’s what we saw afterward. It wasn’t a perfect win and there details that could be tightened up as the team’s confidence builds, but it was a nice place to start.
“If you look at the game overall, we seemed to get better as the game went on. The first period wasn’t a pretty period and we killed a lot of penalties, but the penalty kill did a good job,” Julien said. “I thought the second was a little bit better, but the third was definitely our best period.
“We didn’t say much during the game as coaches, because you have to let these guys work their way out of it. I think whether we yell or keep correcting them, I don’t think it’s going to help them get out of it. Sometimes you have to work yourselves out of [a slump], and I thought that kind of happened a little bit tonight.”
It might have “kind of” happened for the Bruins, but they’ll know for certain when the Maple Leafs come to town this weekend, survivors of Randy Carlyle’s bag skate after some underwhelming recent efforts from Toronto.