WILMINGTON, Mass. The Bruins embark on a four-game road trip that starts Saturday night at the RBC Center against the Carolina Hurricanes, and their coach is looking for some improvement.
Not improvement on the bottom line because the Bs have taken back-to-back home victories over the Winnipeg Jets and Montreal Canadiens after their loss to the Vancouver Canucks. But instead improvement in their execution and the crispness of their transition game after getting off to rather lethargic starts against both the Jets and the Habs.
The Bruins will face a couple of playoff caliber teams in the New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers amid the four games, but theyll also travel to two of the worst Eastern Conference teams in the league this year. Only the New York Islanders have fewer points than the Tampa Bay Lightning and Hurricanes, and those two contests could give the Bruins a chance things going back in the right direction.
It will be Bostons first meeting against the downtrodden Lightning since Nathan Horton and his Bruins teammates ousted them in the Eastern Conference Finals last spring.
Its more about execution. I found that weve lost a little bit of our sharpness. Everything needs to be tape-to-tape passes and needs to have a little jump taking pucks to the net. We just need some sharpness to our game, said Claude Julien. Were lacking in all areas when it comes to sharpness. Weve taken a half-step back I would say, and we need to move forward on this road trip.
Thats essentially what its come to with the Bruins: theyre one point out of the top spot in the Eastern Conference and have piled up 25 wins since the Stanley Cup hangover officially ended on Nov. 1. But Julien is looking to push the Bs toward flawless execution and 60-minute consistency with things slackening during the dog days of January. Its quickly getting toward the portion of the NHL regular season schedule where fatigue can trump just about everything else. The Bs will get a special kind of endurance test after getting an easy home schedule over the first half of the season, and their coach is looking forward to the challenge.
You can never find the ideal place for improving team execution. If we were at home wed be asking them to do it at home. We happen to be on the road, so well ask them to do it on the road, said Julien. Its as simple as that. Its more about doing what we need to do.
The Bruins will certainly need to find their groove over the next four games, and theyll also get Brad Marchand back for the final road tilt against the Devils in Jersey. When the Bs finally get back to the Garden theyll find a red-hot Rangers club waiting for them to square off for Eastern Conference bragging rights. While everybody has talked about how hot the Bruins have been over the last three months the Blueshirts have been every bit as good while dealing with the Winter Classic hoopla.
Theres no need to look past the next four games toward their first meeting of the season against the Rangers, but theres every reason to get all their little issues straightened out before John Tortorellas crew rolls into town.