Bruins try to recapture defensive identity

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Bruins try to recapture defensive identity

BOSTON -- Sometimes, players don't realize how bad they are until they see it on video.

That's why Bruins coach Claude Julien had his players show up to the TD Garden on Sunday to focus "specifically" on the video of their 4-2 loss in Montreal on Saturday night.

"When you see it, it kind of opens our eyes," said Julien. "We've attacked different areas, at times, and showed them. But today was more of the whole package. And that's why we kept our whole day on video, more than on practice. You need to realize it, before you can do something about it."

Sundays are usually the team's day off. And while the now 3-7 B's didn't skate today, they did have to come in and watch film of what they've been doing wrong.

"When things are going like this, obviously, I'm not really surprised with having to come in today and having to look at things," said Bruins center Patrice Bergeron. "Because that's the only way we're going to come out of it. It's about putting some work into it, some hours into it, and finding ways. No one else but us can do it."

Amidst rumors of potential trades because of an early-season slide that only seems to be getting worse, the Bruins are confident with the players they have. For no other reason than the fact that a majority of the players inside that dressing room hoisted the Stanley Cup several months ago.

But everyone's in agreement. Something has to change. Not personnel, not lines, not defensive pairings. That change needs to come from re-capturing their pride and identity that led them to a championship run last season.

"Right now, when things are extremely hard, you've really got to rely on your structure and doing things properly," said Julien on Sunday. "Get your structure back, and get your execution back, and keep it simple. And work from there.

"We've got to get back to the things that made us successful," added Julien. "We're a team that likes to put pucks forward and move it forward, and put it behind their D's and go to work and grind it out and win those battles. From there, a lot of things happen for us. As the game goes on, we get more space, we get more opportunities to make plays. We've just got to get back to doing those things."

And after watching video on Sunday, now they know.

It's all about defense.

"Where our team's strength comes from, is that, anytime we've been good defensively, we've been able to feed offensively from that," said Julien. "When we come back hard, when we back check hard, and all five guys come back in the zone, and we cause turnovers and we go up the ice together, that's where our strength, offensively, comes from."

Sunday's video session brought some clarity to what they've been doing wrong. Too many players caught up-ice. Not enough players getting back on defense. Relying on individual efforts to produce goals.

The Bruins know that's not who they are. They know that's not what got their hands on the Cup.

They just needed to see it on video to realize just how much they've steered away from that style.

"We're not a very good team when we stretch or try those long passes, because when a guy gets the puck, he's by himself," said Julien. "We're a team that relies a lot on support and chips and races, and stuff like that. So, our strength offensively, comes from how well we play defensively. I've always said that, you do well defensively, you're going to get the puck a lot quicker. This is what we are, as a team, and this is what we have to understand.

"That's how our team is built. And there's nothing wrong with being built that way, because it got us a Stanley Cup last year."

Rask stops 35 shots in Bruins' 2-1 win over Sabres

Rask stops 35 shots in Bruins' 2-1 win over Sabres

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Boston goalie Tuuka Rask has been hard to beat this season and was at his best against Buffalo again.

"You start thinking, `how are we going to get one by this guy,'" Sabres coach Dan Bylsma wondered aloud Saturday.

Rask nearly shut out the Sabres for the second time in a month, keeping them off the scoresheet for 2 1/2 periods and making 17 of his career-high 35 saves in the third to help the Bruins hold on for a 2-1 win.

"Every team likes to have these kind of goaltenders and a lot of teams do," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We're just fortunate enough that he's been one of those guys that, whenever you slip a little bit, or lose a little bit of momentum, or you're having a slow start, or a tough night, those guys step up and help you win some hockey games."

Over his last 11 starts, beginning with his 4-0 shutout over Buffalo on Nov. 7, Rask is 7-3-1 with a 1.36 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage.

"I feel good," Rask said. "I'm seeing the puck well. Guys are doing a great job keeping them on the outside and clearing the rebounds for the most part, so that helps out."

David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron scored to give Boston a 2-0 lead and the Bruins improved to 3-0-1 in their last four.

"We're getting better as a team, we're getting points and climbing up the standings," said Krejci, who has 10 points in his last 12 games. "Hopefully we can keep it up."

Evander Kane scored his first goal of the season for Buffalo. Robin Lehner returned after missing one game with a hip injury and made 32 saves.

The Sabres combined for nine goals in their previous two wins but the NHL's lowest-scoring team reverted to form from the first 21 games, when star center Jack Eichel was out of the lineup with a high-ankle sprain.

"First two periods, we had a tough time generating some offensive chances," Sabres defenseman Cody Franson said. "They kind of just stayed on top."

Krejci got the Bruins on the scoreboard with 5:50 left in the first when he deflected Brandon Carlo's slap shot from the point off the right post and into the net.

The Sabres appeared to tie the game late in the second period but replays determined Brian Gionta kicked the puck into the net.

Bergeron made it 2-0 at 7:44 of the third when he knocked in the rebound of David Pastrnak's missed shot. Bergeron initially hit the puck with his forearm on the left edge of the crease and skated around the net to chase down the puck and flip a backhand past Lehner.

The Sabres answered two minutes later, scoring on Rask for the first time in 109:12 this season. Sam Reinhart's feed off the rear wall set up Kane for a wrist shot from the slot that bounced in off Krejci. Reinhart has five points in his last four games.

NOTES: Bruins F Matt Beleskey was escorted to the dressing room in the final minute of the first period with a lower-body injury and did not return. Julien said Beleskey will be evaluated when the team returns to Boston. ... Sabres D Josh Gorges did not play after injuring his foot blocking a shot in Thursday's win over the New York Rangers. With Dmitry Kulikov (lower back) and Zach Bogosian (MCL sprain) also out, the Sabres were down three of their top four defenseman and recalled 19-year-old Brendan Guhle from the minors to make his NHL debut. Guhle hustled back to thwart a breakaway by Krejci late in the third period. ... F Anton Blidh became the seventh Bruin to make his NHL debut this season after being recalled from the minors on Friday. ... The Bruins scratched F Jimmy Hayes. D Zdeno Chara, the Bruins' captain, missed his sixth straight game with a lower-body injury. ... Buffalo had just three shots on goal in the first period.

UP NEXT

Bruins: Host Florida on Monday.

Sabres: At Washington on Monday.