The good news is, they have two games to rectify those issues before a five-day layoff for the All-Star Break.
“I feel like we obviously didn’t play the way we wanted to play, and now we kind of realize we have to play hard every game and try to outwork the other team,” said forward David Krejci following Monday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena. “Even though we were in the game till almost the end of the game, I don’t think we outworked the other team. We had a good practice today, and we’ve still got two big games in front of us before the break, so we have to work hard and try to get four points.”
On Saturday night, the Bruins were seeking to extend their winning streak to a season-long six games, but the Blue Jackets got in the way. Though the Bruins carried a 1-1 deadlock into the third period, they allowed an uncharacteristic late goal and an empty netter and were handed their first regulation loss since the last time they had faced Columbus back on Dec. 27.
A tough task awaits Boston in the form of the Stars on Tuesday night and the Avalanche on Wednesday — and the difficulty compounds with the fact that the Bruins face them in a back-to-back — but they know they have the tools they need in order to succeed. They just have to use them.
“I think we’ve got to get back to how we were playing last week and get our energy back and play hard, and try to take it to these teams,” said defenseman Dougie Hamilton. “So obviously, we’ve got two games before the break, and hopefully we play hard and show up and go into the break with a good feeling.”
During the five-game winning streak that saw the Bruins take down such Eastern Conference powerhouses as Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and New York, the B’s saw a particularly signficant improvement in their own end. They were more responsible with and without the puck, and it showed in the final score of each of those games: During the streak, they allowed just six goals.
For the next two nights, therefore, bringing that defensive fortitude will prove crucial.
“There are certain teams that are dangerous on the rush — and I thought the New York Rangers was one of those teams that really, this year, picked up pace on the rush — and Dallas is the same way,” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “We’ve dealt with that before, so it brings some awareness to try and minimize that.
“I don't think you can totally neutralize it through a 60-minute stand, but you've got to minimize it, and you've got to have the layers that we always talk about in order to defend against those situations. But there's always areas that we think we can exploit.”
A solid defensive effort will prove especially significant on Tuesday night in Dallas, when the Bruins will face Tyler Seguin, who currently ranks second in the league in scoring. Seguin aside, though, the Stars boast a number of potent offensive threats the Bruins will have to contain.
“You always have to make a lot of adjustments for who your playing against, and playing against Siggy — and they’ve got [Jason] Spezza now, and [Ales] Hemsky, and [Jamie] Benn — they’re all pretty fast and skilled players,” Krejci said. “We have to play good defensively and make sure we pay attention to little details.
“We might not get too many scoring chances, but when we do, we’ve got to make sure we bury them.”
With a short layoff looming ahead, the Bruins have no time to waste if they intend on returning to their winning ways, and they don’t intend on wasting any.
“It’s obviously a back-to-back, and [we’re] just going to try to, I guess, lay it on the line for those two games,” Hamilton said. “I guess you know that there’s the week off, and nothing to save [energy] for, so maybe you can bring a little bit more — but I think every game you’re giving it your best, so I don’t know if it changes that much.”
Old Friends Await the B’s
This upcoming two-game swing through Dallas and Colorado will bring some familiar faces back to the forefront for the B’s.
First on tap is Seguin, whom the Bruins drafted with the second overall pick in 2010 and then traded in the summer of 2013.
“I think it should be fun,” Hamilton said. “I think it’s always fun to play against old teammates, and obviously, he’s doing really well, so it’s going to be a challenge for us to try to shut him down and play him hard, and hopefully keep him off the scoreboard.”
That in itself will be a hefty challenge: Seguin trails just Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek for the league lead in scoring with 52 points this season.
“You knew he was going to be a great player, just seeing him as a young talent and what he had, and the confidence that he had, and just the skill set that he has,” said forward Milan Lucic. “You could see that he was going to be this type of player.
“You’re happy for him, to see him have success somewhere else. But we’re happy with what we’ve got here, and we believe in the guys that we have in this dressing room, so at the end of the day, it’s good to see him having success. But at the end of the day, we’re happy with the team that we have in this locker room.”
Back when Seguin was with the Bruins from 2010-13, he played on the wing instead of at his natural position of center, so it was a bit more difficult to assess his potential, but Patrice Bergeron said it was obvious that the potential was there.
“I think for him, he was still learning and maturing [when he was in Boston], and I'm not necessarily surprised by [his success],” Bergeron said. “I don't think it was fair to him to expect that in his first few years, but I'm definitely happy for him, and he's a great player.
“We're happy, as well, with the guys that we've got. So I guess it worked out for both sides.”
Once the Bruins are done in Dallas, they’ll move on to Colorado, where they will face yet another former Bruin in Jarome Iginla — someone who, according to Lucic, played an critical role in Boston’s regular-season success in 2013-14.
“To be that consistent for this long — and you see him, he’s doing it again this year — is an amazing thing,” Lucic said. “At this level, it’s a really hard thing to do, and when you’re playing with a guy, sometimes you take it for granted and you don’t appreciate it as much as you do until it’s gone. I think not only did he make our line better — I think he made the whole team better, just because he brought that consistency in his game, whether it was practice or, and especially, in the games.
“I think it helped our team be more consistent, and I think that’s what made us the Presidents’ Trophy winner last year — because we were so good, night in and night out, and I think it was because of his presence and, I think, the consistency.”
Krejci — who served as Iginla’s center last season — certainly recognized that consistency, too. But he still feels that there is plenty of time for a similar type of consistency and chemistry to develop on his current line, which features mainstay Lucic on the left and rookie David Pastrnak on the right.
“It’s always nice to play with the same guys the whole year — obviously, you’re going to hit some bad games, but you regroup pretty quickly,” Krejci said. “But right now, I have Dave, and I feel like we’re kind of getting used to each other on the ice, and Looch on the left side for the most part in my NHL career.
“I feel like we’re playing better, so hopefully, we can build on this, and good games in the past, and have a strong two games before the break.”
Pulling for the Pats
The Bruins watched from afar on Sunday as the Patriots trumped the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game and earned a berth to their fifth Super Bowl since 2002.
They may be wearing Black and Gold instead of red, white and blue, but they were still inspired by the success of their Boston comrades.
“You know the feeling of being there, and you know the feeling of winning, and winning it all,” Lucic said. “You see the Patriots making it back to the Super Bowl again, and you know that feeling, and you want to do whatever you can to relive that feeling, I guess.
“As a fan, you want to enjoy the moment with the rest of Pats Nation, and have fun with it all, but also, as an athlete in the same city, you definitely feed off things like that, and it definitely gets you excited for the next stretch we have here because we know what we’re capable of, and we want to be in the same spot as the Pats are come playoff time.”
Lucic seemed a tiny bit conflicted about his allegiances for this Super Bowl: As a kid growing up in Vancouver, Seattle marked the nearest NFL team. But he has become a Patriots fan since Boston became his home in 2007, so that is where his allegiances will lie on Super Bowl Sunday.
Still, seeing the Seahawks forge a furious fourth-quarter comeback to eventually trump the Packers in overtime in the NFC Championship stirred up some fond memories for him.
“I thought it was over when that [Seahawks] interception happened with five minutes left — I congratulated some of my cousins from Milwaukee who are huge Green Bay fans for the win, and then, pretty crazy to see [Seattle] come back like that,” he said with a big smile. “Obviously it brings back memories of the Game 7 against Toronto that we had [in 2013]. So you kind of know the feeling that they’re feeling today, and how excited they are to pull something like that off.
“I think looking back, the run that we went on after having a comeback like that — because you’re so high, and it seems like nothing can go wrong when you’re able to come back from something like that — I’m pretty sure the Seahawks are feeling that right now. I think it’s going to be a real, real fun Super Bowl to watch.”
Julien said he can certainly relate to Bill Belichick’s coaching style, especially this season, during which the Patriots boss has implemented the “Do Your Job” mantra that has caught on like wildfire across New England.
“It's great because I think with Bill, it's always been simple,” Julien said. “I use that same philosophy. As coaches, we need as much information as we can, but the players only need what they need, and if they need more, then we have it ready for them.
“We say that often here — not to copy [the Patriots], but when we start duplicating, or guys start doing too much, just do your jobs and let everybody else be accountable, and that's the best way not to create some mix-up and duplication. Just do your job, and that keeps things simple.”
Across the board, the Bruins will be watching and hoping for the best as the Patriots travel to Glendale on Feb. 1 to take on the Seahawks for football’s biggest prize.
“As Bill would probably say,” Julien said, “they've got to bring their best game here in two weeks now. I think they've got a real tough opponent, so they'll have to be at their best.”
Monday’s Practice Lineup
White Jerseys: Milan Lucic, David Krejci, David Pastrnak
Gold Jerseys: Daniel Paille, Patrice Bergeron, Reilly Smith, Brad Marchand*
Gray Jerseys: Chris Kelly, Carl Soderberg, Loui Eriksson
Burgundy Jerseys: Jordan Caron, Gregory Campbell, Craig Cunningham
Defensemen: Zdeno Chara, Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller, Adam McQuaid, Dennis Seidenberg, Matt Bartkowski
Goalies: Tuukka Rask, Niklas Svedberg
*Brad Marchand will serve the second game of a two-game suspension on Tuesday at Dallas and will not be in the lineup.