- After a day off yesterday, the B's were back to work today in Wilmington at Ristuccia Arena - and all were in attendance, with no lines out of the ordinary and all seven defensemen and two goaltenders on the ice. Jay Pandolfo
, recently signed to a one-year, two-way contract extension, joined the Merlot Line.
Following some extended power-play work with Assistant Coach Geoff Ward leading the drills (a staple at practices since the beginning of the season), full-ice rushes and Coach Julien's battling drill, it was a nice gesture by the B's to have Pandolfo lead the stretch at the end of his first "official" practice.
As we waited on the tarmac at Hanscom Air Field, the Bruins settled in to head back to Buffalo for the second time this week, after Sunday's 3-1 win over the Sabres, and coming off their wild, 4-3 shootout loss to the Rangers at TD Garden on Tuesday.
The come-from-behind effort still resonated in the group, but only as a jump-off for what the B's can bring onto the road, as they search for a higher compete level than what they've already shown.
"You can be happy, but not satisfied," Coach Julien said following practice, before adding "I always leave room for improvement. I think our team can still be better than what it’s shown so far."
"If you look around, certain players just quite aren’t where they should be right now and they can be better players. We’ve seen that in the past, so there’s always room for improvement."
The B's are facing their first multi-game road trip of the season, with Buffalo (5-8-1) Friday and Winnipeg (5-6-1) on Sunday, before returning home to practice, and then heading right back out for a swing through Florida.
"We’re going cold then we’re going warm," quipped Tyler Seguin, matter-of-factly, after practice. "I’m a little excited about that. I haven’t really looked at the schedule too much, but I know we’re on the road for a little bit. We played well at home, just got to do the same on the road."
The Bruins have yet to lose in regulation on the road, compiling a 4-0-1 road record through the first month of the season, while going 4-1-1 at home. Though the balance is there, they know that with the next fives games away from the confines of TD Garden, this will be a good early season test.
"It’s not going to be an easy road trip for all the obvious reasons," said Coach Julien. "Buffalo’s certainly going to want to bounce back from their loss to us less than a week ago."
"Winnipeg, as I mentioned, the players have yet to win a game in that rink yet. So, certainly, it’s going to be a good challenge for us."
Last season, the B's and Jets split the season series 2-2-0, with Boston's two losses coming at the MTS Centre (against former Bruins Mark Stuart and Blake Wheeler, and Rich Peverley's former squad).
But before they can shift attention to Winnipeg, Boston will face Buffalo in already the third of five meetings this season (the only other team they face in a five-game series is Ottawa - the first game still yet to be played). The first was grim, but has been put far in the past, especially after Sunday's solid defensive 3-1 victory with Brad Marchand's immediate impact back in the lineup and some confidence in the power play after Patrice Bergeron's puck luck and perfect execution.
"They seem to jam the same teams right at the same time," Shawn Thornton said, on the NHL's 48-game schedule leading to the same opponents (B's have already wrapped up their three-game season series with the Rangers). "We’ve had some good battles with them the last couple of weeks. I don’t expect anything different Friday."
While the Black & Gold do not have to prove their already established "tough-to-play-against" identity, coming up big in games with a physical, no-quit approach, Coach Julien is still looking for his team to find the consistency to sustain that mentality through a full 60-minute effort.
"You’ve got to make sure you frustrate other teams by giving them the least amount of chances, the least amount of times that they can spend with the puck," said Coach on the B's upping their puck possession.
"At the same time, you want to be physical and when it’s time to be physical you don’t want guys running out of position just to throw a check to show that you’re a tough team. You want to be smart."
"I think it’s worked out well in the past. If the game does get real physical, I think we’re very capable of handling ourselves."
Captain Zdeno Chara also preached a "never satisfied" mindset, as he spoke to media from his locker stall, before jetting off to catch the team's flight West.
"There’s always something to prove," said the Captain. "Every game is a big game. We’re playing good teams, no matter where you are, where you’re playing. It’s always a challenge to win hockey games."
And the road trip provides the opportunity for an already close-knit team to spend even more time with each other, and acclimate the newcomers into the family.
"We know each other pretty well, but we still have some new guys that we know from other teams or new guys overall coming in," said Chara. "No matter what, you always have some time for bonding. It’s always a big part of this team."
"There’s less distractions on the road, actually," Shawn Thornton said postpractice, before adding with a laugh, "I don’t have my dogs kicking me in the bed… It’s a lot easier on the road."
"The last five years I’ve been here, we’ve been a pretty good road team," he added. "So, I’m looking forward to it. I like hanging around the guys, most of our group likes that. It’ll be a good test, the next five games."
Being away from home also provides a chance of the B's to prove themselves in front of opposing crowds.
"The beginning of the season’s all about forming an identity as a team. I think every guy in this league is probably saying the same thing to their team," said Tyler Seguin. "With a lot of games on the road here coming up pretty much the next month, we’ve got to show what we’ve got."
"I think if you look at our record, we’ve been a hard team to play against. I think we definitely showed that at home, we want to do the same thing on the road."