Yes, playing the right way, to their strengths, will likely breed success — but no matter how it is done, the Bruins need to find a way to get results.
“I think it’s to keep plugging at it, and really having confidence to get results — and going out there and making plays,” Patrice Bergeron said following the team’s pregame skate on Saturday morning.
“Bottom line is making sure we play our game, we stay confident, we realize, yeah, the standings are tight, but we’re still in a playoff spot and it’s in our hands and we have to take it a game at a time.”
After Friday’s action, Tampa Bay moved into first place in the Atlantic Division with a 7-4 win over the New York Islanders. The Bruins remain in third place in the division.
Veterans like Bergeron will help keep the group focused — not on the big picture and the standings and the pressure, but just on playing a solid game that’s worthy of two points.
“I think that’s where veterans have to take over and lead the way there for our young guys to follow,” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “We’re in this situation right now where I still feel we control our own destiny, so it’s up to us here to come out with a good solid performance tonight and come out of here with a win.”
Throughout the Bruins’ past five games, their defeats have come in a variety of ways. There have been tough calls, defensive breakdowns, missed chances and no apparent lucky breaks.
“We’re doing a lot of good things, you know,” said Bergeron. “The chances are not going in. We have to bear down offensively and do the job. Last game, we were up by probably 10 shots, we had 18-5 shots and we didn’t score a goal, so obviously you have to make sure you put teams away by having good offense.”
“But, also I think [we need to] deny the transition game — a lot of teams now want to come back with a lot of speed and burn you with that, so if we do a good job on the forecheck and respect the system, good things happen all the time.”
The Leafs will bring plenty of speed — and confidence — to Saturday’s game against the Bruins. They are on a three-game win streak, and earned an overtime win against Anaheim their last time out.
They may still be at the bottom of the league, but this is a team that is much different than the one the Bruins saw the previous four times this season. At the trade deadline, the Leafs re-tooled, bringing up players from the AHL’s Toronto Marlies (like David Pastrnak’s friend and former teammate, William Nylander) and acquiring players via trade.
They are young and energized. They have nothing to lose and everything to prove.
“I don’t think there’s any games that you take likely at this stage of the season and especially the way they’ve played lately, I don’t think there’s any reason to do that either,” said Julien.
“Especially lately, I think they’ve played some really good hockey,” said Bergeron. “They definitely want to play the spoilers and get after us, to make sure they get some confidence, and for us, it’s trying to deny their youth and their speed and what they want to bring.”
“They have a team that’s always working hard, on the forecheck and on the puck, so we have to go out there and play our game and it’s going to be a tough battle, for sure.”
Morrow Expected to Get the Call
Defenseman John-Michael Liles stayed back in Boston to be further evaluated after suffering a lower-body injury Thursday night against the Panthers.
In his place, it looks like Joe Morrow will get the call on Saturday night. During the first set of line rushes and defensive pairings, Morrow was paired with Dennis Seidenberg.
Morrow has been a healthy scratch for the Bruins’ past six games and has played twice in the Bruins’ last 12 games (Mar. 8 at Tampa Bay, Mar. 10 vs. Carolina). Always being ready to play is the nature of his job.
“It’s nothing out of the ordinary. I’ve put in a lot of work off the ice and on the ice when these guys are playing, so I’m ready, as Zach would be or anybody else would be if he hasn’t played for a while,” said Morrow. “ So there’s a level of comfort and I’ll try and bring the same thing I brought before.”
Morrow’s looking forward to contributing to the Bruins’ bounce-back — and their push down the stretch with seven games to go.
“I mean, they’re must-win games, but you can look at any game during the season as a must-win game. You’re trying to win as many as can — it’s not like you go out there and you don’t compete like you did the night before,” said Morrow.
“So it’s just another game to everybody else and you’ve got to treat it like that — you can’t put too much emphasis on it or it will work against you, so they’re definitely must-win games, but at the same time, it’s just another game and I believe in this team and I know that everybody else does in this dressing room.”
Rask Expected Between the Pipes
Tuukka Rask is expected to get the start for Boston on Saturday night in Toronto, as he was the first goaltender who left the ice at pregame skate.
Rask is 14-3-2 in his career against Toronto in 21 appearances, with two shutouts, a 1.92 goals-against average and .934 save percentage.
The netminder has rebounded from being under the weather at the beginning of the week, when he missed Tuesday’s practice and left the game against the Rangers in New York after 20 minutes. He suited up for the full 60 the next night against Florida at TD Garden, and then had a day off the ice Friday to rest before the team traveled to Toronto.
“I think he fared well Thursday night and [we] gave him a few more days and certainly better today, so I think he’s fine,” said Julien. “No issues there.”
First Line Rushes During Pregame Skate 3/26
Brad Marchand—Patrice Bergeron—Lee Stempniak
Matt Beleskey—David Krejci—David Pastrnak
Frank Vatrano—Ryan Spooner—Loui Eriksson
Landon Ferraro—Noel Acciari—Jimmy Hayes
First Set of Defense Pairs During Pregame Skate 3/26
Zdeno Chara—Kevan Miller
Joe Morrow—Dennis Seidenberg
Torey Krug—Adam McQuaid
Goalies: Tuukka Rask, Jonas Gustavsson
-Brett Connolly rotated with Frank Vatrano after the first set of line rushes, while Tyler Randell rotated on to the fourth line.
-Zach Trotman rotated into the defense after the first set of line rushes and defensive pairings.
-Rask was the first goaltender off the ice at pregame skate.