Since the NHL’s trade deadline on Feb. 29, they have gone without a regulation loss in a busy stretch of seven games in 12 days against some of the league’s best like Chicago and Washington, and divisional opponents like Tampa Bay and Florida.
Their most recent victory came in a 3-1 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday afternoon in Boston. For the time being, the Black & Gold are in first place in the Atlantic Division, though Florida and Tampa Bay each have a game in hand.
Overall, the Bruins’ consistency has improved — just in time to head West for the annual California trip to face three tough opponents in San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles.
“We’ve been playing better hockey, I think, overall as a team,” said Head Coach Claude Julien, after his team hit the ice for practice at the SAP Center Monday following a long day of travel from Boston. “We can criticize all we want — it wasn’t the best game against Carolina, but we didn’t stink the joint out. At the same time, I think we’ve been solid in probably six, seven games now.”
“I think we’ve played a pretty solid game overall and that’s encouraging and I think that’s what gives us the confidence that we need heading out West here. Not to say it’s going to be an easy trip and we’re not going to have to work hard, but we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
The Bruins have been picking up points lately — and they have doing so by focusing on the process, rather than the outcome of each game.
“I think that we were mainly focused on the way we were playing, instead of worrying about the points and standings,” said Captain Zdeno Chara. “That was the main thing, I think — the main focus was just, how are were going to perform on the ice? what are we going to do on the ice? and the results were kind of secondary.”
“Usually when you do take care of those things on the ice, the results will come.”
While the results have been coming for the Bruins lately, the team didn’t get the results earlier in the season against the three California teams when they visited TD Garden. In Boston, the Bruins were outscored 20-8, going 0-3 against this week’s opponents.
“We had tough times against these teams at home,” said Chara. “For sure, we would like to play much better and it’s our main focus. We know that this road trip is always a tough task, at this time of the season, but we have to approach it one game at a time and obviously tomorrow night against San Jose is going to be a big test for us.”
“Right now, I think our confidence is good because we feel our group is in a good place right now, but we also know the challenges that lie ahead of us,” said Julien. “Three games here and then we come back and go to New York and we don’t have too many easy games from here on end.”
Krejci Given Maintenance Day
David Krejci was the only player absent from Monday’s practice in San Jose.
“He’s doing OK,” Julien said after the skate, labeling the center’s absence as maintenance. “Hopefully we’ll see him in the lineup [on Tuesday],” said Julien. “We’ll make a game-time decision, but it’s not too bad.”
For practice, Loui Eriksson slotted in at center in Krejci’s place.
“It’s just for practice today,” said Julien.
Vatrano Joins Bruins on Emergency Basis
With the Bruins heading West, they recalled Frank Vatrano from the Providence Bruins on an emergency basis.
“We’re out in California, so we’re covering our angles here — that’s the main thing,” Julien said of the recall.
“It’s an emergency recall, so the only way he’s playing is if there’s a couple of guys that can’t play [on Tuesday], which we’re keeping our fingers crossed that that won’t be the case,” said the bench boss. “And again, coming to California, it would be too late to call a guy up from the Eastern part of the country there if something was to happen.”
Vatrano is happy to be up with the big club, regardless of the circumstance.
“It’s obviously awesome to be back up here and that was a goal of mine this year, to stay up here, so I’m just here and if they need me, they need me,” said Vatrano, who turned 22 on Monday.
The winger has 31 goals in 31 games this season for Providence. He has appeared in 30 games with Boston this season, recording six goals and an assist.
“Obviously went down to get more confidence and keep building on the game that I had up here, but also to develop the things I need to get better at,” said Vatrano. “So I think those little things that I went down there to work on really helped me step my game up once I went down and hopefully if I get in the lineup, then they’ll help me up here.”
The areas he’s zeroed in on to improve include the defensive zone and maintaining consistency to his game night in and night out.
“The Bruins know what’s best for me and they know when I’m going to be ready to be up here, so I’ve just got to be patient and when it’s my time to stay up here, it’s my time to stay,” said Vatrano. “I’m just here to make the most out of the opportunity and I’m not going to worry about going down and staying up — I’ve just got to take it day by day and just keep going.”
Kelly Gets a Boost
Chris Kelly has been skating since Mar. 1 in his recovery from a broken femur suffered back on Nov. 3. Kelly made the trip with the team, which is sure to be a morale boost for the alternate captain.
As the team was finishing up practice, Kelly joined them on the ice and was summoned to lead the post-practice stretch at center ice.
Practice Groupings 3/14
Gold Jerseys: Brad Marchand—Patrice Bergeron—Lee Stempniak
White Jerseys: Frank Vatrano—Loui Eriksson—David Pastrnak
Gray Jerseys: Matt Beleskey—Ryan Spooner—Jimmy Hayes
Merlot: Landon Ferraro—Noel Acciari—Brett Connolly—Tyler Randell
Practice Defense Pairs 3/14
Zdeno Chara—Kevan Miller
John-Michael Liles—Dennis Seidenberg
Torey Krug—Adam McQuaid
Joe Morrow—Zach Trotman
Goalies: Tuukka Rask, Jonas Gustavsson