Anything less than four points on this trip would be considered a failure. They believed they had let opportunities slip away in the first two games of this Western Canada swing. They believed they had not been resolute enough, determined enough to execute their own gameplan rather than folding to that of their opponents.
They entered Saturday’s matchup against Vancouver with two points, and in order to fulfill their own expectations, they had no choice but to earn two more against the Canucks. They had to do it by playing their own game, by playing Bruins-style hockey. Nothing else would be good enough.
Sixty minutes and one 4-0 shutout later, their mission was accomplished.
“If we could go home with four out of six points on this trip, it would be a pretty good trip, and we managed to do that,” said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. “Now that you’ve got four out of six, you kind of look back and say, jeez, we could have had six out of six had we played the other two games the same way.
“But again, these are tough road trips when you come out West, and for us to come out there on the back-to-back — a tough team yesterday [in Calgary] — and to play as well as we did tonight, the credit goes inside that dressing room.”
A good start was imperative for the Bruins on Saturday night, and it is something they didn’t get in either of the first two games of this trip. Brad Marchand, suiting up in the 400th game of his NHL career, put the Bruins up 1-0 just three minutes in when he netted a one-timer off a Patrice Bergeron backhand pass.
The goal marked Marchand’s 13th of the season and his third in his last two games.
“I think we’ve got to be very happy,” Marchand said. “Three games in four nights, and travel in between — I think we had a really good game tonight, and that’s the way we’ve got to continue to play.”
About four minutes later, Boston struck again. After Adam McQuaid blocked a shot in the slot, the Bruins came back the other way in transition, and Torey Krug, just inside the blueline, blasted a one-timer past Jacob Markstrom for the 2-0 lead.
McQuaid, who took Jared McCann’s wrister off the wrist, did not return to the game, and afterward, Julien did not have an update on his condition. From the seventh minute on, the Bruins were forced to play with five defensemen, two of whom were playing their first game in weeks.
But clearly, the Bruins were up to the challenge. Kevan Miller slotted into his first game since suffering a concussion on Nov. 17 and notched a secondary assist on Krug’s goal, and Joe Morrow, after serving as the healthy scratch for the last 12 games, assisted on Marchand’s.
“Sometimes, when you play with five D, it doesn’t give you time to think; you just go out and play,” Krug said. “I think obviously we wanted certain matchups, and with five D, you can’t always worry about that; you just get out there and move the puck, keep it simple, and take your chances when you can. That leads to good hockey.”
Julien was impressed with both Morrow and Miller, whose performances belied their lack of recent playing time.
“[Morrow] really played well, and even Kevan Miller, I thought, was real solid there,” Julien said. “He played better than he did before he got injured. So it was nice to see those guys come in and help us out tonight when we really needed them.”
For parts of this season, second periods have been a problem for the Bruins — but not this one. In the first, the Bruins played a tight defensive game. They sealed off the neutral zone. Whatever opportunities the Canucks got, the Bruins thwarted with good sticks and timely shot-blocking.
All of that continued in the second — particularly impressive, given McQuaid’s absence.
“I know that, in watching some of the game tape from [Vancouver’s] past games, they make it hard for teams to break out,” Julien said. “So I thought our forwards along the walls were solid tonight, our D’s were making real good decisions with the puck to help us get those out, but we were solid there, and there was a real solid commitment from everybody to protect that area.
“We fell down to five D’s early in the game, so it was important for everybody to make it as easy as possible on the D’s by spending less time in our end, and more time in the other end.”
Eight minutes into the second frame, Trail native Landon Ferraro — centering the fourth line —extended Boston’s lead to 3-0 in transition after a Canucks shot deflected wide of the Bruins net. Ferraro, streaking down the right side, called for the puck, got it from Zdeno Chara at the offensive blueline, took a couple of steps into the right circle and let his wrister fly into the net, beating Markstrom high.
“Even when we were on the five-game winning streak, we had wins that we probably didn’t deserve, and since I’ve been here, this has been the best game that we’ve played,” Ferraro said. “We got pucks in, we got on the forecheck and kept it simple and got pucks to the net. We’re real happy to end [the trip] on this note.”
Following Ferraro’s strike, the third period continued to be all about the fourth line. Julien entered Saturday’s game with the goal of rolling four lines, and the performance of Saturday’s new-look fourth line afforded him that opportunity. He was able to up their ice time. They earned it.
They proved it when they extended Boston’s lead to 4-0 with 8 1/2 minutes remaining in the game. Randell punctuated a solid shift by his line by pouncing on the rebound of a Rinaldo shot and putting it in, top shelf, from the left side of the crease.
“We talked about it a little before the game: Our goal was to be better than their fourth line,” Randell said. “Obviously, they have some gritty players out there, so we wanted to match that.
“We played pretty well, took pucks to the net, and we ended up getting a couple [goals] there.”
Throughout this road trip, the Bruins have insisted that their style works — their hard-nosed, defense-first style. They don’t have to trade chances to win. They don’t have to adapt to the opponent’s gameplan. They proved it on Saturday at Rogers Arena.
“It wasn’t our best game offensively — like the chances we created today — but we had some, and we took advantage of them,” said Rask, who stopped 17 shots en route to the 29th shutout of his career. “When you do that, with the good defensive play, you can win games 4-0, and that should be something to take from this game — that you don’t always have to play run-and-gun to score a lot of goals.”
Every player, up and down the lineup, played a part in Saturday’s win, whether that meant bringing the physicality, the energy, the skill, the stamina. The D’s had to adjust after losing McQuaid early. The fourth line had to pick up more minutes. Rask had to stand tall despite being tested infrequently throughout the game. The top six had to light the lamp early.
In the past, when every player has done his job, the Bruins have been successful. On Saturday night, in the final game of this Western Canada road swing, each and every Bruin did his job, and it paid off in the form of a resounding — and much-needed — win.
“We played a real good game tonight,” Julien said. “We have a tendency, sometimes, to be hard on our team because we don’t do it all the time, and yet, when you look at games like tonight, you really see what this team — when it really sets it mind to it — is capable of.
“These kind of wins, for me, just solidify the fact that we know what we need to do to have success, and hopefully, we embrace the style of play that’s given us success.”