ANAHEIM, Calif. - The Bruins are comfortable playing close games. They can play from behind, and grind out wins, even though that's never the ideal approach.
Their strict defense, which has allowed just 10 goals in six games since blowout losses to Toronto and Montreal, dictates that.
But rest assured, they are looking for much more offense from their club as they begin a four-game road trip out West starting with the Ducks on Monday night at the Honda Center.
In the Bruins' past eight games, they have scored more than two goals just once, coming back from an 0-2 deficit to take a 4-3 shootout win in Columbus on November 21. Their only other win since Columbus came from grinding out a 2-1 overtime win against Winnipeg on Friday.
"I think we’re stuck in that situation where we’re not scoring many goals right now - we are having some chances on certain nights, but they’re not going in there as much as we’d like them to," Head Coach Claude Julien said after the team's pregame skate in Anaheim.
"I don’t think we’re going in there saying, ‘Let’s keep it a real low-scoring game.’ We take pride in our defensive play, and when you’re missing a key guy like Zdeno [Chara], it certainly is a bigger challenge — and [Adam] McQuaid is another big body that defends well. So we certainly have some guys who have stepped up and done a good job on the back end there to help us out."
"But at the same time, we’ve had to move players around our forward lines, and sometimes it takes a little while for chemistry; sometimes, once they start gelling together — which is the case with [Milan] Lucic with [Carl] Soderberg and [Loui] Eriksson — they produce."
The Bruins have done a better job at getting to the front of the net. Before an overtime winner from Dougie Hamilton gave Boston the victory over Winnipeg, Lucic scored by driving hard to the net. The Bruins still need more of that.
"When things aren’t going that well, you kind of have to go in and kind of grind it out and get dirty goals," said Reilly Smith, who like many Bruins, is looking to break a scoring slump.
"Anaheim’s a pretty tough team to play against — they don’t give you too much, so I wouldn’t expect anything other than that tonight."
"I guess it just means I’m going to have to score tonight," Smith added, before jokingly giving a Mark Messier-esque guarantee that he will score tonight.
While the Bruins are having trouble finding offense, they're not making it any easier on themselves by playing catch-up hockey on most nights.
They have allowed the first goal in 14 of their 24 games this season, including nine of the past 11 contests. Though they have come back to tie the game at 1-1 in 10 of those games, the Black and Gold know that type of hockey won't breed consistent success.
"It would be a lot easier not having to come back in the third period every game like it seems like we’ve done in the last three or four," said Smith. "So, just try to focus on having a better start. Last couple games, it hasn’t worked out the way we’ve wanted it to, but you've got to continue that focus and hopefully we’ll start having some positive outcomes, especially in the first period."
Getting the lead will also help the Bruins roll four lines against a deep Ducks team with plenty of big bodies and strength down the middle. Shortening the bench won't be high on Julien's list with a back-to-back game against LA awaiting them on Tuesday.
"I remember last year it was definitely a tough road trip and I think we were lucky to get even one point out of it," said Smith. "So we’re looking for a better effort this time around. But you’re not going to win these games unless you’re firing on all cylinders."
Ducks Expecting "Real Tough" Matchup With Boston
Whether it's been dealing with the mumps, or facing a slew of injuries to the back end that led to a trade to bring in veteran blueliner Eric Brewer, Anaheim isn't looking for any sympathy - especially against the Bruins, who are still without Zdeno Chara, David Krejci and Adam McQuaid.
"Everybody's got injuries. I mean, we're preaching to the choir against Boston," said Ducks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau. "Injuries are a part of the game. You either play through and say 'the hell with it' and somebody else takes their spot, or you sit there and you moan and groan about it and say 'woe is me' and I hope we're not the 'woe is me' team, we just friggin' go out there and play. Whoever plays, plays."
The Ducks are coming off two losses to Chicago (4-1) and San Jose (6-4). Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry helped Anaheim erase a 5-1 deficit in that loss to San Jose, but it wasn't enough.
Boudreau labeled those games a "wakeup call" for his club, which has been having trouble putting together a 60-minute effort. He's expecting that effort from his club against Boston.
"They're good, and whoever they have in the lineup, they play the same way," Boudreau said of the Bruins. "Claude plays the same way, and they have to play the same way to be a Boston Bruin. They have a lot of tenacity, they compete and they never quit, and they play fast. So when you're playing the Boston Bruins, you're in for a real tough game, no matter who's in the lineup."
Cunningham, Griffith Scratches Up Front
Craig Cunningham and Seth Griffith both stayed on the ice for extra work following morning skate, usually indicating they'll be scratches. That would point to Matt Fraser getting back into the lineup after being a healthy scratch against Winnipeg.
Projected Lineup vs. Anaheim 12/1
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Milan Lucic - Carl Soderberg - Loui Eriksson
Reilly Smith - Chris Kelly - Matt Fraser
Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Simon Gagne
Dennis Seidenberg - Kevan Miller
Matt Bartkowski - Dougie Hamilton
Joe Morrow - Torey Krug
Starter: Tuukka Rask // Backup: Niklas Svedberg
Scratches: Craig Cunningham, Seth Griffith, Zach Trotman