“I think we’ve just got to stick with the system,” said forward Chris Kelly following Friday’s morning skate. “Stick with the game plan and managing the puck — knowing when to make the proper decisions with it, and force them into making the mistakes, as opposed to the other way around.”
The Bruins will have their work cut out for them as they face a rolling Islanders team that has won its last four games and is coming off a 4-0 shutout of Columbus on Oct. 20.
“They’re playing well and they’re a good skating team with a lot of offensive skill,” Kelly said. “I think we’ve got to get our feet moving early on and manage the puck well tonight.”
The Bruins had trouble coming out of the gates their last time out against the Flyers. They didn’t get a strong start, but they did get a strong second period, taking a 4-2 lead into the third. That, however, is where they struggled against Philadelphia. They allowed two third-period goals and fell 5-4 in overtime.
Now is their opportunity to right the course once again.
“I think it’s important that we get a bounceback game here,” said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. “I don’t think we played as well as we can last game, so the important thing here is to come in and hopefully establish yourself in a better way than we did last game.
“We understand this a good team and has been getting better every year, so we’re going to need our A-game tonight. It’s as simple as that.”
Boston is expecting the same intensity from the surging Islanders.
“They’re a pretty good team,” said forward David Pastrnak, “but so are we, and we have to stick with our process and play all 60 minutes. If we can do that, I think we’re going to be fine.”
Fortunately for Boston, the road has been kind to them thus far in 2015-16. They entered their first road trip of the season with a winless record and returned to Boston with two victories and an 11-5 scoring advantage.
In their eyes, they didn’t do anything too special to tune up in those two games against Colorado and Arizona. They simply stuck with the system and stuck it out for all three periods.
“I think we stuck with our process for the whole 60 minutes,” Pastrnak said, “and that’s the biggest key for the game.”
One of the biggest positives for the Bruins this season has been their offense, which has certainly been clicking of late. They have found a way to put the puck in the back of the net with frequency — aided by the league’s best power play — and according to captain Zdeno Chara, that has been a focus since training camp kicked off in mid-September.
Now, the goal is to operate with equal efficiency in the other end.
“That’s obviously been our focus right from the beginning of this training camp — to increase our production up front,” Chara said. “I think we’ve shown that we are capable of doing that. We’ve just got to improve the other parts of our game.”
The Bruins have proven it has what it takes to be stingy in their own end. They have proven they can do it on the road.
They stumbled against the Flyers, but Friday will be about getting back to basics.
“I like the potential of our hockey club right now,” Julien said. “We’ve shown, at times, when we play hard and we play together and respect our game plan, we can be a very good team. That’s the area we need to improve, is get some consistency in that area.
“If we can do that with a lot of young players, and get better as we move along, we’ll be fine.”
PP Still Surging
Boston’s secret to offensive success this season has been easy to identify.
The Bruins enter Friday’s game with the league’s most efficient power play, which is currently operating at a 38.1 percent clip. David Krejci — currently leading the NHL in points with 11 — also leads the NHL in power play points with six, closely followed by teammates Torey Krug and Patrice Bergeron with five apiece.
The way Julien sees it, familiarity has been the X-factor for his club on the man advantage.
“There’s a confidence level that exists there with guys who have been on that power play together for over a year now,” Julien said. “We’ve added David Krejci in Dougie Hamilton’s spot, but that rest of them know each other well, and David’s come in and done a great job at the blueline of controlling the power play as well.
“Right now, a lot of it is confidence — we’re moving it quick and we’re shooting when it’s time to shoot. So you’ve got to ride that.”
Boston will certainly get a fight, however, from New York’s penalty kill. In Tuesday’s shutout of the Blue Jackets, the Islanders went a perfect 6-for-6 when shorthanded.
“We’ve been doing a good job clearing pucks and clearing them the full length of the ice, which helps, and just being aware of where the guys are on the ice and their tendencies,” said Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk.
If the Bruins have the opportunity on Friday, though, they will not be thinking about what the Isles are doing to thwart them. They will simply be focused on continuing to do what has been working thus far.
“[We’ll] just keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Chara said, “You’ve got to be focusing on working those other guys on the other side of the ice.”
Boychuck Playing Game No. 400
Friday night will be a special night for defenseman Johnny Boychuk, and not only because he is facing his former team.
He will be skating in the 400th game of his NHL career, a milestone he wasn’t always sure he would reach. For a player who spent five-plus seasons in the AHL, it is certainly something special.
“Against the Bruins, too — wow,” Boychuk said. “Just being in the minors for so long, you kind of just get labeled as a ‘good minor league guy,’ and for the Bruins to trade for me [in 2008] and give me an opportunity, I’m always grateful for that. Winning a Stanley Cup there was also unbelievable — but 400 games…
“At first, I didn’t think about it — that I would get there — but you know, after being in the league for a little while, it’s kind of satisfying that I do get to play in that many games.”
No matter the occasion, though, for Boychuk, facing off against the Bruins — even though he has done it three times already — is always special.
“It’s going to be a good game,” he said. “It’s going to be nice to play against the old team again. It’s their first time coming in here, and it’s a little but different than coming to the Coliseum, but it will be a good game.
“I’ve still got lots of friends over there, but, you know, friends before and after. It’s another game, and it’s a special game. It’s going to be fun.”
His former teammates, too, are equally excited to face off against him. Still, though, they will attempt to treat this like any other game.
“Johnny was a big part of this team for a lot of years, and such a great guy,” Kelly said. “Obviously he’s had success here. We know Johnny’s strengths, and I think we’ve just got to go out and play, just like any other former teammate.”
Beleskey, Morrow Take Rushes
Though Matt Beleskey missed Wednesday’s game and Thursday’s practice with an undisclosed upper body injury, he did travel with the team to Brooklyn, and on Friday morning, he took rushes in his now-customary spot on Krejci’s left wing.
After the skate, though, Julien offered no confirmation on whether or not Beleskey will be back in the lineup against the Islanders.
Also taking rushes was defenseman Joe Morrow, who has been out since Oct. 11 with a nasty bout of the flu that landed him on injured reserve. He skated with Kevan Miller on the third pairing.
Patrice Bergeron — who has been spending time with his family since the birth of his first child, Zach — was missing from Wednesday’s morning skate.
Per rushes, the healthy scratches on Friday figure to be Tyler Randell and Zach Trotman. Max Talbot, who has been the healthy scratch for Boston’s last three games, skated on the third line with Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes.
The Bruins made one roster transaction following Thursday’s practice, assigning defenseman Tommy Cross to Providence. Cross was called up on Oct. 12 and played in three games for Boston while Morrow was on IR.
Jonas Gustavsson was the first goalie off the ice on Friday morning, indicating that he should get the start in net for Boston. Gustavsson has made one start thus far in 2015-16 and got the win, stopping 20 of 22 shots against Colorado on Oct. 14.
Projected Lineup vs. Islanders
Matt Beleskey — David Krejci — David Pastrnak
Brad Marchand — Chris Kelly — Loui Eriksson
Max Talbot — Ryan Spooner — Jimmy Hayes
Zac Rinaldo — Joonas Kemppainen — Brett Connolly
Zdeno Chara — Colin Miller
Torey Krug — Adam McQuaid
Joe Morrow — Kevan Miller
Starting Goaltender: Jonas Gustavsson // Backup: Tuukka Rask