|Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, right, tries to slow Boston Bruins right wing Nathan Horton during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Los Angeles, Monday, Jan. 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson) |
The Bruins (28-15-7) finished up the pre-All-Star portion of the season on top of the Northeast Division and third in the Eastern Conference with 63 points.
Boston entered the break on a roll with a 7-3-0 record in their last five games, including Wednesday night’s 2-1 win against Florida in TD Garden leading the B’s into the break.
“We’re getting there. I think we still want to improve, we know we have to get better,” Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said after that game.
“We tend to forget sometimes the schedule, the travel and everything else, it catches up to you.
“These guys aren’t machines, they’re not robots, they’re humans. So I think that the bottom line is that we want to get a little bit of consistency but more in our play,” he said.
The Bruins played a solid first half and saw a few of their players break out to strong starts. Patrice Bergeron
leads the Bruins in points with 40 (16 goals, 24 assists) and continues to play as a solid defensive forward. Tim Thomas
has returned to form as an All-Star goaltender — he won his third consecutive All-Star game on Sunday — and leads the league in goals against average (1.81) and save percentage (.945).
Thomas is also tied for the league lead in shutouts (7) and has racked up a 24-5-6 record, just one win behind Anaheim's Jonas Hiller for tops in the NHL.
“I’ll agree that Timmy [Thomas] has been a great player for us. He’s been consistent and I think Zdeno [Chara] has been another one of those guys,” Julien said. “You know, the guys that you rely on every night. Bergy [Patrice Bergeron
] is one of those guys.”
In the Florida win, B’s left-winger Milan Lucic
notched his milestone 20th goal, a new career high, and leads the B’s in goals (20) and shooting percentage (18.9).
“I should expect him [to] continue playing a physical game, we should expect him to continue to produce because he’s capable of doing that," said Julien. "But I think what we’ve seen in the first half is what he’s capable of doing for us as we move on.
“He’s also one of those players that I think has always come up big in the big games, such as playoffs.
"He’s one of those guys that really rises to the occasion so you hope that continues as well,” he said.
Lucic and the rest of the Bruins will need to continue their solid play throughout the post-All-Star, grind-it-out, portion of the season in order to keep the Montreal Canadiens, who are just four points behind in the Northeast Division, at bay and keep their home-ice hopes alive.
“I think we can all stand here and know that there are certain guys that I think once they find their game, they’re going to produce more,” Julien said. Nathan Horton
is one of the players the B's will look to in the second half.
“Obviously I would like to see him score and I think everybody would. But you know, you got to recognize when a guy is not scoring goals, but you also have to recognize some of the good things he does,” Julien said.
“You know, you hope that he’s going to start scoring and get his confidence back because it’s going to help the team a lot.”
Boston starts off the second portion of their season with a road-tilt in Carolina on Tuesday night before heading home for a four-game home stand that includes a match-up with the Canadiens.
“The challenge in this last stretch will be the mental challenge about having that consistency night in, night out. Again, you look for the 20 guys in your lineup to be at the top of their game,” Julien said.
“You’re pushing for that and striving for that, and as long as you got that you’re winning some hockey games.
“If it moves around a little bit, that’s fine, but you hope that you get everybody going at the right time,” he said.---Hannah Becker