- Night after night, the Bruins prove a tough test for opponents, whether on the road or at home, where they return after 15 days away from the confines of TD Garden, to face the streaking Ottawa Senators.
Team after team voices concerns the B's pose with a well-structured and well-coached team. But the ever even-keeled and determined Black & Gold keep focusing within, and have proved successful in that regard - having won four straight coming off road trips through Winnipeg, Florida and New York.
"I think we’re just approaching each game and focusing on that game at task," said center Chris Kelly, following morning skate. "We’re not looking at the past, we’re not looking too far ahead."
"We’re all showing up and buying into our system. Everyone’s contributing in some aspect, maybe the points aren’t always there, individual points for guys that maybe, they were in the past," said the former Ottawa Senataor, who got his first goal of the season on the road trip, and whose line hasn't necessarily been finding the scoresheet, but has been putting up shots (six total vs the Islanders) and creating bursts of energy with their speed.
"But we’re all contributing in some manner."
"We’ve just got to go about our business and play the same way that we have been playing that’s been getting us wins," added Milan Lucic. "We talk about all the guys that are out of their lineup and for us you look at the standings right now, we’re neck and neck, and it’s a big divisional game as well."
"They’re right there in the middle of the pack and so are we so it’s a big game for both sides."
Both teams come into tonight riding winning streaks - with the B's on their four-game win streak - all on the road - and Ottawa having won five straight, including the past four at home before heading to Boston. The Sens have a 3-5-0 road record this season, so the Bruins will look to take advantage of being on TD Garden ice and avoid a letdown following a long road swing.
"We've got to stay away from that," Coach Julien said, as he addressed the media following morning skate, on not easing up tonight, after a strong road trip. "We realize tonight that we're playing a team that's in our division and there's a bunch of us in the Northeast that are battling for a top spot here."
"These games mean a lot and we just can't afford to fall into that trap. It's as simple as that."
And the home crowd will certainly help provide a spark of energy, should the B's need it.
"Yeah, absolutely," said defenseman Johnny Boychuk, on looking forward to playing in front of the Bruins faithful. "We did have a lot of fans when we were in Florida and New York with the Islanders so it's nice to see that but it’s going to be nice to see a whole crowd of our fans."
"We’ve been on a roll," he added. "We’ve played extremely well on the road, kept it simple and we should do the same thing tonight because they’re a young team that works hard and they have a lot of skilled players."
In addition to keeping it simple, the B's continued winning ways also come by way of a strong "take it game by game" message from Coach.
"For me, you address it once and you give the message that you want to give and then you move on. We're a team, as I've said publicly, that we're better when we live in the moment," said Coach Julien. "That's what we're going to try to do through this whole process here, is stay in the moment and not look further ahead than the day of the game and deal with that situation."
"I think just staying focused, staying in the moment, not looking too far ahead, not looking in the past," Kelly reiterated, mirroring Coach's approach. "I think we did a good on that road trip but like I said, that’s in the past. We’re focusing on the few games that we have at home right now."
Sens Streaking Despite Injuries
Ottawa hasn't skipped a beat since suffering multiple injuries, including those to Erik Karlsson (Achilles laceration), goaltender Craig Anderson (who was back skating with his team today at morning skate), Jason Spezza (back surgery) and Milan Michalek (right knee; also back skating with the Sens today).
"Well, they have an unbelievable goaltending tandem right now, that are so good for them," Coach Julien said on the Sens' goalie depth with Craig Anderson (though out with a right ankle sprain), Ben Bishop and young netminder Robin Lehner, who will start his first game for Ottawa this season tonight against Boston.
"They still play a good team game, which allows them to win hockey games. We've been through that before; when you have lots of injuries, you've just got to be even better at playing a good team game and that's what they're doing."
"Certainly a sense of pride that comes through that, when you can go out there and compete hard and win your fair share of game with those guys out. Again, to me it's always solidified the fact that it is a team game more than it is about individuals. There's no doubt individuals can make a difference, but no individual is still better than the team."
Making Goaltending Decisions
With the compacted schedule coming up, that sees the Bruins play a game - technically, about every 1.85 days - Coach Julien knows that the B's goaltending depth will be key.
"I think I'll have an even better idea going through this month. Right now, I think [Tuukka's] been the guy that's had lots of rest, in those first two months our games have been spread out. He's certainly not tired and I certainly don't want to bring him to that stage," said Julien.
"But at the same time, you have to realize that he also has to get into a groove. With those games spread out and three days rest, and if you put the other goaltender [Anton Khudobin] in, now you're talking about almost five to six days off, then he has to get back into his groove again. So, it's a balance between those two, getting him in a groove and then making sure, at the same time, that our other goaltender comes in and plays and continues to play well, also."