In the third period of Thursday night’s 3-2 loss to Chicago, Milan Lucic had just taken the puck the length of the ice to set up Torey Krug’s eventual goal. After dishing the puck to the front of the net, Lucic took what Kelly perceived to be a late hit at the end boards, and after a lengthy scuffle, he and Chicago’s Andrew Shaw went at it.
“Looch can defend himself -- everyone knows that," Kelly said on Friday after the B's practiced at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington. "I don’t think it was about that. I think you want to be there for your teammates.
"Although it was probably a clean hit, I just didn’t like it, or whatever. But fighting’s part of the game. It’s two willing people fighting, and that’s really all it was.”
The fighting major may not have sparked the Bruins to a victory, but it did inspire them. That much was obvious from their comments after the game on Thursday, and the next day at Ristuccia.
“We need that in our game, and we’ve always thrived off that kind of stuff,” said forward Brad Marchand. “We feed off it as a team, and it brings a lot of energy. When you have guys sticking up for your teammates, it builds confidence within the group, and it was great to see that last night. Hopefully we can continue to see that.”
Toughness and scrappiness have long been a part of the Bruins’ identity — perhaps not as much this year as in years past, but that made it even better to see that feistiness creep into the Bruins’ game on Thursday. Kelly’s scrap gave them energy. It inspired them. It reminded them of what the Black & Gold identity is all about.
“I think that’s kind of been one of the things we’ve been known for, is being a tough kind of group here,” Kelly said. “We’ve had some really, really tough guys — and we have some really, really tough guys. I just think that as a group, not everyone fights, and not everyone’s supposed to fight — it’s just about being together and having each other’s backs, and I think that’s been such a positive thing with this group.”
Kelly’s fight wasn’t about bad blood. It was about making sure that Lucic — and the rest of his teammates — knew he had their backs and would go to battle for them.
Clearly, the message penetrated.
“It’s huge — it’s one thing we’ve always taken a lot of pride in, sticking up for each other,” Marchand said. “You have to know that when you’re on the ice, your teammates have your back. If you don’t have that confidence, it’s not really a team that can win.
“You need that to go all the way, and you’ve got to know your teammate’s right there for you, and that you can trust him at any point in time. I think we’re working on that, and like I said, it’s something we’ve always taken a lot of pride in.
“We don’t want to lose that identity. It’s been huge for us, and again, it’s something we’re working on.”
Marchand did, of course, make sure to give Kelly props for his fighting chops.
“Kells did a great job last night,” Marchand said with a grin. “He’s sneaky tough, and he’s always angry, so it’s nice to get a little frustration out on them. Good to see.”
Putting It Together
It’s been a familiar refrain for the Bruins over the last couple of weeks: They have played good periods, but for the mosts part, it has been difficult for them to play the way they want to play — or the way they think they are capable of playing — for a full 60 minutes.
In the loss to Chicago, the Bruins started to turn up the heat in the second period, particularly after killing off two 5-on-3 penalties. The uptick resulted in Boston’s first goal of the game, which came off the stick of Reilly Smith with less than 90 seconds remaining in the frame.
The B’s kept up that pace throughout the third period as well, and they were able to pull within a goal, but then, they ran out of time.
“I think that’s been a bit of an issue, is having that consistent 60-minute effort and realizing that you need to play the game a certain way to have success, regardless of the score or what’s gone on,” Kelly said. “It’s playing the system and playing the system well, and playing the game the way it needs to be played, and that’s working hard in all three zones and supporting one another.”
The Bruins brought everything they wanted to bring to the table late in the game versus the Blackhawks. They were physical. They played for one another. They played with energy and fire against one of the best teams, if not the best team, in the Western Conference.
Now, they have to do that for a full three periods, night in and night out, in order to accomplish their ultimate goal of climbing the standings.
“We definitely have to be happy with the effort, but at the end of the day, we need results,” Marchand said. “I think we’re working in the right direction; we’re playing real good stints of hockey, but we just have to find a way to put it all together.
“I think we just have to make sure that going into the game, we’re prepared right from the get-go, and if we do that, then hopefully we’ll put a good 60 together.”
The Bruins were clearly not perfect on Thursday night. They made mistakes, particularly in the first 30 minutes of action: During that span, they were whistled for four penalties, two of which were too many men and delay of game penalties. With seven minutes gone in the second frame, they were down 3-0, but they seemed to quickly turn things around for the second half of the game.
It may have been too little, too late on Thursday, but there is the possibility that the end of that game marked a turning point of sorts for this hockey club.
“I think we had some good looks last night, but when it came down [to it], it was our mistakes that ended up costing us that game,” Kelly said. “I hope we can kind of take the good out of it and move forward and realize the type of game we need to play in order to have success.”
No Hearing for Seidenberg
Midway through the second period on Thursday night, defenseman Dennis Seidenberg was whistled for a boarding penalty on Chicago’s Jonathan Toews. Toews went head-first into the end boards, and after staying on the ice for his team’s ensuing 5-on-3 and then going to box for hooking, he went down the tunnel. At the beginning of the third period, it was announced that he would not return to the game for precautionary reasons.
On Thursday night, there was some speculation that Seidenberg could receive supplemental discipline for the hit, but as of Friday afternoon, he had not heard from the league.
Seidenberg contended on Thursday night that there was no intent to harm on the play, and he echoed those sentiments again on Friday.
“I still believe that I went for his shoulder, to the side, and he kind of spun off,” Seidenberg said. “But then again, you look at the replays, and he goes to the boards really awkwardly and dangerously, so it looks dangerous — but again, I don’t want to hurt a guy on the ice. I play the battles — or try to play them — hard, so that’s what I did.”
Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said on Thursday night that he did not believe the play warranted further discipline, and he reiterated that point on Friday.
“I looked at it again,” Julien said. “You look at those things — you look at it quick — and I say the same thing. I’m not necessarily saying that’s the situation, but sometimes, we got to protect ourselves as players, and Dennis is a strong individual. He went in there to close a gap quickly, and it’s away from the boards, so the way it ended up — when you look at who it is, and him not coming back — you kind of expect that it’s going to be looked at.
“If you ask me, I don’t think it’s worthy of more than he got — a penalty.”
Friday’s Practice Lineup
White Jerseys: Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Loui Eriksson
Gold Jerseys: Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Reilly Smith
Gray Jerseys: Chris Kelly, Carl Soderberg, Matt Fraser
Burgundy Jerseys: Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, Seth Griffith, Craig Cunningham
Defensemen: Zdeno Chara, Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug, Zach Trotman, Kevan Miller, Dennis Seidenberg, Matt Bartkowski, Zach Trotman
Goalies: Tuukka Rask, Niklas Svedberg