- The Bruins needed to make an impression Thursday night.
Bench boss Claude Julien knew his team had played a bad game against Philadelphia their last time out, but he wanted the Black & Gold to prove that it was simply that - and not a step back.
In response, they made impressions all over the ice, en route to a 2-0 shutout of the offensively talented Tampa Bay Lightning. Eighteen hits isn't the highest total, but they were utilized at opportune times and Milan Lucic was the heavy giver of four of them, along with his linemate David Krejci.
"That’s our game. We are like a checking team that can score and not the other way around," said defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, who netted the game-winner on his third of the season, a drive from the right point that found its way through traffic with Patrice Bergeron expertly placed in front just 4:22 into the first.
"If you play hard, it creates turnovers, it creates chances offensively and it kills plays in our zone. So, we have to play that way in order to be successful against those skilled teams and that’s what we did tonight."
The Bruins brought energy and moved the puck better, from the back end out - a clear emphasis coming in - beginning with their goaltender, Tuukka Rask, who made 30 saves to earn his fifth shutout of the season, matching his career season-high he put up in 2009-10.
"I’m really proud of the effort and how we responded after that pretty bad game in Philly. Great effort," said Rask postgame, sporting a Massachusetts State Police cap. The effort prompted "Tuukka, Tuukka, Tuukka" and "Tuuuuuuuuk" chants from the Garden faithful.
"You always try to give them a reason to cheer you and today it was fun."
When Coach Julien addressed the media from his press conference podium earlier Thursday morning, he had hoped for the effort showed in the 2-0 win, but he knew it was ultimately up to the men in the spoked-B.
"Like I said this morning, we’re going to find out quickly if it was just a little bump in the road or whether it was a step back. I thought our guys played hard tonight," said Coach, clearly calm and pleased with what he viewed as a full-60 effort.
"I’m not looking for perfection; I’m looking for reaction."
When asked to expand on the exact reaction he was looking for, Coach elaborated.
"Reaction, to play with some emotion, play with some grit, desire, determination. I saw all those things tonight."
"The identity of our team is as such, we’re a team that prides ourselves on being a physical team, a team that’s hard to play against. We have to create that, the rest of the game will come along. That’s what we’re looking to see from our guys for 60 minutes."
The physicality was certainly upped, whether it was Lucic throwing the body on Tampa's Keith Aulie with a big hit on the forecheck, or Andrew Ference dropping the gloves with former Bruin Benoit Pouliot just nine seconds later in the opposite end behind Rask.
"It's been working for us with the chances for," Johnny Boychuk had told 98.5 The Sports Hub after the first 20 minutes on the results of the physicality.
"Looch, he got going there - he was buzzing around. Fer had a fight. And then, after that I think we stepped it up a notch and never let go and played a pretty solid game after those two individuals got us going," said Rask.
Bruins' enforcer Shawn Thornton liked seeing his teammates get physical, a character trait that the entire team takes on when playing their best, not just No. 22.
"I think everyone that does it whenever they do it kind of shows something," said Thornton of Ference, who dropped the gloves and earned five for fighting for the first time since April 4, 2012 against Pittsburgh's James Neal.
"He thought we needed some emotion and he stepped up and got the boys going."
"When you see a guy like that, one of your leaders, stepping up early on in the first period, it definitely energizes the bench and I think it gave us a good energy boost heading into the second period," said Lucic, before engaging in his own bout with Aulie along the boards late in the second, after his B's had already taken a 2-0 lead on Daniel Paille's make-no-mistake one-timer at 13:31.
Shawn Thornton gave his rapid fire breakdown of the performance from his corner of the B's locker room following the win.
"It’s a better effort all around. I think we did a better job of keeping pucks in. I think we did a better job playing a north-south game. We brought some emotion all around. Looch did a great job. Andrew did a great job. Tuukka stood on his head, made some big saves when we needed them. All-around better effort."
The question still remains if the B's will be able to carry this effort into Saturday in D.C. and Sunday back at home against Ottawa, but based on their emotional response Thursday night, I'd bet the odds are in their favor. The defeat to the Flyers may have come just 48 hours ago, and if the Bruins' response in goal is any indication, the confident feeling is not only between the pipes; it has permeated through the group.
"You just try to do damage control," said Rask, of the tough outing against Philadelphia, especially for the goaltenders. "We were so bad that game that might as well not have a goalie at all. But we talked about it. We shook it off. We recognized that we have to be better and it’s unacceptable, the level of hockey we played that game."
"Today, I think we responded really good. But then again, we have a game Saturday and Sunday, and we can’t take a step back right now. We have to move forward and keep going."
Still Mistakes to Correct
The effort was there for the full 60 minutes, but the game wasn't perfect.
"There were still some mistakes. I think you know, you look at Brad, he’s frustrated, pucks keep jumping over his stick, and you know at some point you start squeezing your stick a little bit more," said Coach Julien.
"But those are the things that I thought created some turnovers. And at least it wasn’t like the other night from not thinking well or not being like I said, focused enough, that you made a bad decision."
"For us tonight, those breakdowns sometimes were pucks jumping over sticks, or we forced a pass versus shooting. Those are the kind of breakdowns we had, but those things will come around if we stay focused on playing the way we did tonight."
Chara-Seidenberg Back Together
"They’re a pair that has done a good job in the past in the playoffs," said Coach Julien, of pairing Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg together for the game.
"They hadn’t played together this year, so it’s just about giving them, I guess, a feel, a taste of it again, so if need be, when playoffs come around and depending on who we play, we may have that option, as well."
Paille Matches Season-High in Goals with Boston
"You know, the puck’s going in and my first year here I had a ton of chances, it just wasn’t going in," said Paille, on the 10 goals he scored in 2009-10 to match this year's total through just 34 games. "So I’m trying to be a little more patient around certain plays, and watching a lot of video and tried to work on a lot of things."
"It’s paying off at the moment right now and I don’t want to stop. I’ve got to working on that in fixing certain aspects of game that still need some work. But overall I’m glad I’m helping out as much as I can. "