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Finding a "W" in the Neutral Zone

by Staff Writer / Boston Bruins -- Hotly contested debates often center around an age-old question in the sports world: does offense or defense win championships?

Bergeron (37) answers questions for members of the media during a news conference for the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals, Thursday, June 2, 2011, in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Bruins trail the Vancouver Canucks 1-0 in the best-of-seven games series. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
But when it comes to this argument, the Bruins are neutral.

While no player is undermining the importance of what happens in front of either net, Boston’s roster is focused on the patch of ice in between the two blue lines and heading into Game 2, the Bruins are examining the role the neutral zone played in their first matchup against Vancouver.

“In the neutral zone we weren’t getting pucks deep and that’s what was, I guess, giving them the speed that they want and the counterattack they wanted,” Boston forward Patrice Bergeron said. “We’re going to [do] a better job, especially in the neutral zone, getting pucks deep.”

The desire to do a better job in that particular part of the ice lead Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien to focus on the neutral zone in today’s practice.

It wasn’t a new focus, he said, but it was a timely one.

“I think we’ve reviewed that at different times of the year just to bring the focus back in that area,” Julien said. “I thought that was what we did today. I thought it was a good time to review that.”

The Bruins see domination of the neutral zone as an instrumental aspect of a successful attack against the Canucks.

Allowing their grasp of that crucial patch of ice to slide gives Vancouver a window, said Boston defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, and begins a pattern of a slow slide in play.

“If we don’t go to the neutral zone clean, we get behind their D’s, they pick it up on their blue line and counterattack real quick,” Seidenberg said. “[Then] it’s tough for us to get a gap and speed, and if you don’t get a gap and speed they get more room and space and that causes a lot of trouble.”

Finding an opening and utilizing a burst of speed from the neutral zone are what will allow the Bruins crucial breakaways. Seidenberg pointed out that “clean, crisp puck movement” would give Boston breakouts with the puck that could lead to more scoring chances- chances that originate from the neutral zone.

“In order to do that, you have to have all the guys come back and support each other,” the blueliner said. “We didn’t do a good job in Game 1, but we certainly want to do better on that.”

Fast, focused breakouts will be necessary as Boston looks to create more scoring opportunities against Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo, who shut the Bruins out Wednesday night, stopping all 36 pucks shot his way.

Reflecting on how his team can ensure their shots hit the back of Luongo’s net, Bergeron circled back to the middle of the ice. Between the blue lines, he says, is where the key lies to success against the weapon the Canucks have in their goaltender.

“I think it starts off in the neutral zone,” Bergeron said. “We gotta find, you know, find a better way to get to the net and battle for those loose pucks.”

“We’ve gotta make sure we’re getting in front of the net and creating some havoc and having some better luck.”

---Elizabeth Traynor
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