WILMINGTON, MA - On a snowy Wednesday in New England, the Bruins gathered at Ristuccia Arena for a skate before traveling to St. Louis, in advance of their game against the Blues on Thursday night.
Two games now remain for the Black & Gold before the NHL's Olympic break. They've made a strong push so far, garnering a 7-1-1 record in their past nine games, with only one regulation loss to Montreal and a shootout loss to the Blackhawks.
The consistency in their "team game" has been the biggest factor.
And while their recent success happens to fall before Olympic fever sets in around them, the talk around the locker room hasn't necessarily focused on the international event. The focus, simply, has just been on a game-by-game approach, picking up as many points as possible.
"We haven't really mentioned anything about the Olympics, because it doesn't really affect a ton of people here and right now, it really is about us," Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said following the team's skate on Wednesday.
"So I think it's important, as professionals, we have a job to do and you focus on the job that's in front of you, not the one that's a week away. So right now, our guys have done a good job in this last stretch, just playing some sound hockey, and not always perfect, but good enough to be the better team at the end of the night - and winning hockey games."
Boston has added to their Atlantic Division lead, sitting five points ahead of Tampa Bay in the standings with 75 overall.
During the Bruins' 7-1-1 stretch, it hasn't necessarily felt like domination (well, maybe aside from the three straight six-goal games). The solid, all-around play has been there, and it bodes well for the team when they return to work after the break, especially if they can close on a confident note.
"I think just focusing on finishing strong, and then we'll kind of reset and have the playoff push after that," said defenseman Dougie Hamilton. "I think especially with the last couple of games, just focusing on finishing it out."
Even players heading to Sochi, like David Krejci, haven't shifted their attention yet.
"It feels like we're just playing games and trying to win them," the centerman said, also mentioning that no one in the room is talking or thinking about the Olympics (outside of the ongoing questions the players get from reporters).
The next challenge will be the Blues in St. Louis tomorrow night.
Boston put up a fight back on November 21, in their eventual 3-2 shootout loss to St. Louis at TD Garden.
"Both teams could have walked out of here and said, ‘You know what, hard-fought game,’ and both teams would have been happy," Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien had said following the game.
"They're a tough team, they're doing very well this year," said blueliner Kevan Miller, who made his NHL debut in that game.
The Blues are tied for third in the league with Pittsburgh (80 points), just behind Chicago and Anaheim. If the Bruins are a measuring stick from the East, the Blues are the same in the West.
"We just need to be ready to go tomorrow; we've been playing pretty well lately. I know they don't give up very many goals, so we need to do a good job in our defensive zone as well," said Miller.
Zee Heads to Sochi
The Bruins are now without Zdeno Chara for their final two games, as he travels to Sochi, Russia to carry Slovakia's flag in Friday's Olympic Opening Ceremonies. David Warsofsky will slot into the lineup in the Captain's absence, but it's a team-wide effort to still maintain their high level of play.
"I think it’s going to be important that our whole D corps does a good job there. So you can’t put all the burden on one guy’s shoulder," said Julien. "And as much Zee is a big part of that back end, other guys have done a great job in making our whole D corps pretty solid. So I would have to expect the same thing."
"We’ve been through these things many times where we’ve still been able to win games without key players and we’re certainly going to try to do that these games."
McQuaid Still Sidelined
Adam McQuaid has now been sidelined for two and a half week with his leg injury that has kept him out since the Bruins' game on January 19 in Chicago.
The D-man has missed seven games in that span and has still yet to join practice, though Julien said he would likely start skating sometime this week before the Olympic break.
Wednesdays Practice Lineup
White Jerseys: Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Jarome Iginla
Gold: Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Reilly Smith
Gray: Chris Kelly - Carl Soderberg - Loui Eriksson
Merlot: Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton
Defense: Johnny Boychuk, Matt Bartkowski, Dougie Hamilton, Kevan Miller, Torey Krug, David Warsofsky
Goalies: Tuukka Rask, Chad Johnson