They were prepared to see that type of game from their opponent, but that being said, they didn’t want to play a fast-paced, run-and-gun-type game. Somehow, though, despite their preparation, the Bruins got suckered into playing Edmonton’s style for the majority of Wednesday’s 3-2 shootout loss.
As they prepare to face a similar team in Calgary on Friday night, they know the can’t make the same mistake twice.
“We’ve got to play our game — I’m serious when I say that,” said Head Coach Claude Julien following Thursday’s practice at the Scotiabank Saddledome. “We’ve got to play our game. I’m not adjusting to any team; I want teams to adjust to us. We’ve just got to play our game and respect what the other team has.
“When we play our game, it doesn’t matter what other teams do; we feel we’ve got all the bases covered. We’ve just got to play our game, and we didn’t last night.”
The Bruins entered the 2015-16 campaign with the intention of injecting more pace into their game. They have done that, to a degree, but all along, they have insisted that they did not want that pace and that faster transition game to come at the expense of solid defense.
Wednesday was a prime example of a night when the offensive chances were there, but the defensive fortitude was not.
“We want to manage the puck, play in their zone, and that’s where we’re strong and that’s what makes us strong,” said defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. “Trading chances is definitely not playing to our strengths.”
Yet, for much of Wednesday’s game, the Bruins did just that. They traded chances, and in the end, Edmonton capitalized on more of them.
For years, Boston’s game has been predicated on the credo that a strong defense leads to good offense. That is the cornerstone of the Bruins’ system, and that, they believe, is the key to developing some consistency this season.
“I don’t think we have too much trouble in our offensive game; we have to figure out how to go from defense to offense, and it seems like we’ve just been playing offense,” said forward David Krejci. “In the past, every time, it worked for us when we played good defensively, then went from there. So we have to get back to that and don’t change a thing offensively.
“We have confidence up front, and we’re putting pucks in the net” — Krejci paused to knock on the the wooden bench he was sitting on — “so let’s keep that going” “but it starts in our own D-zone.”
There have certainly been times this year when the Bruins have proven that if they focus on sticking to their structure for a full 60 minutes, they can take down even the best teams in the league. Many of the B’s cited last week’s 4-3 win over the Rangers as evidence. In that game, the Bruins needed a late comeback in order to come out on top, but they were able to limit opportunities to a team notorious for its speed and pace.
That is what they need to do more of.
“When you look back at New York — that’s definitely a game we want to come back to if we’re thinking about playing successful hockey, which is playing solid, playing strong, playing good defensively,” Seidenberg said. “Yesterday, that just wasn’t the case. Too many breakdowns, we didn’t move enough for each other, and that’s why we didn’t win yesterday.”
On Wednesday, the Bruins showed glimpses of that style of play. Unfortunately, it didn’t come until there were about five minutes remaining in regulation. In those final five minutes, the Bruins began skating harder, finishing checks and reading off each other. They imposed their gameplan on Edmonton, and it resulted in a game-tying goal off the stick of Zdeno Chara with 3:21 left on the clock.
“I think once we were down 2-1, the last five to 10 minutes of the game, we kind of showed some signs of desperation and we got our second goal,” Krejci said. “We have to play the same way — just play on our toes, and we didn’t do that yesterday for most of the game. We kind of played their game, up and down, trading chances, and that’s not how we like to play. Also, I think they outhit us as well. They’re a really good team, but that can’t happen. A team like that can’t outhit us.”
On Thursday, the Bruins had a chance to regroup. On Friday, they will have the opportunity to get another shot at a fast, skilled team, and this time, they insist that they will be the ones dictating the pace.
“I thought we had a really good practice — we did lots of things we didn’t do well in yesterday’s game, so it was a really great practice,” Krejci said. “We have the rest of the day to just kind of enjoy it, and kind of regroup and get ready for tomorrow.”
Even at this stage of the season, every point is critical, and the Bruins were well aware of that entering Wednesday’s game, the first in a three-game swing through Western Canada.
Here is where the road gets tougher: Over the next two days, the Bruins will face Calgary and Vancouver on back-to-back nights, so there is no time to dwell on what went wrong in Edmonton.
“Yesterday is yesterday, and today’s today, and you’ve got to think about what’s ahead of you,” Julien said. “I don’t feel like talking about yesterday; I feel like talking about what we need to do, here, and we need to be better.”
On a trip like this, short-term memory is of the utmost importance.
“It’s tough — you always want to stay confident, and I think that’s big for every kind of young player getting into this league,” said rookie defenseman Colin Miller. “If you can keep your confidence, then you can kind of do your game and play your game. So I think it’s good to have a short memory in all cases, when you have a good game and when you have a bad game.”
Clearly, there is a difference between dwelling and acknowledging what went wrong, then working to correct it. That was what Thursday’s practice was for. Friday marks Boston’s first opportunity to rewrite the dialogue of this trip.
“We’re always talking about being a consistent team,” Seidenberg said. “Tomorrow’s the opportunity to get back to playing the way we want to — play solid hockey, pucks deep and playing our style that makes us successful.”
Forward Brett Connolly began Wednesday’s game on the fourth line, but by the final horn, he was back on the top line alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. That was where he remained for Thursday’s practice.
Frank Vatrano, who started Wednesday’s game with Bergeron and Marchand, slotted in on the third line on Ryan Spooner’s left wing. That was where he skated in last week’s thrilling overtime win over Detroit, and perhaps a return to that line will prove beneficial for him after a difficult outing on Wednesday.
“He’s played pretty well up to date, and I think yesterday was an off game for him,” Julien said. “I don’t think he played a real solid game. When he doesn’t skate, he’s no different than anybody else, but his skating game allows him to get into those areas to score goals. He’s a young player that’s been good for us, and you don’t turn around and change things because of one bad game, and that’s not why he’s on a different line again.”
Julien noted, as always, that there is no guarantee Thursday’s practice lines will translate into game action against the Flames on Friday.
“All I’m saying is that I’m moving players around every practice, almost every game, in game, as you saw last night — so there’s nothing carved in stone, here,” he said. “We’re just trying to get some line combinations there that will give us the best chance to win on certain nights and certain teams that you play against and what they have, and what we’re able to put together to counter that.”
First Outing vs. Hamilton
As the Bruins prepare to face the Flames on Friday night for the first time this season, they will also face former Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton for the first time.
Hamilton was traded to the Flames during the 2015-16 offseason and is in the midst of his first season with Calgary.
“I like it a lot,” Hamilton said following the Flames’ practice at the Saddledome. “Everything’s been really fun. Everything’s really good so far, I think, with the people around here. Everyone’s nice, and unfortunately, we haven’t been winning as much as we would like, so it makes it a little tough, but other than that, everything’s good.”
The Flames, who clawed their way into the playoffs last season as the second wild card in the West, have had a tougher go of it thus far in 2015-16. Expectations were high entering this season, but they currently reside in 13th place in the Western Conference.
Calgary is stocked with youth — the 22-year-old Hamilton included — and as Head Coach Bob Hartley pointed out, it will take time for those young players to forge a team identity and translate that into success on the ice.
“[Hamilton has] a lot to offer — great young man, good worker, like Sam Bennett, like Sean Monahan, like Johnny Gaudreau, like [Markus] Granlund,” Hartley said on Thursday. “We have a very young core of players, and like all those guys, we’re doing videos with them on a day-to-day basis, we’re working in practices.
“But obviously, we understand where this organization is right now.”
Hamilton said he is eager to catch up with some of his former teammates before Friday’s matchup.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the guys today, and I still talk to a couple of them and follow them and see how they’re doing,” he said. “So it’s going to be weird, definitely, just to play against them, kind of watch them, and it’s just kind of a weird, unique situation, I think.”
Thursday’s Practice Lineup
Gold Jerseys: Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Brett Connolly
White Jerseys: Matt Beleskey, David Krejci, Loui Eriksson
Gray Jerseys: Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner, Jimmy Hayes
Red Jerseys: Zac Rinaldo, Joonas Kemppainen, Tyler Randell, Landon Ferraro
Defensemen: Zdeno Chara, Zach Trotman, Dennis Seidenberg, Colin Miller, Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, Joe Morrow, Kevan Miller
Goalies: Tuukka Rask, Jonas Gustavsson