“It’s got to come natural,” said forward Landon Ferraro following Tuesday’s practice at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. “You can’t be thinking about it all the time. When you start playing desperate hockey, then you start making kind of hope plays and things like that. We need to make sure we’re playing our game — getting on the forecheck. That’s when we’re at our best, is when the forwards are getting in and the D are pinching to hold it in and things like that.
“We can’t think about it too much. We just have to play and trust that our systems and who we have in this room is going to help us and make sure that we get the job done.”
The question for the Bruins, at the moment, is how to find a way to maintain the level of intensity they showed through the first 40 minutes of play against the Rangers on Monday night. Through the first 40 minutes, the Bruins were tenacious. They capitalized on at least one opportunity, off the stick of Jimmy Hayes. They played their system to a T.
Then, heading into the third, they seemed to relax.
“You have to stay focused,” Ferraro said. “We, at points, seem to back off a little bit, and we did that to start the third, and they got one 50 seconds in or whatever it was. It was real quick. Then we kind of got on our heels a bit until we started taking it over again. But we’ve got to find a way to stay consistent in our play and not have those little let downs for five minutes at different points of the game.
“When we do that, we’re going to be a real good team. It’s just, we’ve got to make sure to get that done sooner than later.”
The good news is, the Bruins have shown the ability to win those tight games. They did it as recently as Friday night in New Jersey, when they took a 2-1 lead into the final two minutes of the second period and increased it to 4-1 by the time the game had ended.
“It’s one of those things you’ve got to be able to have the confidence,” said forward Jimmy Hayes. “We have the group in here that can close out games — we’ve proven we can do it. But we’ve got to continue to find ways to win. We had a great effort [on Monday], but ultimately, we want to get two points, and we’ve got to continue to develop and find ways to win.”
The secret is finding a way to bring that effort consistently, and against the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
“I thought we had a great game last night,” said forward Zac Rinaldo. “They had some good bounces; bounces didn’t go our way last night. [Henrik] Lundqvist made some nice saves, and we missed a couple opportunities, but I think for the most part, last night was a confidence booster for everybody. And I think we’ve just got to build off that game last night and bring that tomorrow.”
The Eastern Conference standings have been impossibly tight all season up to this point. Just five points separate the second place team in the Atlantic Division from the sixth place team. Any club’s postseason picture can change with the outcome of a single game.
The B’s had an opportunity to gain some ground on Monday. Through the first two periods, it looked like they were on track to doing just that.
For several games now, the effort has been there for the Bruins. Now, they just need to find a way to get a mark in the win column along with it.
“We’re always a hard-working team, and no matter what the score is, we’re always going to play to the end,” Rinaldo said. “No matter what the outcome is, we’re always going to play and be determined to push and push and push, no matter what the score is.”
Zac Rinaldo has already played against the Flyers once this season, but Wednesday night’s game will present an entirely different experience.
Rinaldo, who spent the first four years of his NHL career with Philadelphia, will play at the Wells Fargo Center as a visitor for the first time ever.
“Different feeling, obviously,” Rinaldo said following Tuesday’s practice. “Yeah, it’s a totally different feeling, now that I’m on a different team.”
Rinaldo — who tallied eight goals, 16 assists and 572 penalty minutes in his Flyers career — doesn’t know what kind of reception he will receive on Wednesday, from his former teammates or from the fans. But he’s hoping they recognize the passion he dedicated to the Flyers during his four years of service and react accordingly.
“I’m just hoping for some positivity,” he said. “I put my heart and soul into the team, and I do that for every team — not just because it’s the Flyers. I’m doing that for the Bruins, too. But I put my heart and soul for the team and for the city, so hope some positivity would be nice.”
Rinaldo will enter Wednesday’s matchup with some momentum, as he and fellow fourth-liners Max Talbot — also an ex-Flyer — and Landon Ferraro played one of their strongest games of the season on Monday against the Rangers.
They even reminded Head Coach Claude Julien of one of Boston’s most successful fourth lines in recent history, composed of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton.
“They had a lot of scoring chances, and they created things, and when you have that, you’re able to — I say that all the time — utilize your bench a little bit better,” Julien said. “There’s some guys that have played some big minutes since the beginning of the year because we didn’t have that; here’s an opportunity, here, to balance things out a little bit more with performances like they gave us last night.”
That line’s nose for the net wasn’t an accident; it was a point of emphasis entering Monday’s game. And chances are, if they are able to continue creating that many offensive opportunities, success will come their way.
“I think we were concentrating on being really hard on the puck and maintaining it down low and just not throwing it away or blind passing it,” Rinaldo said. “I think my concentration was be hard on the puck all game. If an opportunity for a hit came about, then I would finish my check. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t go out looking for it. I really concentrated on the puck last night.”
Moving On Up
There were a few lineup changes during Tuesday’s practice, but the most notable was the fact that Jimmy Hayes had been shifted from third line duty to first line duty.
He suited up on the right side of Patrice Bergeron, with Brad Marchand on the left.
There are no promises that Hayes will remain in that spot for Wednesday’s game, but surely, it is an indication that the 6-foot-6, 220-pound forward has been doing something right.
“He seems to be stronger on the puck; he seems to be in position to shoot it more,” Julien said. “He’s doing the things we want him to do, and we need some production, here, so a guy like that gets rewarded sometimes and gets put on that line to see if it could be a fit.”
Hayes has been noticeably more present in front of the net of late, an area that was expected to be his wheelhouse entering his first season with the Bruins.
“That’s one of the reasons we got him — what we saw from him in the past was that he was really good in tight around the net, tipping pucks, shooting pucks,” Julien said. “His big body was a pretty big reason as well for bringing him in. So as long as he’s giving us that, he’s being a good player for us.”
It is hard to say when the turnaround came for Hayes, who has five points in his last five games, including the lone goal on Monday night against New York. But it could have coincided with the two games he spent as a healthy scratch in early December against Vancouver and Nashville.
“Overall lately, I just see him coming around and producing more,” Julien said. “At one point, we scratched him, made him a healthy scratch, because his feet weren’t moving and he wasn’t bringing anything that was helping us. Every once in a while, you make those guys healthy scratches, and they watch the game, they come back better. I think he’s been, to me, pretty good since he came back after the holidays.”
Hayes himself admitted that sitting out is no fun, and also confirmed that he has put more of an onus on himself lately to go to the front of the net.
“You don’t ever want to be scratched, but it’s a learning process,” he said. “In the NHL, you’ve got to be good every night. You’ve got to be ready to go, and just got to fine-tune your game and get around those areas and get some bounces.
“[I’m] just trying to stick to a simple game and get around that net area, try to get as many shots on net as I can.”
Now that he is playing with Bergeron and Marchand — for the moment, at least — he intends on changing nothing about his game.
“They’re both obviously skilled players, and create a lot of offensive chances,” he said. “I’m just going to have to be a guy who’s going to be hard on the puck down low and around the net, and try to finish off some chances that they create.”
Updates on McQuaid, Krejci
Following Tuesday’s practice, Julien said there is no plan at the moment to have either defenseman Adam McQuaid or center David Krejci join the team on its current road trip, which wraps up on Friday in Buffalo.
McQuaid has been out since Jan. 5, when he was crosschecked by Washington’s Zack Sill, and Krejci has been out since Dec. 27, when he suffered an upper body injury in an awkward collision with Ottawa’s Bobby Ryan.
“They’re still home,” Julien said. “They’re not coming on this road trip so far, so that’s all I need to know at this point. So those guys, you hope they’re getting better, but I don’t know. In McQuaid’s case, it was one of those hits from behind that who knows what’s going to happen with him. David, I would suspect, is healing as predicted — week to week, he’s getting better.”
Tuesday’s Practice Lineup
White Jerseys: Matt Beleskey, Ryan Spooner, Loui Eriksson
Gold Jerseys: Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Jimmy Hayes
Gray Jerseys: Frank Vatrano, Brett Connolly, Joonas Kemppainen, David Pastrnak
Red Jerseys: Zac Rinaldo, Max Talbot, Landon Ferraro, Tyler Randell
Defensemen: Zdeno Chara, Zach Trotman, Dennis Seidenberg, Colin Miller, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller, Joe Morrow
Goalies: Tuukka Rask, Jonas Gustavsson