But they know they can’t dwell on that as they prepare for yet another game on Monday night against Columbus.
“Every time you come off a big road trip, the first question is, ‘First game at home is going to be a tough one?’ And it’s true — it is,” said Head Coach Claude Julien following Monday’s morning skate. “It’s a tough one, especially when you get in at four in the morning on Sunday, and even though you want to get some rest, it’s a very awkward time to get in, and not easy to get your rest.
“So we need to suck it up tonight and be ready to play.”
If anything, said forward Brad Marchand, Boston’s biggest challenge on Monday will be mental. The B’s will need to fight through the grind of their second game in three nights and fight through any lingering fatigue stemming from their trip.
“You’ve been on the road for a while, and you come back home, and you’re only home for a day and you have to play again,” Marchand said. “So we just have to be mentally prepared to play, and to come back and have a big game. We can’t let any other distractions creep in and affect the way we prepare, and every game right now is huge. Like I said, we have to make sure we come ready to play tonight.”
Monday’s game also marks Boston’s first at home in nearly two weeks. All season long, the Bruins have been a better team on the road than they have been within the confines of TD Garden. They proved that once again over the course of their 11-day trip, going 4-2 overall and punctuating the journey with a decisive 7-3 win over a Western Conference powerhouse in the Dallas Stars.
The Bruins now stand at 20-7-3 on the road, but on Monday, they’ll once again be looking to bolster their 12-14-3 home record.
“I hope we can build off our last game,” said forward Max Talbot. “It’s such a good effort, a good comeback game, so we can take a little bit of that confidence and bring it home. We all know the situation with how we’ve been playing at home, so I think we have to kind of build on what we’ve been doing on the road and bring it home here.”
At the very least, the Bruins had some time on Sunday to recover and recharge in preparation for Monday.
“It’s been a quick turnaround,” Talbot said. “We got back late at night. [Sunday] was a day off, so guys hopefully got some sleep and relaxed, and then today, a solid morning skate and right back at it. So I think it’s a mindset, also.
“You can’t really think too much about it. You’ve just got to grind it out and do what we do.”
Closing It Out vs. Columbus
In two games against Columbus thus far in 2015-16, the Bruins have gotten the results they wanted.
They’ve gone 2-0 against the Blue Jackets this season, beating them once in the shootout at TD Garden and once in overtime.
“They’re actually a really good team,” Marchand said. “I think if you take their start away, they’re a really tough team to play against, and they’ve been playing a lot better lately.
“It’s always a hard game. They play hard, they battle hard, they compete, and I think we just try to play a similar game, and they’ve been very close games. I’m sure, again, it’ll be a very close game tonight, but we just want to play our game, play simple, and try to work it down low, and hopefully it works out in our favor.”
Though the B’s have gotten two wins against Columbus, they’d like to give themselves a little more breathing room on Monday night. Both of the games in this season’s series have been one-goal games.
“They’re a good team,” Talbot said. “They’re a team that works very hard. Whether they’re home or away, I think they’re being driven by their coach, and they’re a group that likes to work and I think it’s a good matchup for both teams.”
The Blue Jackets know they’ve gotten a good effort in each of the last two matchups against Boston, but this time around, they’d like to get a result, too.
“I thought we played really well against them in our building — but this is another game,” said Columbus Head Coach John Tortorella. “You know me — I don’t look too far back of how we played, or what was happening that game. It’s another game against them, in their building. We’ve just got to stay within our team concept.
“But the thing that bothered me about the game against them in our building? I thought we were the better team in the second half of the game, but we gave them a free one in OT. I’m not sure if this game gets there. We just have to be a stiff hockey club against this team. [Boston is] a team coming off a big win, scored a ton of goals — they’ll be ready to play. So we need to be at our best tonight.”
As evidenced by the results, Columbus and Boston are teams that match up well. They both play a tight defensive game, and they both preach hard work until the final horn sounds.
Both sides expect more of the same on Monday.
“I think those two games we’ve played against them, it was low-scoring games,” said Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson. “I think [it’s] just getting a little greasier and dirtier in their blue areas, create more chances and more goals for ourselves, and just play from start to finish.”
The Bruins know that in order to beat Columbus on Monday, they will need to do more of what they did in the final 40 minutes against Dallas on Saturday. They didn’t like the way they started that game, putting themselves in a 3-1 hole, but they liked the way they finished. They liked their fortitude and their relentlessness, and they would like to see that come out again in their home building against another worthy opponent.
“I think after the second or third period of the Dallas game, it looked like a much different team out there,” said defenseman Torey Krug. “We played a heavy game, and I think if you can bring that to the next game, it’ll be huge for us, and it will help us have success.”
Resurgence on the PP
After struggling considerably on the power play for the first five games of their road trip, the Bruins finally broke through against Dallas, tallying three power play goals en route to their 7-3 win.
There was no question that the first tally — off the stick of Brad Marchand late in the second period — provided some relief.
“I think Marchy’s power play goal was scored with a couple seconds left on the power play, and I just kept asking guys to make sure it was a power play goal,” Krug said with a smile. “That was huge for us. I think we gained some confidence back, and a big night, for sure, but you can’t just be content with that. We’ll move on to this game and hopefully it starts clicking again like it was.”
Leading up to the three-for-six performance against the Stars, the Bruins weren’t exactly panicking. They were happy with the way they were moving the puck on the man advantage; the puck just wasn’t going in, but they knew it would, eventually.
“We talk about it all the time — how well we move the puck, and how many chances we’ve had,” Krug said. “We just didn’t have the finish. So it was definitely starting to get frustrating, but you can’t let that creep into your game, especially into other parts of the game. I think 5-on-5 is so crucial for this hockey team, so we can’t just rely on power play. But down the road, it’s going to win us some games, for sure, so we definitely want to start capitalizing on that.”
If anything, the Bruins knew they had to put the puck on net sooner on the power play and maybe pass less. They did that against the Stars, and it seemed to work — especially when the B’s ensured they had that much-needed net-front traffic in place, too.
“We talk about obviously getting our shots through and not just hitting the net, but making sure that we have guys around the net to make sure there are second chances,” Krug said. “It’s hard for those first shots to go in, and a lot of times, goals on the power play are scored on rebounds. I thought we connected well on that, and we’ll continue to do that tonight, hopefully.”
Krug & Spooner Good to Go
Though Krug left Saturday’s game against Dallas late in the third after taking a big hit from Jason Demers, he participated fully in Monday’s morning skate and was deemed good to go by Julien.
“I feel fine,” Krug said. “It probably looked a lot worse. I haven’t seen it it, to be honest, but it probably looked a lot worse than it was, and I feel fine.
“Sometimes, you’re not prepared for [the hit], but like I said, I’m fine. Ready to go tonight.”
Ryan Spooner missed Saturday’s game because he felt a bit under the weather, but he, too, skated on Monday morning and is good to go against Columbus.
Jonas Gustavsson was the first goalie off the ice on Monday and is expected to get the start in net.
Projected Lineup vs. Columbus
Brad Marchand — Patrice Bergeron — Brett Connolly
Loui Eriksson — David Krejci — David Pastrnak
Matt Beleskey — Ryan Spooner — Jimmy Hayes
Zac Rinaldo — Max Talbot — Landon Ferraro
Zdeno Chara — Kevan Miller
Joe Morrow — Dennis Seidenberg
Torey Krug — Adam McQuaid
Starting goaltender: Jonas Gustavsson // Backup: Tuukka Rask