Winners of three straight games, including back-to-back victories against the Leafs, the Bruins find themselves in a playoff spot with 23 points and just one point back of the Red Wings, stressing the importance of this stretch of divisional matchups.
“Hopefully we thrive on that and we take advantage of our situations given to us,” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “And it would be nice to see us move up in the standings.”
The Black & Gold will play the Wings on Wednesday night, right before the all-important Thanksgiving marker.
“It’s a big deal for us,” Jimmy Hayes said following practice. “People preach that it’s early in the season, but put yourself in a position to be in a good spot early and hold onto that spot — continue to develop our game and continue to stay in the picture and in the playoff hunt.”
“So when it comes down to the end of the year, you have these games and have these points.”
While the Bruins have found ways to grind out wins lately, backed by strong goaltending and a penalty kill on the upswing, there are plenty of areas to clean up in their game.
Following Monday’s win over Toronto, Julien and his players repeated how the game “wasn’t pretty” and they had to “grind it out.”
“We have to be honest with ourselves — it was not our best performance on the road in Toronto,” said Max Talbot. “But we know what we need to get better at and that’s going to be in the game plan for the game against Detroit.”
“We were just OK at everything, so I wouldn’t specifically look at one area,” said Julien.
The Bruins went 0-for-3 on the power play against the Leafs, with the League’s top man advantage not able to generate much momentum. Up 2-0 in the second period, they had back-to-back power plays in the first half of frame and were unable to convert. Toronto eventually tied it up 2-2 and the game entered the third knotted at 3-3 before being decided in the shootout.
“[Those] two power plays in the second took the juice out of our team and we didn’t do much, and they just kind of took it over from there,” said Julien. “But you know, we had a lot of things where we could have been better in our own end, we had situations where I didn’t think we had good enough net-front presence.”
“Every once in a while you’ve got to grind things out and find a way to win, and now it’s a matter of bouncing back with a better overall concentration in all areas.”
When the Black & Gold set out to find consistency in their game, after a stretch of six games alternating a loss with a win, they didn’t expect to play a perfect, 60-minute game every night. But the effort needs to be there, and the results need to follow.
“It gives us confidence in the room for everybody and just puts us in a good spot,” Hayes said of their ability to come out on top in different types of games. “Guys are making better plays and guys are coming along and starting to play really well — and just [have] the confidence to be able to perform every night and know the team can get the two points and get the win for us.”
“I see a team starting to gel a lot more, having each other’s backs so to speak and that’s important,” said Julien. “I think that’s the sign of a team heading in the right direction.”
Lineup Notes Heading into Matchup with Wings
Forward Frank Vatrano skated in on a line with Ryan Spooner and Brett Connolly during Tuesday’s practice. Spooner was back at center, with Joonas Kemppainen given a maintenance day off the ice. Kemppainen has been centering Spooner an Connolly.
Vatrano missed the Bruins’ game on Nov. 21 with an upper-body injury, then was a healthy scratch for Monday’s game in Toronto. He had played in six games straight prior to the injury — the first six of his NHL career — filling in for the injured David Pastrnak (foot, IR) on David Krejci’s line. Without Vatrano in the lineup, that line has feature Krejci centering Matt Beleskey and Loui Eriksson.
“Just nice getting back into the swing of things, getting back up to game speed, getting used to practice and all of that stuff, so I feel great right now and I’m excited about my progress,” said Vatrano.
Julien said that he expects Kemppainen to be ready for Wednesday’s game after the maintenance day, which could alter the lines from Tuesday’s practice.
If Vatrano does end getting back into the lineup and playing with Spooner, they’ll have some experience to draw on from playing on a line together during training camp. Vatrano felt comfortable on the ice with Spooner and Connolly, and could see them being a good fit.
The addition of forward Landon Ferraro, claimed off waivers from Detroit on Sunday, also presents another lineup option for Julien. Ferraro suited up in his first game as a Bruin on Monday, recording his first career NHL assist on a Brad Marchand tally.
“Landon’s going to bring some stability,” said Julien. “He’s a smart player, skates well. I use the term reliable, and that’s because he’s got a real good hockey sense and just from what I saw [Monday] night, I thought he really helped our team.”
“I felt comfortable with him on the ice. For a guy playing his first game, he basically knew what he had to do there and to me, again, he’s only going to get better, so a great skater, strong skater. Definitely will be a penalty killer of us I think down the road and a player that we can use in different situations.”
Though Julien spoke of Ferraro’s impact, he did not confirm whether or not Detroit’s 2009 draft pick would be facing his former team.
“I don’t necessarily make those decisions the day before, but we’ve got some extra players right now and we’ll see how the whole lineup is by [Wednesday],” said Julien.
The same goes for the Bruins’ goaltending situation against Detroit.
“I don’t overthink on days off,” Julien said with a smirk.
Defenseman Zach Trotman was also given a maintenance day on Tuesday, but is expected to be available for Wednesday’s game.
Practice Lineup 11/23
Matt Beleskey—David Krejci—Loui Eriksson
Brad Marchand—Patrice Bergeron—Jimmy Hayes
Frank Vatrano—Ryan Spooner—Brett Connolly
Zac Rinaldo—Max Talbot—Landon Ferraro—Tyler Randell
Defense: Zdeno Chara, Colin Miller, Joe Morrow, Dennis Seidenberg, Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid
Goalies: Tuukka Rask, Jonas Gustavsson