Both teams forecheck hard. Both teams play heavy along the boards. Both teams roll four lines. Both teams are backed by solid goaltending.
"They play hard. They don't give you much," Reilly Smith said pregame, teeing up the battle. "Probably won't be one of the prettiest matchups this year, but it's definitely going to be an important one, and we need those two points."
Through 60 minutes, the Black and Gold fought their way to a 2-0 win over one of the top teams in the Western Conference at TD Garden.
Tuukka Rask put up 33 saves for his first shutout of the season. Patrice Bergeron capitalized on a turnover in the first period, and Torey Krug provided the 2-0 insurance in the second period.
The Blues pulled goaltender Brian Elliott with more than three minutes left in regulation, but Rask and the Bruins stood firm.
"You could tell early on he had that eye, he was always seeing the puck," Torey Krug smiled from the Bruins' locker room following the win. "He made a lot of big saves at critical times, too, so we were lucky to have him tonight for sure."
"You know, I think he deserves a lot of credit because he was outstanding for us," Head Coach Claude Julien said of the night's First Star. "But I certainly don’t want to diminish the fact that I thought our guys played well against a team that’s been extremely hot, extremely good."
"No matter how well you play defensively, they’re still going to get their chances and when they did, Tuukka made the big saves. But I liked their effort overall."
The Bruins are now 140-8-6 since the 2010-11 season in games in which they have held a two-goal lead in a game. Despite their 12-8-0 overall record this season, they're 7-1-0 when holding that two-goal lead.
Playing from the drop of the puck to the final buzzer helps.
"Absolutely. We started off really hard, right off the bat we took the puck in their end and played there," said Rask. "The first period was probably the best one, you know, 20 minutes - you’re always going to get little ups and downs through the games, but for the most part, we kept things tight and played a good game."
The Bruins only landed 17 total shots on goal, while the Blues peppered Rask with their 33, including 15 in the final period, when the Bruins only put up three.
But the game was much more tightly contested than that. St. Louis was kept mostly to the outside, and away from the slot.
"We really played a team game," said Dennis Seidenberg. "We played unified. We still gave up quite a few shots and gave up quite a bit of passing lanes in our zone, but overall, I think, we battled hard to get the pucks out in critical zones and areas and scored some necessary goals."
The Bruins got on the board first at 5:45 into the opening frame, when Patrice Bergeron took advantage of a Blues’ turnover. The play began to develop with a sharp breakout from Matt Bartkowski up to Matt Fraser down the left side, with Seth Griffith tipping the puck into the zone before going off on a line change.
Fraser, who was slotting in on Bergeron’s line with Brad Marchand sidelined by an undisclosed situation, went in hard on the forecheck. He forced defenseman Ian Cole to make a D-to-D pass behind the goal to Barret Jackman and Bergeron pounced on the errant pass for his fifth of the season.
"It's definitely a big win for us, big effort," Bergeron said. "They're definitely a team that doesn't give you much."
"I thought we spent a lot of time in our zone," he continued, focusing more on the defensive effort, than any offensive output. "But a lot of it was on the outside and trying to take care of our slot and when in doubt, we were getting the puck out - and we need a lot more of that."
The Bruins had a slow start to the second, spending the first six minutes of the third in their own zone, but Torey Krug found another way past Elliott with 8:29 left in the period.
After almost a minute of sustained pressure in the Blues' zone, Krug fired a shot that redirected off Cole, with Carl Soderberg tying him up in the shooting lane to screen Elliott.
The Bruins took only two penalties all night, coming out unscathed against the League’s second ranked power play.
Anytime they made defensive mistakes and turned the puck over, effort and luck were on their side.
Matt Bartkowski, who was in the lineup for his second straight game, made a strong defensive play to keep the Bruins up 1-0 in the first, when he canceled out a near breakaway by Alexander Steen through the middle.
He followed that up with a diving pokecheck in the second to break up an odd-man rush.
"I thought whenever we did have those breakdowns, we didn’t panic like in previous games and make things worse," Bartkowski said. "We kind of just handled it, and got the puck out."
The blueliners received support from the forwards all night, hunting down the puck carrier on the backcheck, and providing layers all over the ice.
"We needed that. Not only because their D supported the attack, but also because of the fact that they’ve got some forwards that can make some pretty good plays there," Julien said.
The Blues own one of the hottest lines in the NHL in Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko and Jori Lehtera, who had combined for 33 points in their past eight games before being kept off the scoresheet altogether on Tuesday night.
Getting David Krejci back after four games out of the lineup helped solidify the Bruins' attack, and their ability to match the four-line effort that St. Louis rolls out.
"Well we knew going in that there’s lots of people questioning our hockey team and we wanted to prove people wrong," said Krejci, who "felt good" in his return. "We wanted to show that we can play hockey again, and [are] still one of the best teams in the League."
"We had a good first, and second, and finished strong in the third period so I thought it was a great effort by all four lines and Tuukks played really well in the net, so it was a big win for us."
The Bruins got away from their forecheck in the third period, and gave the Blues some space to work with off the rush, but they still held strong in front of the net.
The effort was impressive, given the fact that they played with five defenseman for the final two periods, after Adam McQuaid left the game early in the second period. Seidenberg led a young group on the back end, with Dougie Hamilton, Joe Morrow, Krug and Bartkowski assuming all duties.
"I think pretty much everybody was going today, you know, full 60. We’re a good team when we have everybody going," said Rask. "As far as the team effort goes, in a 60 minute effort, that was our best game I think."
Boston rose to the challenge against a tough opponent.
"We have to realize that for a long time now, every team was ready to play us," said Juilen. "That’s what you have to face. I think right now where we’re at, we look at teams like St. Louis who are 9-1 in their last 10 and say 'listen, this is a good team to measure ourselves up against.' So those are easier games to get up for."
"We’ve been on the other side of that, where we’ve seen every team come hard at us in the past and that’s what we face."
The Bruins next face the Blue Jackets in Columbus on Friday. They'll need to continue to put up complete efforts to finally start to find some consistency, with 20 games already gone in the season.
"Well, it’s always a good team we beat, but then again, we know that when we play Bruins hockey, we can beat anybody and we’re a tough team to beat ourselves," said Rask. "I think it just goes to show again that when we play that style of hockey, it works."
"Hopefully we realize it one of these days and keep it consistent, too."