It had to be pretty satisfying for Claude Julien to see that his team, which was in the midst of winning 13 game in 14 tries, was still willing to quickly correct things that were spinning out of hand on this week.
The Bs were slipping in their neutral zone coverage and defensive gap control Wednesday night in their win at the Air Canada Centre over the Maple Leafs, and addressed it in practice.
It took the Bruins exactly zero games to install the adjustment into their game plan, and their skaters choked off the speed and skill game Toronto intended to attack them. It was readily apparent after a scoreless first period that the hockey game had taken a much different tenor than the 6-3 shootout in Toronto earlier in the week, and that was about the Bruins dictating terms to the Leafs in a very familiar pattern.
As is always the case with the Bruins, great neutral zone defense and quick puck turnovers are becoming offensive chances for the Bs attackers. Once the team-wide defensive support is going and the offense is providing enough to support everything else, the Bruins have a pretty well-oiled hockey machine thats decimating opponents.
I think you're seeing our team, our 'D' pairings really coming together. The forwards are helping out tremendously by coming back. They're stopping a lot of those great plays, the late passes with guys coming in the zone, said Joe Corvo, who probably hasnt seen defensive support like hes seeing now on any of the teams he previously played for. We're transitioning off that so quickly and getting chances from that. I think guys realize that, just coming back as fast as they can that they're going to get more chances.
Whereas once the Bruins might have been slow to admit problems creeping into their game -- or buying too much into the press clippings or proclamations of how great they were after a historic month of November -- the sound defensive game against the Leafs showed they could immediately roll up their sleeves, reattach their blue collars and get down to business.
For Julien, its satisfying to see his team has matured with the Cup win. Theyve grown to the point where they can correct whats wrong midstream and strive to remain at the top of the standings now that theyve reclaimed their spot near the top of the Eastern Conference.
I think the biggest thing is that sometimes as a coach you are always afraid youre going to peak too early. Then when things start going bad it will take a while to get yourself back on track, said Claude Julien. But I feel differently about this because of the sentiment in the room and the feeling is were not taking anything for granted.
Were staying poised, were not getting cocky, were not getting complacent, were still focused and thats the part I like. Thats probably from experience and weve seen other teams in the past. We talk about the Red Wings and every year they come back strong and maybe we are a team heading in that direction.
For a team in Toronto thats fifth in the NHL with 3.08 goals per game and has been cashing in on plenty of their offensive chances, the Bruins gave another reminder to the Maple Leafs that good hard-nosed defense beats electric offense nearly every single time.
Amazingly the Bruins have held the Leafs to only six goals in their four meetings this season, and much of that defensive success is due to bottling up Phil Kessel and his offensive arsenal with brutish physicality.
Its about a well-placed Zdeno Chara body check in the corner on Phil Kessel or a Johnny Boychuk detonation of Clarke MacArthur in the middle of the ice that suddenly evens the playing field.
Or better yet puts the Bruins in the drivers seat while slowly grinding the Leafs down into a bag of wet foliage ready for the compost.
You look at our D, theyre pretty good at shutting teams down. Were probably one of the best, if not the best, shutdown D in the league, said Tuukka Rask, who made 21 saves in a rocking chair type evening. The other guys are really solid too. So the Leafs havent got too much offense, especially today. But theyre still a dangerous team and youve got to respect that.
The Bruins showed respect for that in the way they got back to defensive systems basics this week, but it seems the Bruins have finally learned the difference between respecting an opponent and not giving them too much respect.