NASHVILLE -- There’s no question the Bruins registered one of their best “feel-good” wins of the year when they trounced the St. Louis Blues Tuesday night in David Backes’ triumphant return to the Scottrade Center.
Encouraging signs abounded for those looking for them:
-- The Bruins got off to a tremendously focused start, scoring three goals in the first period and outshooting the Blues by an 11-2 margin.
-- Brad Marchand scored a pair of goals in the 5-3 victory and, in one of his trademark hot stretches, continues to streak offensively with five goals in his last three games.
-- Frank Vatrano scored a filthy, sniped power-play goal, his third goal since returning to the B’s lineup, and he continues to look like he could be the additional top-six finisher the Bruins need up front.
-- The suddenly explosive B's are averaging three goals per game over their last 10 games in an encouraging show of offense.
-- And their power play is pushing a 25 percent success rate over that same span.
Sure, they gave up three goals along the way. But nobody came away with anything but good feelings when it was all over.
“We have the ability as a team to rise up to these occasions and play well when we want to,” said Torey Krug, who was another B’s highlight as he scored his second goal in 44 games this season. “It’s about making sure that we’re going to be consistent in our approach. Whether it’s a last-place team or a first-place team, we need to bring that [best effort] to the table. But it was nice to be rewarded [against the Blues].”
Krug touched upon the slight downside to a win like Tuesday's: In winning so convincingly with quality play in all departments, the Bruins are raising the bar for how they should be judged. The lopsided road win over the Blues -- a team that's probably going to make the playoffs -- is proof the Bruins have a higher gear.
That’s why simply taking five out of six points on the first three games of their current road trip is commendable, but has to be just the start of something that needs to be bigger, longer and better than anything the Bruins have accomplished this season. They need a sustained, consistent string of efforts just like Tuesday's and they need to do it because teams like Ottawa and Toronto have four games in hand against the B’s midway through the season.
Even more than that, though, the Bruins need to simply live up to their potential, and that’s something they didn’t do enough in the first half of the year.
Bruin apologists will tell you the talent isn’t there for Boston to be a playoff team, and that it’s all being held together by great coaching along with an awesome smoke-and-mirrors show. Still, it's clear that, after an important statement win against the Blues, the Bruins are looking to build forward rather than move backward. That’s the right mindset for a team that’s been treading water for than a month with a 7-7-4 record in their last 18 games.
“That’s what it is right now, it’s progression,” said Claude Julien. “When you have as many players as we have that are in their first full year with our hockey club, it’s a big learning curve there. Whether it’s understanding what we demand on a nightly basis or getting comfortable with the players and the system, there is some progress there.
“But we’re very cautious there about getting too comfortable. This is the kind of push we’re going to need from here on in if we expect to play past the 82-game mark.”
What Julien is referring to is a playoff mindset, rather than the survival mode Boston has been stuck in over the last month. If they continue to languish at .500 level, it’s pretty clear changes are coming to the organization sooner or later.
Instead, Boston seems to be banking on the idea that there are more efforts like Tuesday night in the future. That’s a necessity if the Bruins are going to make things different than they’ve been in the last couple of years, and different than some of the uninspired efforts we saw over their first 40 or so games.
“I thought guys responded really well and we had a really good game. That’s what we need,” said Marchand. “We’ve got five out of the last six points and we need to continue to get points in every single game and continue to play well.
“We know we have a good team and we’ve seen it. We seem to rise to the challenge when we’re playing the really tough teams in the league. We know we can play with the best. The main thing is that we need to bring that every night, and if we can bring that consistency then we’ll be a good team.”
All the words are good and inspiring, especially after a particularly solid win. But the B’s need to respond with more wins just like that in short succession as proof they're truly turning some kind of corner, and not just flashing some momentary brilliance before sinking back into mediocrity.