BOSTON – The defensive turnaround has been pretty noticeable for the Boston Bruins.
Headed into the season the defense was viewed as a big spot of weakness on the Black and Gold roster, and the B’s were allowing just a shade below three goals per game during the first month of the season.
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Now the Bruins are in a run of tightened defense and superior goaltending where they’ve allowed just eight goals in their last seven games, and allowed just 12 shots on net in a dominant 4-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night. Clearly some of the win over Winnipeg was the Jets putting together perhaps their worst effort of the season, and Saturday night wasn’t quite the intense shot-blocking, gritty defensive effort from their road loss in Minnesota earlier this week.
But the Bruins certainly deserve credit for shutting down and discouraging Winnipeg’s best offensive players, and keeping young stud players like Mark Schiefele and Patrik Laine completely off the score sheet.
That has turned into positive won-less results in the league standings, and an NHL hockey club that currently ranks fifth in the league allowing a stingy 2.3 goals per game.
“Defensively, I think we are taking a lot of pride in defending well. I think it’s been somehow it seems to be a pretty good buy-in right now, and that’s allowing us to win hockey games. Some nights, you have a tougher time scoring than others and that’s where it becomes important,” said Claude Julien. “Tonight it was a game where I think we really needed to score some goals, and we did, so hopefully some of that confidence is coming back to a lot of players.”
Clearly the confidence is growing for the Bruins and Tuukka Rask’s numbers are among the top 2-3 goaltenders in the entire league, and those are major ingredients in Boston’s solid start to the regular season. Brad Marchand thinks that the defensive improvement is about the new players getting fully acquainted with Julien’s system, and some of it is also certainly about tweaks to the defensive system geared toward more aggressive decisions by the defensemen.
Whatever the case, the Bruins are shutting other teams down on an almost nightly basis and it’s gone far beyond their No. 1 goalie simply dominating everyone.
“I think that’s kind of been the way we’ve wanted to build our team for a long time now. When you play the system the right way it works, and we’re showing that right now,” said Marchand, who scored his second goal in the last nine games. “Guys are dedicated and disciplined, and, you know, it’s helping our team win games. I just think that early on when you have that many new faces and new bodies that have to learn the system, especially when half your team is away during training camp.
“It’s not easy to just come in and click right away, so we needed a bit of time and now it just seems like everyone who’s come in this year has something to prove. New guys want to show that, you know, they want to be here, and old guys are showing the same thing. When you have that all together, and again, guys are dedicated and want to play the right way, then it shows. That’s kind of what’s happening right now.”
The Bruins have now outscored their opponents by a 13-3 margin on home ice over the last three games, and they seem to have found that lockdown defense whether at home or on the road. Now it’s a matter of maintaining it and improving it as the competition gets bigger and better against the Bruins right along with their burgeoning defensive reputation.