Shutdown Bruins 'taking pride in defending well'

Shutdown Bruins 'taking pride in defending well'

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. 


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. 

Donato misses Bruins practice for Harvard class commitment

Donato misses Bruins practice for Harvard class commitment

It might have caused a ripple when Ryan Donato wasn’t on the ice on Tuesday afternoon in St. Louis for Bruins practice on the day after his brilliant, three-point NHL debut for the Black and Gold. But the 21-year-old Donato was still back in the Boston area fulfilling some class requirements at Harvard University to help him close out the current semester properly, and not lose the credits that will keep him in line with fulfilling his junior year at Harvard University.

Believe it or not, the schoolwork is important to the newest member of the Boston Bruins and he intends to study and hit the books on his road trips, and also intends to take classes in the summertime to still graduate on time next season.

“I’m planning on finishing the semester academically. I want to finish the semester academically,” said Donato, after Monday’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena prior to last night’s debut vs. Columbus. “Obviously it’s going to be something that’s difficult, but for me it was a dream to graduate from Harvard. I’m putting that off a little bit, but I need to be able to finish this semester in order to have that opportunity, and not put it off for another couple of years. I want to finish out the semester.”

Donato is also still living in the Harvard dorms while “moonlighting” as an NHL hockey player for the rest of the season, but that isn’t all so uncommon among some of the college players that leave school early. Charlie McAvoy was similarly living in the Boston University dorms last spring through Boston’s playoff run, and didn’t clear out of his college living situation until after the Black and Gold had been eliminated by the Ottawa Senators last April.

Missing practices on an NHL schedule is certainly a new one with, Donato, however, and takes the student-athlete concept to a whole new level for somebody that's already turned pro. One has to expect this was one of the things being discussed in full when the Donato family, Ryan's agent and the Bruins discussed his contract terms over the weekend before coming to an agreement.

Along with Donato, who is scheduled to fly into St. Louis and play against the Blues on Wednesday night, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, David Backes, Jake DeBrusk, Rick Nash and Torey Krug were all missing from the ice at Tuesday’s team practice ahead of a four game road trip against Western Conference opponents.


Morning Skate: Claude's Habs 'not a very good team'

File photo

Morning Skate: Claude's Habs 'not a very good team'

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while not really digging these forecasts of more snow.

*You know, if he weren’t making millions and millions of dollars I might actually feel bad for ol' Claude Julien up in Montreal busting out the “We’re not a very good team” soliloquy with the Habs. That team flat out stinks this season and these past few weeks it can’t be fun at all being the head coach of that dumpster fire.

*Darren Dreger says there is no rush for the Toronto Maple Leafs to bring back Auston Matthews before he’s ready to go, and that’s absolutely the case so close to the playoffs.

*Here are five Hart Trophy-caliber players that won’t get a sniff of the voting, but deserve some attention nonetheless. There are no Bruins players on the list if you’re wondering, but some pretty good ones in Johnny Gaudreau and Aleksander Barkov.

*The NHL general managers are weighing potential changes to the goalie-interference interpretation ahead of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

*While it still looks a Swedish defenseman is going to be the No. 1 overall pick this June, there are some other players rocketing up the list.

*For something completely different: The definitive ranking of Girl Scout cookies from best-to-worst that we’ve all been waiting for.

*Song of the Week: Haven’t done one of these in a long, long time, but I like this Calvin Harris/Katy Perry/Pharrell Williams tune that I hadn’t heard until the past couple of days.