Bruins

Bruins "respond a lot better" in win over the Blues

Bruins "respond a lot better" in win over the Blues

BOSTON – Clearly it wasn’t a life-or-death type situation for the Bruins given their lofty place in the standings and the fact they’re still hot on the heels of an 18-game point streak. But the Bruins also wanted to see the proper response on Thursday night against a solid, heavy St. Louis Blues club after they struggled 48 hours earlier against a similarly solid, heavy Anaheim Ducks group when they rolled into Boston.

The Ducks caught the Bruins unprepared for their aggressive, in-your-face act with both teams coming out of the All-Star break, and Boston on the other hand wanted to show that loss was more aberrational loss than longstanding trend. So the Bruins vowed to get off to the kind of strong start that had eluded them in the recent past, and they also committed to playing hard-nosed game against a St. Louis opponent that wasn’t going to ease up on them.

MORE BRUINS: Bruins back on track, beat Blues 3-1

In many ways the B’s basically vowed to knock the complacency out of their game that built up a bit over the course of their 18-game streak.  

It was blue collar work around the net from Ryan Spooner and Jake DeBrusk that opened things up for David Krejci’s first period goal, and that snapped a run of eight straight games where the Bruins had allowed the first goal. That makes all the difference for the Black and Gold, who improved to 19-1-5 in games this season when they’re able to score first and play more of the front-runner role.

“We obviously don’t plan to get scored on, but there was a reason why we fell behind a few games,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “I think we wanted to correct those issues, and I think we did [against the Blues]. So we’ve got to be ready for the next game to get a good start. The games have been played for 60 minutes, so we have to be ready to play them for 60 minutes.

“Guys are obviously very competitive, we want to win every game, there were a lot of battles. You could see the guys were really stepping out of their comfort zone, skill guys making some big plays and determined to win the battles along the wall.”

Guys were physical, but also making plays so that’s what you need from a team.

Like so many things this season, the Bruins did everything right against the Blues including scoring the game’s first goal in the opening 20 minutes and matching St. Louis in the physicality department from beginning to end. In doing both of those things, they looked like a team ready to take on some of the more challenging aspects of their remaining schedule.

“I thought we came out strong, and it’s a good team that we played. They play a physical and fast type of hockey, just like we played against Anaheim and they took it to us last game,” said Patrice Bergeron. “I thought tonight we responded a lot better and we got the result for it. I think we’ve showed character all year and it’s just another example.

MORE BRUINS: Rask, Bruins bear down and bounce back

“You know, there are not many guys in here that need to be told twice. I think they’ve realized what it was last game, what we could’ve done better and right away turned the page and moved on to tonight’s game.”

It was an encouraging thing to see the Bruins snapping out of some recent team-wide habits and doing so against a strong Western Conference that looks like they’re going to be playoff-bound. David Backes threw a team-high five hits and clobbered Blues players with the same tone-setting ferocity on both his first and final shifts of the game. 

The Bruins are going to need to be willing to fight along the boards the rest of the way, and have smaller skill players like Ryan Spooner or Torey Krug ready to get their noses dirty. Clearly the Black and Gold are about speed, skill, depth and playing some pretty strong two-way hockey, but they will be tested sorely down the stretch in the toughness and resolve departments.

As Chara said, many Bruins players “got out of their comfort zones” for a good result against a worthy Blues adversary on Thursday, and they’re going to need much more of that moving forward to eventually get where they want to go.

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Jarome Iginla practices with P-Bruins

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Mark Divver

Jarome Iginla practices with P-Bruins

Jarome Iginla skated with the Providence Bruins in the AHL team's practice on Tuesday, according to the Providence Journal.

Iginla doesn't want to retire yet. But he's not necessarily going to get a shot in Boston. The Bruins aren't interested in signing the 40-year-old winger, but instead wanted to do him a favor, a source told the Providence Journal.

"I'd love to still play," Iginla told the Providence Journal. "This is kind of the first step, getting out here and seeing how it is. … I wanted to see if I can still go. I don't have any deals at this point."

Iginla has had a prolific career with 525 goals and 570 assists (1,095 points). During his 2016-17 season, he spent time with the Colorado Avalanche and the Los Angeles Kings. He played in 80 games, and finished with 14 goals, 13 assists and a minus-30 rating.

Bruins' defense, goaltending enjoys mini-breakthrough against Flames

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

Bruins' defense, goaltending enjoys mini-breakthrough against Flames

Here’s what we learned in the Bruins 2-1 overtime win over the Calgary Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Monday afternoon.

1)      Once again the Bruins were challenged and provided the perfect response. After giving up 15 goals in their previous four games and getting blown out by Vancouver last weekend, the Bruins recognized their defensive game had slipped in all zones. Their defensive layers had disappeared up and down the ice, the fore-check had gone missing and the D-zone coverage was leaving big holes in the slot and in front of the net. The Bruins weren’t working particularly hard, they were making some pretty elementary mistakes and they were allowing opponents to gain way too much speed and momentum entering their zone. All of that changed against Calgary after a spirited practice on Sunday, and the Bruins allowed just four shots on net in the first period against the Flames. They went on to allow just a single goal in the game, and kept grinding until they took a 2-1 win in OT. Hand-in-hand with the B’s defense responding was the Bruins goaltending situation responding to the challenge as well. Tuukka Rask hadn’t been particularly good in recent losses to the Buffalo Sabres and Canucks over the last week, and he wasn’t getting the support in front of him either. That added up to a lot of goals allowed and getting yanked in the Canucks loss amid some poor rebound control. Rask was locked in from beginning to end on Monday afternoon, and made five show-stopping saves in OT prior to Brad Marchand’s breakaway game-winner. What’s impressive is that it took just one bad loss for the B’s to totally snap back into place. There are times when it can take three, four or even five games for a hockey club to shed their bad defensive habits, but the Bruins did it immediately and haven’t lost back-to-back games since November. That is simply amazing at this point, and a testament to the coaching staff and the players. 

2)      In addition to the Bruins defense and goaltending responding, it was impressive to see Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak respond with big goals as well. Neither player was very good in the blowout loss to Vancouver, and Pastrnak had been mired in a bit of a slump with just one goal in his last 11 games headed into Monday afternoon. Both players have been targeted and thumped pretty solidly by opponents just as they were down the stretch last season as well, and they hadn’t really responded in an effective way until Monday. Even into the playoffs last season, Pastrnak really struggled to respond to some of the elevated intensity and physicality that he saw. Pastrnak scored in the first period on a nifty play aided by a Patrice Bergeron active stick against the side boards, and he enjoyed a number of scoring chances against the Flames. Marchand had seven shot attempts that culminated with his breakaway in overtime for the game-winner, and he was also engaged and physical throughout while both he and Matthew Tkachuk tried to “out-punk” each other on the ice. With a Bruins team that’s going to need their top line to produce regularly for them as the games get tighter, Monday’s mini-breakthrough was an important sign that Marchand and Pastrnak are ready to fight through some of the resistance thrown their way.

3)       Monday’s win also saw the Bruins once again drop the gloves to defend one of their teammates. On Saturday night it was Brandon Carlo sticking up for David Pastrnak, and on Monday afternoon it was Adam McQuaid dropping Garnet Hathaway after he took a shot at Charlie McAvoy right in front of the Bruins bench while practically inviting No. 54 to get involved. The Bruins will need to continue to bring their immediate reaction to borderline hits and opponents taking runs at their players, and that starts with McQuaid and trickles down through the rest of the lineup. Team toughness, they call it.

Plus

*Brad Marchand finished up with the sweet, little backhanded five-hole goal on the breakaway in overtime, and played an excellent overall game with seven shot attempts and plenty of active, engaged play all over the ice in 20 plus minutes of action. 

*Tuukka Rask stopped 28-of-29 shots against Calgary and was solid throughout the game. But he was amazing in the overtime session when he was turning away Grade-A chances from Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett at one end while making five stops overall in the extra session. That little stand-on-his-head routine bought the B’s enough time for Marchand’s game-winner at the other end, and he certainly carried the Bruins to the extra OT point this time around. 

*Four shots on net and an eye-catching three blocked shots for David Pastrnak in 18:38 of ice time, including the game’s first goal in the first period when he curled to the net and beat Dave Rittich low with a shot. 

Minus

*Michael Frolik finished as a minus player for the Flames, and had the turnover to Patrice Bergeron in the first period that led directly to David Pastrnak’s goal. It was a pretty well-played game, so those little mistakes really stood out for either side. 

*Two giveaways and a minus-1 in 22:49 of ice time for Dougie Hamilton, who pretty much had a nothing game in a reminder to Bruins fans that they upgraded when they made Charlie McAvoy their No. 1 defenseman of the future. 

*No shots on net in 12:54 of ice time for Jake DeBrusk, who didn’t seem to have the same jump to his game on Monday that he did last weekend in Vancouver. He may have been saving it for Edmonton, where he grew up and certainly wants to put on a show on Tuesday night.