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.
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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.
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“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.