By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON -- Claude Julien is fond of the phrase speed kills, and it appears his Bruins are going to be living that philosophy this season.
The Bruins captured the Stanley Cup last season with equal parts toughness, teamwork, elite goaltending and a defense that continuously held to its belief system, with good health in the postseason thrown in for good measure.
They were a very good team aspiring to be elite, and they tapped into it in the Stanley Cup Finals when they created a transition game that matched the speedy attack of the Vancouver Canucks. Part of it was a hockey team operating at its highest efficiency, but another part was the gradual shift in personnel that raised the bar for the Bs overall skating speed and skill level.
Patrice Bergeron is convinced that increased burst of team speed and wrinkle-free transition game is what allowed the Bs to eventually topple the Canucks, and its created a Bruins team this season that's attacking with a different kind of ferocity.
I dont know if guys are faster or its just that our transition game is way quicker, said Bergeron. It doesnt give guys a chance to set up, which is a good thing. We need to keep that going. If I want to put a finger on one thing its the improvement of the transition game. Weve moving. Were always on that puck and hunting. Were always moving in that transition.
Its something weve talked about since winning that Cup in Vancouver. The first couple of games we were giving them time to set up, but after that we started moving our feet, not giving them time and . . . we created chances for ourselves. We saw it in games three and four when we created a lot of chances off the rush, and thats what we need to keep doing.
Tampa Bays coaches and players talked about the chaos being caused by the Bruins waves of speedy attackers, and its clear watching the Bruins that theyre a faster team this season.
A scary thought for the rest of the NHL, which watched the Black and Gold run roughshod over them last year.
It makes all the sense in the world that the Bruins noticed the trend within the league to younger, faster players that can do damage with aggressive speed, and then strangle off another team with a swarming forecheck once they have a lead. The Bruins can now do that with a combination of personnel upgrades and simple betterment of key younger players in the lineup.
Julien said it was a combination of both that hes noticed in the early going this season. The Bruins showed off the blazing skating wheels while building up a 4-1-1 record during the preseason. They didnt have much of anything in the blah opening night loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, but the Bruins seemed to have a much easier time matching or bettering the frenetic pace of the speedy Lightning.
General manager Peter Chiarelli remarked that increases speed was simple biggest improvement he noted for the team during the preseason, and Julien said it was faster personnel and better transition working in tandem to really grease the wheels.
Replacing 43-year-old Mark Recchi with Rich Peverley immediately boosts the speed killing factor in a major way, and increased minutes for young, fast skaters like Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin continues to play into the improvement. Watching Bergeron, Peverley and Marchand move from forecheck mode into attack-the-net mode is something the coaching staff has to be pointing toward as the standard for the rest of the forward lines.
When teams are faced with the strength and intimidation factor inherent in the Bruins' way of doing things, and then attacked with speed and skill, it almost doesnt even seem fair. That only happens when the Bruins are operating at high efficiency, but thats exactly what happened for 60 minutes against the Lightning.
If you look back, Tylers now getting more minutes than he did last year, so thats speed, said Julien. Benoit Pouliot was in the lineup, and thats another guy thats adding speed. Peverleys on the top line, and -- no disrespect to Recchi -- but Recchi brought something different to that line. So there is a little bit more speed, no doubt.
But between tonight and the last game, we worked a lot on our transition game. I thought we were a little out of sync. We seemed much better tonight. If our game is where it should be, I think youre going to see some good team speed. The team we played tonight actually has unbelievable speed up front, and thats why theyre dangerous.
But now the Lightning arent the only team thumping their chest about their blinding speed.
The Bruins are still big and bad, but theyre also moving with the same lethal speed as the faster teams in the league.