BOSTON – After a pair of leaky defensive efforts against the Penguins and Sabres where it looked like the absences of Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara were beginning to show, the Bruins have snapped into a groove with their team defense. After shutting out the Montreal Canadiens and holding them to just 22 shots on net on Monday night, the Bruins wrapped their defensive clutches around the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night in a 3-1 win.
The Ducks were limited to 25 shots on net, but just 15 in the first two periods while the Bruins started building a lead. Jaroslav Halak had to make one flashy glove save on Brandon Montour after he broke through Boston’s defensive layers, but other than that the B’s were thoroughly brilliant in choking the life out of the Ducks' attack.
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The mental breakdowns and lost physical battles have been wiped from Boston’s defensive zone work, and instead been replaced with good, old-fashioned defensive determination from both the defensemen and the forwards collapsing into the slot area.
For the Bruins, it was simply getting back to normal for a team that’s ranked second in the NHL behind only the Nashville Predators while allowing just 2.54 goals per game.
“I think we’re working hard for one another to support one another in terms of our routes, fore-checking, neutral zone and we’re working to get back above the puck. We’ve had stretches where we’ve obviously played well,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I think team defense-wise, you look at the last two games. Of course [Jaroslav Halak] is there for us, making saves, but we almost [had] another shutout. I think you could put those under the team category.
“Sometimes the goalie, hey, he’s just not going to be beat that night, but in general, I think the last two games we’ve worked hard for our goaltender to limit the chances. There’s always going to be a breakdown here or there where you need the big save. We got that in the second period I think in the PK. So good for Jaro, but yes, defensively, we seemed to have found our stride.”
With Bergeron expected to perhaps return this weekend and defensive warriors Chara and Kevan Miller not far behind him, the Bruins should be even better and tougher than they are at the moment. But they’re also headed into a healthy stretch playing some excellent two-way hockey that should only get better once the healthy cavalry arrives.
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