Ian Clark's On Hockey: Bruins earn their rest
FACED with a challenging back-to-back schedule, the Boston Bruins were happy with the results.
The Bruins played a tough game in Chicago on Sunday afternoon and came away with a point in a shootout loss, then had to turn around and fly home in time to face Los Angeles (with its host of former Manchester Monarchs) on Monday afternoon.
Boston defeated L.A. 3-2 to come out of the quick turnaround with three points, an impressive feat considering the travel and quality of the opposition.
"We've talked about the consistency that we had to establish that in the past few games and I think we've done that since Dallas (Thursday)," said Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron. "(Sunday) we couldn't get the extra point but still we played a solid game against a team that has a lot of speed and we matched it. (Monday was) a pretty gritty game and a hard-fought game and I thought we handled it pretty well. So we have to keep building on that and keep moving forward."
Bruins coach Claude Julien liked his team's effort as well and also pointed to Thursday's 4-2 win in Dallas as the springboard into the strong back-to-back effort.
"I was pretty impressed with our team and how we've handled these last three games," Julien said. "I thought our guys did a great job coming out in the first period. We had a good start and I thought that was important for our team to come out and let them know that we were ready to play."
One of the keys to Monday's win was Brad Marchand. He scored two huge goals, one a shorthanded beauty to get the Bruins going in the first period and the second a back-breaker to give Boston the lead back just 20 seconds after L.A. had worked so hard to tie the game at 2-2 in the third.
Marchand's shorthanded goal was all about tenacious effort. Marchand put on a great move to get around Drew Doughty, whose lost stick ended up getting in the way of the puck. But Marchand kept on it and eventually got it back when L.A. couldn't control the puck. Marchand deked around Anze Kopitar in the right circle and sniped a shot past Jonathan Quick.
Marchand now has a four-game point streak with six goals in that span.
"You'll always hear the same answer from coaches: that's what confidence does to you. He's been playing well and he's feeling good about his game and when you feel good about yourself, you've got more energy, right?" Julien said. "He's got great speed now where before I thought he was playing at a slower pace and the confidence his game is showing, just by that shorthanded goal he scored, the patience with the puck and no panic and control of his emotions. He's not letting anything throw him off his game now."
Julien also pointed to Marchand's patience as a penalty killer being an area of improvement as well.
"There was time when we were struggling that it was costing us. Leaving the zone early or opening up seams. But when you're making those decisions at the right time, you become a threat," Julien said. "It's always good to have those kind of players killing penalties because it keeps the power play on its heels and you need to respect the offensive part of our penalty kill and it has scored some big goals for us this year."
Another key factor in Monday's win was goaltender Chad Johnson. Johnson played in Dallas Thursday and came back on Monday to spell Tuukka Rask, who had worked hard in the Chicago game on Sunday. Johnson was solid on Monday, playing a technically sound game and keeping the Bruins on top with some timely saves.
"I thought (Sunday) was a real big game where both goaltenders had to work really hard to keep their teams in the game so I thought it was important for us to have the fresh goaltender," Julien said. "And then the way (Johnson) played in Dallas, there's no doubt we had the confidence to put him back in there."
The Bruins have eight games remaining before the Olympic break. With the team playing so well, Julien was asked if the break will be welcomed or a roadblock. But after the recent intense games, any rest will be accepted.
"We've played some playoff-type hockey in the last two games. These last two days have been what you see in playoffs," Julien said. "The intensity, the speed of it and everything else. It's a welcome rest."
Ian Clark covers pro hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.