It’s been a busy few days when it comes to Boston Bruins hockey, but busy in a good way. After embarrassing the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday the Black and Gold ripped off convincing wins against both the Islanders (6-3) and Panthers (6-2) on consecutive nights, besting former Bruin Tim Thomas last night at the Garden. Boston’s top two lines remained sizzling, with seven of the team’s twelve goals coming from current top six forwards, while captain Zdeno Chara earned his 500th NHL point on Monday after scoring a goal against the Islanders. Let’s take a look at what’s going right at the moment for the B’s.
The Resurgence of Brad Marchand
This has been the hot topic lately, with the feisty Bruins forward tallying points in six straight games (7G, 5A) heading into last night’s matchup with the Panthers. While he and linemate Patrice Bergeron were held scoreless against Florida, Marchand is back to doing the little things that make him effective. He’s moving his feet, playing with confidence, and is displaying creativity with the puck at the right times (aka, not when it’s overly risky to do so). And don’t worry, he’s still being a pain in the ass pest, a trait I’m sure will see plenty of with the Canadiens in town tomorrow night. But his play of late has him sitting just one goal back from linemate Reilly Smith in goals with 17 on the season, impressive considering he scored just twice in his first 18 games of the year. Regardless, this line is clicking in a big way right now, and with Bergeron headed to Russia for the Olympics, continued strong play from Marchand and Smith could go a long way towards keeping this line hot through the break.
While Marchand is just one piece of the puzzle, he’s by no means the biggest. And that’s what has been great about the Bruins the last few years, they haven’t had one big piece to rely on. And that continues to be proven this season, especially in the face of numerous injuries to some big names. But over the past few games it really has been a team effort. The Lucic-Krejci-Iginla line has returned to form, with Krejci and Iginla collecting an impressive seven points each over their past four games, and the Bergeron’s line successes have obviously been documented.
But we’ve seen guys like Carl Soderberg, Loui Eriksson, Shawn Thornton and Daniel Paille getting on the scoresheet recently, and that can’t be overlooked. While you can certainly argue that the opponents Boston has faced haven’t been quite top-notch, having that much contribution from your bottom six is clearly an indicator that this team is starting to feel it.
You get the picture. The Bruins are going to be real dangerous if they can keep this up.
The Little Things
Personally, I think a big reason the B’s have had as much success over the past few games is a return to fundamentals. They’re beating teams that they should be with relative ease because they’re doing the things that are most important better.
You’re seeing more goals that are a result of traffic in front of the net, a perfect example being Zdeno Chara’s goal last night against the Panthers. You have Milan Lucic battling right in front of Tim Thomas, and a relatively harmless shot by Chara bounces around and into the net. They’re winning puck battles, as both David Krejci and Shawn Thornton did last night as well, Krejci on Milan Lucic’s first goal and Thornton on his own highlight reel rush.
And lastly they’re just making fewer avoidable mistakes. They’re not perfect by any means, clear by three bad giveaways that led to goals on Long Island, but they’ve certainly been better. For the most part they’re breaking the puck out well or at the very least putting it out of danger in their own end, and their coverage around the net has been a lot better than what it’s been in the past.
If the Bruins can keep this a focus and keep “executing” as Claude Julien loves to say, there are going to be a lot more goals and lot more wins in the near future for this team.
Habs on Tap
Nothing like a good rivalry to find out just where you’re at. While you might say the past three games have been a bit easy, don’t expect the same when the Canadiens roll into the Garden tomorrow night. Montreal isn’t playing overly well, winning just four of their last ten, but only four points separate them from the eighth and final playoff spot at the moment so they’ll surely be up for this one against a division rival.
As always, controlling Montreal’s speed will be key. The Bruins struggled with that a bit earlier in the season in a 2-1 loss to the Habs, as well as with the fundamentals mentioned above. While a 2-1 loss isn’t something to lose too much sleep over, the Bruins had plenty of chances to win that game but made it too easy on Carey Price in a third period that they largely had the better of the play.
Discipline will also be important, as it is in most games against a hated opponent. PK Subban is at the top of his game right now, leading Montreal with 36 points, so keeping him and his teammates off the power play would go a long way towards a victory. Stay tuned for what should be another great game! Puck drops at 7pm on NESN.