As the announcements went out that the Boston Bruins would not have Milan Lucic nor Patrice Bergeron on the bench for their game against the Detroit Red Wings on Monday, December 29th, there were many who believed that the Bruins would lose yet another game. The naysayers got worse as it was learned that the Edmonton Oilers had picked up Matt Fraser on waivers.
However, the Boston club that took to the ice that Monday showed the resilience and resolve that is usually associated with the Bruins. They came out hard, moving their feet and doing their best to frustrate the Red Wings.
Before the end of the first period the Bruins had scored three goals and they were executing their game. Battles along the boards were being won by the Bruins—something that hadn’t been seen in recent games. And when it came to the Red Wings getting shots on net, the Bruins were determined to keep them to the outside as much as possible. Even the Bruins’ power play was successful in the third period, during the one and only penalty assessed to the Red Wings.
Seth Griffith, who had been a recent scratch the last few games, got the power play goal. He’d shown hard work throughout the game. It was clear that he wanted to prove that he deserved to be back on the bench. But what goes through a player’s mind in such a situation?
“It was definitely a little nerve wracking, obviously these being two huge crucial games, but you just try and handle it the best you can,” Griffith told The Pink Puck. “I think our line did a good job of that. We kept it simple and didn’t give them a whole lot.
When a team is struggling though, as the Bruins have been, it is usual for the leadership on the team to step up and perhaps motivate through speeches. Such was not the case though.
“Sometimes there are speeches and players meetings and coaches meetings but for the most part that wasn’t the case,” assistant captain Chris Kelly said after the game. “It was us realizing that we need to be better. We are a good hockey team when everyone plays well and plays the system and is focused and when it’s not there we are an average hockey team.”
And apparently all of the players dug into themselves and looked to what it takes individually to motivate them to produce at their highest level.
So what happened then on New Year’s Eve when the Bruins hosted the Toronto Maple Leafs? It was as though someone had forgotten to plug in the players to recharge after that fabulous display of two nights before. As the team showed in the third period, they are capable of bringing that extreme effort. During the second period they were able to get a power play goal and then tie the game up with two more goals, showing that their game was improving. However, it was the third period where it was clear that they had returned to the players of earlier in the week. During the third period and the five-minute overtime they kept the Leafs to just two shots on goal, while they managed to pepper the Leafs Jonathan Bernier with nine and four respectively.
In the end, the Bruins would have to settle for one point as the Leafs won the game in the shoot out.
So what kept the Bruins from bringing that effort for the full sixty minutes? And more importantly how do they regain that consistency they had become known for?
“I think sometimes it’s when we’re thinking too much and we’re not executing,” assistant captain Bergeron told The Pink Puck. “Obviously when you think out there it’s half a second you don’t have, and that’s when the other team takes advantage so I think it’s about doing that.”
Bergeron’s line mate Brad Marchand agreed this was an area that needs to be adjusted.
“In this league you have to move your feet, you have to move the puck quick and when you don’t teams collapse on you,” Marchand explained to The Pink Puck. “We do have to make quick decisions and the way you do that is trusting each other and know where each other is going to be. Just read off each other.”
The Bruins are set to take on the Ottawa Senators in their first game of 2015 in a matinee event before hopping on a plane and heading to North Carolina to take on the Carolina Hurricanes in the first back-to-back of the new year. Going into the remainder of the regular season games, the Bruins need to play each game like they played the one against Detroit.