In their last ten games, the Boston Bruins have compiled an 8-1-1 record which has included two shutouts against the New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers. They have gone in and battled hard against some of the teams that are ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings and beaten them in their own barns, including most recently the 5-2 win over the New York Islanders in what is the Bruins last game in the Nassau Coliseum.
So as the Bruins hosted the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night, there was confidence on their bench. The Kings came into the game having earned just 10 points out of a possible 20 for the month up to that last day of January. In their previous five games they were 1-2-2 and were feeling a little desperate for the win.
The Bruins and the Kings play similar styles — physical, grinding games. So it was no surprise when the first period ended that the score was knotted at zero, with the Bruins having outshot the Kings by just ten to six. The second period saw the first goal of the game–an even strength goal by Brad Marchand, with assists from Zdeno Chara and Gregory Campbell at 17:20 of the period. The second period was also the only period in which any penalties were called. The first was a cross-checking called on Jeff Carter, when his stick met the face of Bruins’ defenseman Adam McQuaid in an ugly way at 3:47 of the period. The only other penalty was a tripping called on Patrice Bergeron at 19:32 of the second, forcing Boston to be shorthanded at the beginning of the third.
The Kings tied the game up thirteen minutes into the third period. In games before the holiday break, an overall deflation of the Bruins bench would have been apparent. Instead, Boston retaliated with Chris Kelly’s tip in from Carl Soderberg (the other assist went to Torey Krug) just 1:33 later. And Marchand would score his second on the night with an empty netter at 19:43 of the third to ensure a Bruins’ victory.
While the score shows that the Bruins had the win and that they are certainly improving on the overall play, it was the stupendous play of Tuukka Rask between the pipes that ensured that the team got Saturday’s win. And though only recognized after the game with the third star, his efforts throughout January earned him recognition as the third star for the month of January by the NHL, as announced on Monday, February 2.
One area that appeared to start out strong for the Bruins was their puck management and overall play in the neutral zone. They were able to slow the Kings down and prevent solid opportunities for the opposition in their defensive zone. Unfortunately as the game went on, especially in the third period, the Kings appeared to have solved the neutral zone to a degree.
“Yeah [the Bruins] came up pretty hard and they were throwing us around a little bit and guys needed to step up and play the physical style,” Jordan Nolan, who scored the third period goal for the Kings, told The Pink Puck. “So I thought we accomplished that and slowed them down a bit like you said and we drew up a new plan and it seemed to work a little bit.”
Puck management is something that the Bruins are aware of and in hockey–a game of mistakes–something they will want to do better as they strive to continue to climb in the standings.
“For sure, I think, in certain times during the game, I think, managing the puck is one thing that we can do a lot better. I thought there were periods of that game that we didn’t manage the puck or were too quick to give it away,” Kelly responded to The Pink Puck after the game. “It’s a game of mistakes. The great thing is, you can always get better. I don’t think I’ve ever played, as a team, a perfect game. There’s been a mistake here or there. Learning from them and trying to get better is the reason we all play. I think that’s why good teams have success, because they’re always trying to get a bit better.”
Rask, not only stood tall between the pipes, but withstood a Kings’ stick to his mask, which clearly caused him a little discomfort.
“I was just worried about that rebound there; trying to hold onto that and then all of a sudden I felt a hard hit on my head,” Rask told reporters. “I was seeing stars there for a second, but you know, I’m tough.”
While Rask was standing tall in his net, the same could be said of Jonathan Quick at the other end, though he would not agree with that assessment. He kept 30 of the 32 shots from going in, but it was the two he let in that were clearly eating him up after the game. It was written on his face, and rang through in his responses to the media. He was holding himself accountable for the loss.
“Doesn’t matter. I didn’t hit me; it went in the net,” he said about the first Bruins goal and whether he was screened or not.
“I didn’t stop it,” he responded forlornly in regard to the Kelly go-ahead goal.
Despite Quick pointing out that his team had good chances throughout the game to get points, it was clear that he did not hold them responsible for a lack of solving Rask, instead the weight of the loss he felt squarely on his shoulders.
One of the things that all the players seemed happy with was the fact that the referees let them play their style of game, with few whistles. Some games of this physicality could have been stop and go as the special teams spent the majority of the time on the ice. Instead, with few exceptions the threshold was high in regard to what constituted a penalty and the end result was a great game for all who watched.
Full interview with Chris Kelly: