Saturday night the Boston Bruins played host to the Detroit Red Wings. The Bruins spent the last two days reflecting on how they let Thursday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche get away from them and what they needed to do to get the win. The Red Wings, likewise were pondering where their game against the San Jose Sharks went wrong on Friday night in Detroit before they traveled east. Usually a team that is coming in on their second of a back-to-back is often a little more energetic or prepared to play than the team that has had a day or more off. During the first period, it looked like both teams were sizing each other up, as neither team managed a shot on goal in the first five minutes.
“The Detroit Red Wings play a different style of game. They’re puck possession,” forward Matt Beleskey said after the game. “They kind of take it back. They like to build speed, so you gotta kind of play a little chess with them in the neutral zone.”
And what an accurate description that was for how that first period went. It was a much more cerebral game than the Bruins play generally. By the time the clock ran out on the first, neither team had scored, though by then the Bruins had outshot the Red Wings 12-5. Perhaps even more astonishing was the lack of a single penalty in that first frame.
Going into the first intermission tied at zero had to feel better than the emotions they experienced on Thursday when they found themselves tied at two as a result of a tying goal with less than 30 seconds remaining in the period. The chatter in the Bs locker room was on staying the course and bending rather than breaking.
“[We talked about how] it was going to be a tight game, you know,” Kevan Miller told media. “That we need to make sure we’re doing everything right and make sure that we weren’t going to be the first team to crack. We wanted to make sure we were doing the right things.”
As the teams took to the ice for the second, the chess match resumed, though it would be the Red Wings who would find themselves whistled for the first penalty just over two minutes in. Darren Helm got sent to the box for a hook, which offered the Bruins an opportunity on the man advantage. Unlike in years past, the Bruins power play this season has an emphasis on the power, having scored a power play goal in their prior eight games. However, Detroit would put an end to that streak.
Undeterred, the Bruins kept pushing and Tuukka Rask made sure to give the players in front of him every opportunity to make the first strike.
“Well, Tuukka was really good tonight. He was really good,” head coach Claude Julien commented after. “When things go bad, that’s when you support your goaltender. That’s when you show trust in him, and we’ve shown trust in him because we know he’s going to help us win games like he did tonight.”
Patrice Bergeron, who had struggled uncharacteristically on the draws in the first and second periods, would be the one to start the scoring for the Bruins. Having been able to gain control of the puck just inside his own defensive zone, and with a little dangle, he worked his way around those in red and white. He darted down the right side getting a wrist shot off that went up and over Petr Mrazek. Bergeron saw that the puck was behind Mrazek and backhanded it into the back of the net.
Perhaps the prettiest of the goals though, had to be their third. Brad Marchand skated down the right boards patiently looking for the best option, which turned out to be Torey Krug. A quick little pass and Krug had it behind Mrazek for his first goal of the season, And while he celebrated with his teammates in the post-goal huddle, the determination on his face just after it went in the net spoke volumes.
“It’s a good feeling. I wasn’t really too worried about it, especially with a few more minutes being played,” Krug shared. “My number one job is always defense and that’s been good so far. I can always improve, but it’s nice to get the first one.”
As the third period got underway, it looked like the Red Wings had decided to stop playing chess and to see if they could tilt the ice in their favor. To a degree they managed to do that, and it would be the only period in which they would outshoot the Bruins in the game.
“I think they came hard in the third period; maybe we sat back and tried to protect the lead a little too much,” Beleskey explained. “But we bent, we didn’t break and I think we can learn from that and learn that we can’t sit back for a full period.”
We bent, we didn’t break.” — Matt Beleskey
Indeed they can’t. Nor can they afford to take questionable penalties. A little more than six minutes into the period, Zac Rinaldo was called for tripping. Given how aggressive the Red Wings had been since the period began it was perhaps no surprise when they capitalized with the man advantage. Many began to wonder if this would be the first of many that would see another Bruins lead crushed.
Fortunately, some key saves by Rask helped keep the Bruins up by two goals. However, when Adam McQuaid was whistled for boarding with still 3:42 left, things began to get a bit tense, especially when Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill pulled his goalie and put six attackers on the ice with 11 seconds remaining in that power play.
For only the second time this season, Dirty Water was played as the Bruins were able to hold onto the scoring advantage throughout the remainder of regulation.
The Bruins welcome the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday and that promises to be a difficult game. The Bruins will need to carry their momentum forward, but the Sharks may have other ideas about that.