After Tuesday’s loss against the Anaheim Ducks, the Boston Bruins had made it clear that their eight-game streak of giving up the first goal needed to stop. While they had managed to take points out of the previous seven, they realized it was just a matter of time before they wouldn’t be able to come from behind. Of course, that was just one of the problems with their game against the Ducks, and it was evident as the puck dropped at the beginning of the game against the visiting St. Louis Blues, that Bruins were determined to play hard and fast.
During the first period, the Blues were outshooting the Bruins, but this was one of those situations where the shots on net statistic belied what was really going on between the two teams. The Bruins were moving fast and finishing checks; as were the Blues. In a rather bizarre and somewhat messier than usual goal for him, David Krejci put the puck in the net at 12:32 of the first, though he and the team would have to wait after Blues head coach Mike Yeo used his Coach’s Challenge suggesting there had been goaltender interference.
After the video review, the call on the ice stood and the Bruins were on the scoreboard, though it was clear that no one on the Blues bench agreed with the decision. And while the explanations of the reviews usually offer some insight, what was published in this case didn’t really clear anything up. However, in re-reading the actual challenge as stated in the explanation, the assertion was that Boston’s Jake DeBrusk had interfered with St. Louis’ Jake Allen. Perhaps the review took into account how DeBrusk ended up sliding into Allen in the first place, though their final answer did not include anything about that.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) February 2, 2018
“You know I had no idea. It was kind of 50/50 when I saw it on the replay. It was really close but you know sometimes you need bounces to go your way and it was one of those nights and I’m happy it went in,” Krejci shared after the game.
Going into the first intermission, while the Blues had outshot the Bruins 14-9, it was Boston who was leading 1-0.
“I thought it was good. I’m not sure the shot clock accurately portrayed kind of the pace of the game and how it was playing out,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “I thought we were pretty good – a couple of turnovers that kind of came back at us, but other than that, I thought we managed the puck well, we were on our toes, trying to close off space and forecheck hard and get pucks to the net.”
Though Boston had done a solid job in the first period, it was during the second that they absolutely dominated the play—yet they would have nothing to show for it on the scoreboard. They outshot the Blues 22-6 in the middle frame, and it was due to Allen’s impressive play that Boston hadn’t run away with the game.
For the Bruins, the way they bounced back from Tuesday’s loss and continued to make it hard for St. Louis to get any momentum spoke to their commitment as a team. Going into the third period, they still only had the one goal, and they knew the Blues would push back. Patrice Bergeron got the go-ahead, and what would ultimately be the game-winning, goal 9:05 into the final frame. Not surprisingly it was from his favorite spot—the right circle.
“Well we obviously don’t plan to get scored on but there was a reason why we fell behind a few games. I think we wanted to correct those issues and I think we did tonight. So, we got to be ready for next game, to get a good start, games have been playing for 60 minutes so we have to be ready to play them for 60 minutes,” Bergeron stressed. “Guys are obviously very competitive, we want to win every game, there were a lot of battles. You could see the guys were really stepping out of their comfort zone, skill guys making some big plays, determined to win the battles along the wall. Guys were physical, but also making plays so that’s what you need from a team.”
Another familiar issue for the Bruins was once again losing a player to injury. Defenseman Kevan Miller’s last shift ended just 2:27 before the end of the second period. He did not return to play in the third. Having lost Anders Bjork early in Tuesday’s game and then to be playing with just five defensemen for the third period of Thursday’s game shows how important the depth of the Bruins organization becomes. Postgame, it was announced that Miller had an upper body injury and more would be forthcoming probably on Friday.
For David Backes, this was the second home game as a Bruin against his old team. And while he may have many friends off the ice who wear the Blues colors, on the ice it is a completely different story. Backes had eight shots on net, including his empty netter that sealed the 3-1 win for the Bruins, along with six hits. The pride he takes in his role on the ice was on display Thursday night, and the rest of his teammates in black and gold were happy for him to get that final goal.
“Yeah, we were all excited. Everyone was jumping up on the bench. He’s a guy that brings a lot to the table and it was pretty clear early on in the season without him what our team looked like – didn’t have the depth upfront and the way that he plays, just has so much jam and he never shuts up on the bench, so he’s a great guy to have on your side,” Torey Krug shared.
Backes did share that this second go round against his old team in Boston was a little easier, but he recognized the efforts of Blues goaltender Allen and the overall style of play of this Central Division team.
“Yeah the guys really battled. It was probably our most complete game where we had to battle and win pucks all over the ice. They make you play that way or else they are down your throat and not letting you out of your own end.,” Backes stated. “For stretches both ways I thought [we] occupied zones and we threw a lot of rubber at the net. Jake [Allen] made a lot of good saves. In the end, we get a power play and that’s the difference-maker. Our penalty kill did a good job when they got one with five minutes left or so. Two points against a tough central division team that I know pretty well, hopefully the start of another streak where we put a few together – but one at a time. We’ll enjoy these two points then get ready for our next opponent whenever we play on Saturday.”
And Saturday the Bruins will play host to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are just three points behind the Bruins, though Boston does have four games in hand on them. The important thing will be if they can carry the positives of Thursday’s win over the Blues right into the start of Saturday’s tilt with Toronto.