BOSTON (CBS) – There’s little doubt that hockey is one of the most intense sports on the planet. Any time you let 10 full-grown men skate around at full speed and bash each other around in a condensed space, you’ve got yourself a recipe for madness.
Yet, the funny thing about hockey is that when you move the games from night time to the early afternoon, you generally see a major drop-off in intensity, particularly from a team like the Bruins that feeds off the energy created by a physical game.
And on Saturday afternoon at the TD Garden, it looked like the Bruins were falling victim to a lack of life yet again. They were getting out-hit by a 12-to-5 margin, and they mustered just one measly shot on net, and even that was essentially a pass from Daniel Paille from the corner that Ilya Bryzgalov poke-checked.
Then, in a short yet powerful burst, the Bruins’ offense exploded.
Nathan Horton drove to the net and was hooked down by Kimmo Timmonen. The Bruins’ power-play unit took the ice and immediately generated a solid scoring chance. Off the faceoff moments later, David Krejci passed to Milan Lucic, who twirled and sent a no-look pass through the crease and onto the stick of Tyler Seguin. He roofed the shot for his third goal in the last two games and fifth in five games, giving the Bruins a 1-0 lead.
Moments later, Jordan Caron, in his second full minute on the ice for the Bruins this season, dished to Chris Kelly in the slot, and Kelly beat Bryzgalov for the Bruins’ second goal in less than two minutes.
It was then that the Bruins did what they’ve often struggled to do this season – extend a lead. And they did it thanks to Shawn Thornton being willing to pay the price of getting knocked off his skates by Luke Schenn at the blue line in order to get a pass over to Gregory Campbell, who fed it in front to Paille. He finished, and the Bruins led 3-0, a lead built in 2:18 that would hold for the next 45:49.
“We responded well to whatever they were throwing at us,” B’s coach Claude Julien said. “I know they got real physical after they fell behind. For us, it was to not turn around and retaliate and take stupid penalties, but [instead] push back. And we did. So that’s what you expect out of your team.”
Part of that push back involved Thornton challenging Zac Rinaldo to a fight after the Flyers winger demolished Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk in the corner behind the Bruins’ net. Thornton decidedly won that fight, helping ignite a spark in an otherwise quiet second period.
And in perhaps the defining moment of the game, at least in terms of the team’s character, Seguin skated late in the third period from the opposite end of the ice when the Bruins were on a power play in order to cover a vacated net, lie on the ice and block a shot. The game was, for all intents and purposes, over at that point, but it’s that type of effort (particularly from a guy with Seguin’s skill set) that displays how the Bruins remain unwilling to take off any shift.
“I think Segs is one of, if not the fastest guy on our team,” Kelly said. “That guy had almost a zone on him and he still managed to get back and almost catch him. Especially on the power play, we’re up by three, it’s late in the game, maybe guys don’t put that effort in. But that just shows what type of team we are and the type of individuals we have on this team.”
Boston’s penalty kill was again exceptional, going a perfect 3-for-3 on the day, and for the first time all season, the Bruins skated for the majority of the third period knowing they would win. That’s something that hasn’t come too easy for them this season. It seems wild to say it, considering they’re 8-2-1 at home, but it was the first time this season that they were able to win by three goals at home, and it was their first home shutout of the year, too.
Yet, in typical Julien fashion, the coach was pleased with the effort and results, but never satisfied.
“We were kind of looking to hopefully extend the lead,” Julien said. “If they had scored the next goal, a 3-1 game is a different one than 4-0. I want our guys to play the way to get that next goal.”
It’s that type of attitude, especially after a thorough and complete 3-0 victory, that has come to define the mind-set of this Bruins team. And, as the halfway point approaches in the coming days, it is exactly why the Bruins left the building Saturday afternoon as the best team the Eastern Conference has to offer.