BOSTON - Thirty-seven games into the 2014-15 season, but the Bruins put forth a performance that warranted all-around praise from their bench boss.
It came following a 5-2 win over Detroit on Monday night at TD Garden.
"That's the way we expect ourselves to play, and [against Detroit] was probably the closest we've come to playing to our expectations," Head Coach Claude Julien said following the team's practice on Tuesday.
Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron, both nursing day-to-day situations that caused them to miss Monday's game, were back on the ice for the skate. It has not yet been determined if either will be ready to suit up against Toronto on Wednesday night.
Whether or not the pair of forwards will be in the lineup for the next game, the Bruins showed how they are capable of playing.
"The ability to play that way is there, no matter who we have in the lineup," said Julien. "Now it's a matter of getting some consistency and seeing more of that in a game-to-game basis."
The Black and Gold are in unfamiliar territory for the past few seasons, sitting out of the playoff picture mid-season. With 41 points, they sit just two points back of the Maple Leafs (43) and a point ahead of the Florida Panthers (40) in the Atlantic Division.
"The urgency was there," defenseman Dennis Seidenebrg said of the effort against the Red Wings. "You saw we were playing physical, we were forechecking hard and that's when we play our best hockey, so the urgency has to be there every game, and if we do that, we'll be fine."
Bergeron and Lucic had been dealing with "day-to-day" situations.
The last time the forwards skated with the team was in Saturday's game against Columbus. They missed Sunday's practice, Monday's pregame skate and did not suit up against Detroit.
The Bruins next host the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden on Wednesday night.
BOSTON - The Bruins needed to vastly improve an aspect of their game heading into Monday night's matchup with the Red Wings at TD Garden.
"Commitment," Head Coach Claude Julien had said pregame. "We need to be a little bit harder and more committed. Do the things that we have to do to win hockey games. It’s not so much one area where we’re weak - it’s just our game as a whole. We need to be hungrier."
The Black and Gold responded with a 5-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings, bouncing back from their 6-2 loss in Columbus on Saturday.
"I think it was pretty obvious tonight that there was a bigger determination and commitment to working hard from start to finish," Julien said. "So this is one of hopefully many, and we need to understand that this is how we have to play to be successful."
The Bruins jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 2:44 into the first period, when Reilly Smith wound up and fired from the right point through traffic after Dougie Hamilton won a battle along the boards. David Krejci won the faceoff to start the cycle.
Boston got pucks through all night, firing a season-high 45 shots on Jimmy Howard, including 19 in the first.
"They won all the battles, all the races. They competed way harder than us," Detroit Head Coach Mike Babcock said postgame.
COLUMBUS - The Bruins had the chance to pick up a third straight win in Columbus on Saturday night at Nationwide Arena.
Instead, they heard the blast of the Blue Jackets' goal cannon, over and over and over, in a 6-2 loss coming out of the break.
While the game was tied at 1-1 after the first 20 minutes, a four-goal second period from the Blue Jackets did the Bruins in. Craig Cunningham reduced the deficit to 4-2, but a dagger from Matt Calvert with just 51 seconds left in the second period sent the Blue Jackets into the third with a commanding 5-2 lead.
The Bruins had bursts of pressure, but puck mismanagement and lack of battles won down low slanted the ice towards Niklas Svedberg and then Tuukka Rask, who took over between the pipes with 13:28 left in the second period. Columbus had a 3-1 lead at the time.
"We took two steps forward; we just took one back," said Head Coach Claude Julien, who had seen his team put together a 5-3 win over Nashville and 4-3 overtime win over Buffalo before the three day layoff.
"Now we've got to keep plugging away here. We've talked about how important it is for us to get some wins here. I often say that, 'turn the page' - it's not about just turning the page and forgetting what happened here. We've got to get better."
COLUMBUS - Saturday's game against the Blue Jackets in presents a unique scenario for Boston.
After the three day Christmas break, the Bruins flew out of Massachusetts early Saturday morning before holding a pregame skate at Nationwide Arena.
That morning skate will serve as the only ice time for the Bruins within the past four days, before the puck drops on Saturday night. The last time they hit the ice was on Tuesday, when they earned a 5-3 win over the Nashville Predators at TD Garden to pick up consecutive wins for the first time since a three-game win streak from Nov. 15-21.
"It's a little bit different than what we're used to, different from our routine and it's obviously something that we're going to have to figure out heading into this game," said Milan Lucic. "But luckily, thankfully, it wasn't too, too long of a flight."
"We were able to get in here, get a morning skate, get to work out all the kinks of not being on the ice for three days and flying in this morning, being able to get a good sweat and hopefully get feeling good about ourselves."
"At the end of the day, they had three days off as well, so shouldn't be any real excuses heading into tonight's game and right now, we've just got to make sure we get our rest and get our minds ready to play the way we need to play in order to have a strong game tonight."
BOSTON - There was a different feeling in the Bruins' locker room on Tuesday night at TD Garden.
Their 5-3 win over the Nashville Predators gave them two straight wins for the first time since mid-November.
Sunday's 4-3 overtime win had given the team a much-needed lift after three of their previous four games had ended with one-goal decisions not in their favor. But Tuesday's win had them feeling more on the right track. The Bruins never trailed in the game.
"It was good, I think it was good to see glimpses of how we know we can play and we know it’s still in here," Brad Marchand told reporters after netting a two-goal night, including the game-winner.
"I thought we had a really good first couple periods. We didn’t have the best third but we were able to still come out with the win and that’s what we need."
The Predators tied it up 1-1 just over five minutes later, but the Bruins jumped back on top 2-1 at 9:43 into the first period.
David Krejci let a one-timer rip off a feed from Torey Krug on the power play for his first goal since returning from injury. It marked the first time the Bruins had scored power play goals in back-to-back games since November 6 and 10. Zdeno Chara caused the havoc in front of Nashville goalie Carter Hutton.
BOSTON - With David Krejci back in the lineup, the Bruins have still been searching for consistency in their lines.
Loui Eriksson started Sunday night's game against Buffalo playing with Krejci and Milan Lucic. It's been an oft talked about lineup move, with that right wing position still in limbo and Krejci re-finding his game after returning from injury.
But with the Bruins down 2-1 late in the second period, Head Coach Claude Julien put Eriksson back with Chris Kelly and Carl Soderberg. The trio scored on their first shift together, with Kelly bouncing in a Zdeno Chara drive to tie the game. Eriksson provided the double-screen in front as Kelly provided the deflection.
The trio spent the rest of the game together, though Eriksson ended up on the ice with Lucic and Krejci when he scored the overtime winner amidst a line change. The B's topped the Sabres 4-3.
In the past three games, Eriksson has two overtime winners and two assists, Soderberg has a goal and three assists and Kelly has a goal and two assists for a combined 11 points.
That line remained together for Monday's practice at TD Garden.
"You saw last night, I had to put Eriksson back with his line and all of a sudden, first shift together, they score a goal - and that's the challenge I've been dealing with all year, is trying to find guys on certain lines that help certain guys," Julien said following the skate. "So, you know, when you try and help one line, it seems like you're weakening another and so I'm doing my best here to try and balance that with inserting different players and trying different things."
WINNIPEG - The Bruins had a chance to string together back-to-back wins for the first time in a month on Friday night.
A win over the Jets would have sent them home with five out of six points on a road trip through Nashville, Minnesota and Winnipeg.
But a tough start, combined with passing up shots for the "cute" plays and no bounces their way, led to a 2-1 loss for the Bruins. They head home to Boston with three of six points, after picking up an overtime win in Minnesota and a point in a shootout loss to Nashville.
"I'm not happy. Because we could have came back - the way we were playing - we could have came back with five out of six," Head Coach Claude Julien said postgame on Friday, assessing his team's trip as a whole.
"And if we're happy with that (three out of six points), we're going to be on vacation there in the beginning of April. We're going to need more than that, to be honest with you. We've got to string some wins together here and this was an opportunity that we missed [Friday night]."
The Bruins had Thursday off in Winnipeg after a back-to-back against the Predators and Wild. They were well-rested.
A tough break 24 seconds into the game, when Torey Krug's clearing attempt when into the stands for a delay of game penalty, didn't help. The Bruins made the kill, but shortly after, a deflection trickled through Tuukka Rask and Evander Kane punched in the loose puck at 3:12 into the first.
"Right now, I can't afford to make those mistakes," said Rask.
WINNIPEG - David Krejci made his long awaited return to the lineup in Minnesota on Wednesday night, after missing 11 straight games and 17 of the previous 19 with an undisclosed injury he's been battling all season.
Twice amidst that stretch, he had tried to return.
He missed two games in early November before returning to play on November 6. He missed the next four games and then made another return on November 18, but was sidelined for the Bruins' ensuing 11 games.
This time around, Krejci is confident that he won't encounter those setbacks.
"Glad I got through it," the center said on Friday morning, as his team prepared to face the Jets. "I'm glad I'm ready to go again tonight."
As the Bruins finish off their road trip in Winnipeg on Friday night, Krejci is focused on helping the team close out their road trip by picking up five of six points, but he's also focused on making sure the once injured area continues feeling fine.
WINNIPEG - The Bruins could end this week's road trip through the Central Division with five out of six points if they pick up a win against the Jets in Winnipeg on Friday night.
They could also hop the Florida Panthers in the standings, and pick up two straight victories for the first time since November 18 and 21.
The Bruins are currently sitting one point behind Florida for the second Wild Card playoff spot. The Panthers picked up two points in a 2-1 shootout win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night and have two games in hand on Boston.
"Well, it turns tonight into a very important game. It seems like Florida keeps winning every shootout their in, no matter how many rounds it goes," said Reilly Smith, referencing the Bruins' fellow Atlantic Division opponent, which has won two straight shootouts (the first going to 20 rounds).
"We're battling for the last playoff spot right now. I know there's still more than half a season left, but we want to get those points right now in the middle of the season," said David Krejci, who is expected to play his second straight game since coming back from injury.
"This would be a perfect ending to the road trip with five points, so obviously we're going to do everything we can to get the two points."