EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — The sun may be shining in Southern California, but the Bruins know where their focus lies as they finish out their road trip with a tough back-to-back against Anaheim and Los Angeles this weekend.
After a day off to rest and recover on Wednesday, the team returned to practice on Thursday at Toyota Sports Center, the training center of the LA Kings.
With two days off from game action after dropping their first game of the trip in San Jose, the Black & Gold should be geared up to face the top two teams in the Pacific Division.
“You’d like to think you’re team is capable of rising to occasions and playing well and playing hard,” Head Coach Claude Julien said following practice. “I thought we played decently against San Jose, but still not good enough to win and we could have been better.”
“So I think we can definitely expect more from our hockey club, in order to win these kind of games that we think are important for us.”
SAN JOSE, Calif. — With less than a second to go in regulation, Torey Krug had the puck in the slot and nearly found an opening on Sharks netminder James Reimer.
There was still 00.5 left on the clock, but Krug was left hunched over behind the net in disbelief, knowing how close he was to tying the game at 3-3 in San Jose.
Less than four minutes before the blueliner’s chance, David Krejci had found himself in all alone on a breakaway. He deked to his backhand and nearly slid his bid by Reimer. He met the post instead.
The Bruins fought until the end, but left the SAP Center with a 3-2 loss in their first game of the three-game West Coast swing through California.
“You can’t get any closer than that,” Krejci lamented. “It was post and had the goalie beat — I just hit the post.”
Boston held San Jose to just four shots on goal and a power-play goal in the third period, but couldn’t convert on their prime opportunities.
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Heading into Tuesday night’s matchup with the Sharks, the Bruins find themselves still atop the Atlantic Division after the Florida Panthers suffered a 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders on Monday.
At 86 points, Boston is one point above both Tampa Bay and Florida, though each team does have a game in hand.
Still, sitting at the top of the division is not a bad position for the Black & Gold to be in, as they begin their three-game California road trip in San Jose.
“It’s definitely motivation, for sure, to see where we are and knowing that they have games in hand,” Patrice Bergeron said after hitting the ice for an optional pregame skate on Tuesday morning. “At the same time, that’s what we want to do — we want to push to be at the top.”
“It’s a big challenge for us tonight and moving forward for the rest of the road trip. It’s definitely a tough road ahead of us, but at the same time, we should approach it as being a great challenge for us and we have great motivation to try and stay on top.”
The Bruins will cap off this trip with a back-to-back in Anaheim and Los Angeles on Friday and Saturday, so putting forth a strong effort against the Sharks will set them up for the week.
SAN JOSE, Calif. — The Bruins are 5-0-2 in the month of March.
Since the NHL’s trade deadline on Feb. 29, they have gone without a regulation loss in a busy stretch of seven games in 12 days against some of the league’s best like Chicago and Washington, and divisional opponents like Tampa Bay and Florida.
Their most recent victory came in a 3-1 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday afternoon in Boston. For the time being, the Black & Gold are in first place in the Atlantic Division, though Florida and Tampa Bay each have a game in hand.
Overall, the Bruins’ consistency has improved — just in time to head West for the annual California trip to face three tough opponents in San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles.
Marchand helped the Black & Gold finally chase Ben Bishop from his crease 10 seconds into extra time, as they shut out the Lightning 1-0 on Tuesday night at Amalie Arena.
“I knew if I got to the net Bergy would find me — and he does all the time,” smiled Marchand.
“It was a great transition by Torey, and we talked about it before overtime — to try to catch them flat-footed like that,” said Bergeron. “When I got the puck, I knew that Marchy was going to try to beat his guy and be open backdoor, so I was trying to just to lay it there for him.”
“Fun to not be the defender that’s having to play against them,” laughed John-Michael Liles, who has always been on the other side of the duo.
SUNRISE, Fla. — The win may not have been the most pronounced, with the Bruins squeezing out two points in overtime after seeing a 4-1 lead evaporate, but they finished Monday night with a 5-4 decision over the Panthers to make Head Coach Claude Julien the all-time wins leader in franchise history.
With the victory — the 388th of his Bruins coaching career — the bench boss passed Art Ross in regular season wins.
Through Stempniak’s four games in Black & Gold, the winger has a goal and five assists.
“It’s been fun,” Stempniak said postgame. “I’m fortunately with two great players [in Bergeron and Brad Marchand], they’re playing well, they’ve been having great years, so for me, it’s trying to complement them and not mess it up at this point.”
SUNRISE, Fla. — With the Bruins sitting in third place in the Atlantic Division, they face an important back-to-back against the two teams above them in the standings: Florida and Tampa Bay.
The first test comes on Monday night in Sunrise against the Panthers, who have a game in hand on the Bruins, and are just one point above them with 80 points. The next test will come on Tuesday night, when the Bruins face off against the Lightning, who lead the division with 82 points.
“I think it’s an exciting game for both teams, because there’s a lot at stake,” Head Coach Claude Julien said following the Bruins’ pregame skate at BB&T Center. “I think one team wants to stay there, and the other team would like to move ahead, so when you look at a game like this at this time of year, it certainly creates some excitement for fans and also for players and teams.”
“This road trip’s a big one for us,” said Matt Beleskey. “Right now, everything’s so tight obviously, so tonight’s a big game and to be able to jump a team in the standings is huge for us.”
BOSTON — The Bruins went into Saturday night at TD Garden looking to follow up their 4-2 win over Chicago on Thursday.
Two wins against two of the league’s top teams would certainly give them confidence as they embark on a tough home stretch of the season.
The Black & Gold ended the night on the losing end, 2-1 in overtime, while managing to take a point from the NHL’s best team.
“We were one shot away from beating the top two teams in the NHL, so for us, it’s just realizing if we stick to the system and keep doing those things well, we’ll have a chance to win any game,” said Torey Krug.
“I thought we’ve done a good job of playing those two teams and we’ve just got to move on. We have other big tests coming up and every team brings something different to the table and we’ll look forward to the next challenge.”
BOSTON — The Bruins will host the league’s top team on Saturday night when they welcome the Washington Capitals to TD Gardne.
After a 4-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks — one of the top teams in the Western Conference — on Thursday, the Bruins are looking to follow up that strong performance.
Two wins against top of the NHL’s best teams? That would not be a bad way to finish off a homestand.
“I think, before you know it, the season will be over — there’s not that many games left, so we need to assert ourselves every game,” Head Coach Claude Julien said pregame on Saturday.
“So it’s not so much what [a win] means, more than what we need to do here, and we need to, again, bring our A-game and understand that we have to play a lot like we did the other night — be strong in all areas in order to beat good teams like Washington.”
“We know they’ve given us their fair share of problems in the past and we have to kind of push that aside and look at tonight and go in there with an optimistic and determined outlook.”
WILMINGTON, Mass. — The Bruins pulled out a strong performance on Thursday night with a 4-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.
They’ll need to follow that up with the same intensity against their next opponent, the Washington Capitals, on Saturday.
The challenge will be keeping up that level of play, as the Bruins are the busiest they’ve been all season, and are currently amid a stretch of 18 games over a 33-day span.
“It’s getting to the zone where we have to get tougher and we play almost every other day, so it’ll be tough,” Tuukka Rask said following the win over Chicago. “But as long as we stay fresh and mentally sharp and just keep skating and battling, it’s going to be good. It’s definitely not going to be easy, but the biggest thing is not to get comfortable right now.”
When the Bruins play their game, they’ve shown this season that they can earn commanding wins over the league’s top teams like Chicago and Dallas.