Chiarelli: Bruins Surging
BostonBruins.com - On Sunday, the Bruins took advantage of a well-deserved off day with no practice, following their series-clinching 3-1 win over the New York Rangers that propelled them into the Eastern Conference Finals for the second time in the past three years.
General Manager Peter Chiarelli addressed the media from TD Garden, reflecting on the past series and the well-known depth on the Bruins' roster. The last time the B's GM spoke to media, it had been following the mentally, emotionally, physically draining Game Seven comeback win over Toronto.
"What I can say is that in that last half of that third period, our guys came together and you could see a push that I hadn’t seen in a long time," Chiarelli had said.
Aside from Game Four's miscues, the Bruins then strung together a push of 60-minute, full team efforts against the Rangers that, as a result, see a confident group entering the third round, despite the tough challenge that lies ahead with another deep team in the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"I’ve seen a bit of a collective surge in our play since the last series," Chiarelli told media Sunday morning, as he reflected on the second-round series.
"That surge is comprised of a good forecheck, good puck possession as a result of the forecheck, and sustained pressure. I think that’s reflective of the attitude of the players, and you’ve seen that in the room in talking to them."
"I just liked the poise that we had throughout the whole series and composure, while still maintaining a level of intensity. That’s the tough part is getting that balance."
Patrice Bergeron had spoken of that same team-wide balance prior to Game Five.
"It’s one thing to come out hard and making sure you’re physical and you’re first on pucks, but you can also stick to the system, making sure you stick to the game plan and don’t get yourself caught and lose your position just to get a big hit or something like that," said the Bruins' alternate captain. "So I think it’s about staying composed but really playing hard to be first on the puck."
It's no secret that the Bruins are a tough team to beat when they stick to their game plan. It's about the five-man unit - and the entire team - buying into the system. That includes a four-line rollout, contributions from the defensemen, and a strong forecheck.
The Bruins generate puck possession from their faceoff prowess (Patrice Bergeron leads the NHL playoffs at 63.5-percent and the B's lead the postseason, winning 57.5-percent of their draws), but more so from their forechecking pressure.
The best representation comes courtesy of the Bruins' "fourth line," the Merlot Line, with Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton and Daniel Paille. Watching them cycle on the forecheck is like a clinic. And their strength in that area paid off for the B's in the second round, with the line putting up four goals and six assists.
"In building teams, you want to be deep and you want to be deep with quality," said Chiarelli, on the Bruins' depth. "You never know what things get thrown at you in the course of a series and you’re able to give different looks out of necessity, or out of your own desire if things aren’t working."
"When you’ve got depth in your existing lineup, meaning those players, and you saw that with us, four lines, six D that are all contributing and all playing good, quality minutes. That’s a bonus."
Throughout games and series, you see ebbs and flows between the teams, but what the B's GM really liked seeing from his Bruins was their ability to create their own surges when needed.
"I like the consistent surges in this series. I really liked the push, the sustained push," added Chiarelli. "I said it last time [following Game Seven], you can’t have it for the full 60 minutes, but when we had to, we had real good collective pushes by the lines."
That type of complete team effort extends not only throughout the skaters, but also to the netminder between the pipes.
"I liked Tuukka’s big saves. We had some real good games where, I’d have to go back and look, but I think we outchanced them in every game. The last game, he had those two saves in the third. Not part of sustained pressure. You see a bunch of saves, point-blank on [Ryan] Callahan and [Rick] Nash - those are big saves."
"His ability to bounce back from the game before, I like that. It really is about, I talked about it earlier, it’s about the surges. And I like that we’re more of the same."
That consistency to the Bruins' game was in question following a roller coaster first round that had caused Coach Julien to give his team the "Jekyll & Hyde" monicker.
But following the Game Seven surge - though it was only in the final 10 minutes of the third period and overtime - Chiarelli had seen signs of a momentum builder moving forward for the Bruins.
"As a building block, yeah, I think you could really look on what these guys did during the last bit in the third period and overtime as a building block and you hope that they seize it and play with it," Chiarelli had said, the day following the historic rally over the Leafs.
"And my belief is that playoffs are about momentum. I know people say that they’re not, but I mean, you can get what I call ‘mojo.’ You can get it, and you can carry it and have it and that’s how you get on a roll."
"And you see these teams, us included a couple years ago [in 2011], you see them just start rolling and I would hope that they would be able to learn from that."
A series later, on Sunday morning, I asked the Bruins' GM if he saw that 'mojo' now brewing within his club.
"That’s the surges I talk about, too - the ability to maintain it line-to-line. I saw it all series, so I would anticipate that it will be there for next series," he said.
"Pitt is a heck of a team, and as I said earlier, they’ve got those veterans that can play that heavy game. You don’t have to be a heavy player to play a heavy game."
"Although we haven’t had a lot of success this year against them, if you look at the games closely, they were battles for a while. So, that’s how I would anticipate the series."
The GM also anticipates no hesitation in the Bruins' finding another level with a tougher opponent in the Penguins.
"I would expect that would come natural, just from where we are at this level in the playoffs and with the team that we’re playing," Chiarelli said, on the Black & Gold elevating their compete level.
"There’s some storylines that I’m sure will be highlighted that’ll probably help them a little bit whether they admit it or not. I think it’s just now, we’re at a stage where, I can recall the last time, there was no issues in getting them up for Tampa [in 2011]."
"I think they’re at a stage where that comes natural, and I’d be disappointed if they weren’t. Now, this is a tough team we’re playing. It’s going to be a tough battle and you’re going to see ebbs and flow with these series, too."
"I would think that they would be up for it."