Bruins Power Past Leafs
BOSTON, MA - Heading into Saturday night's matchup with Toronto at TD Garden, the Bruins were focusing on their own game.
The keys? Control offensive zone time, avoid outnumbers situations against a quick Leafs team and commit to their physical, heavy game.
The one that's always a given, though? Win the special teams battle.
And that's exactly what Boston did, in a 3-1 win over the Maple Leafs, powering home two power-play goals from Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron, and killing all three penalties, including one late in the third.
Bergeron added an empty-netter late in regulation to seal it.
"I felt our special teams were obviously the difference tonight," Head Coach Claude Julien said following the win. "Penalty kill was extremely good; winning battles and getting pucks down the other end and even when they had the possession in our own end we were always in the shooting lane, didn’t give them much there."
"Our power play scored two big goals and that was huge as well. So it was one of those nights where you really relied on your special teams a lot and they got you a win."
Chara scored the first, 15:27 into the opening frame, after outbattling Dion Phaneuf and two other Leafs at the top of the crease and powering home the rebound off a Jarome Iginla backhander for his third goal of the season, all of them coming on the man-advantage.
"In lots of areas," said Julien, when asked where the Captain affected the outcome of the game. "I told him, even last game, I thought he was really good in the penalty kill."
"We wanted our left D to really stand up in the neutral zone and he did the best job by far and really took away what we call the slash play – where the guy cuts through the middle, gets a pass and carries it with speed – so he was able to slow him down that way last game."
"He did a great job of standing him up, he did a great job at getting pucks down the other end and he did that again tonight. He won battles and when he got the puck, the pucks were shot all the way down the other end. So he’s good there."
"Obviously, the power play continues. To me he’s always been good but he continues to be good on the power play in front where he takes a lot of space and he keeps a lot of the other team’s guys busy; allowing our guys to move the puck around."
Chara, never one to shy away from the "dirty areas," has started to own the spot in front of the net on the power play and also has the confidence to go battle for pucks in the corners.
"And when he’s around the net he’s getting more and more comfortable at either screening or opening up to get into position to either tip or shoot a puck in," said Julien. "So I thought he was a really good player or us tonight which is one of the players that was probably a game changer."
With the B's taking a 1-0 lead into the second period, there was another game changer who showed his impact that goes beyond the scoresheet.
Just 45 seconds into the middle frame, Iginla dropped the gloves with David Clarkson. He now has three fights, to go along with his three goals, in the Black & Gold.
"He stood tall for our team. A player who’s been around the league for that long a lot of times doesn’t even want to do that stuff or doesn’t feel that it’s his job and he’s going to do whatever it takes to help our team out," said Julien. "So, really impressed with him since he’s been here."
"It’s still a lot of game left to play and I just don’t know if it’s the time to back down there," Iginla said, of dropping the gloves with the B's up 1-0. "I think you just keep going forward and what happens, happens. Too much game left and it being a close game, it’s part of it."
"[If you] turn away, then they start feeling like they can push you a little bit more and push you around a bit and start taking advantage of that. So, it kind of just happens."
It wasn't just the fight and the assist where Iginla made an impact; he fired six shots on goal, nearly earned a Gordie Howe Hat Trick, and was part of one of the most memorable shifts of the night, when he and linemates David Krejci and Milan Lucic hemmed Toronto in their zone for well over a minute.
"You know what, it felt good. We had some great zone time and were able to, felt like we were starting to read off each other a little more as far as jump to some spots and get some good looks," he said. "We’ve had some good chances this year, we’ve had some good shifts. But it does feel like it’s starting to come as far as reading off each other, spreading out, using each other, getting some second, third chances. It felt good."
Toronto evened it up, 1-1, late in the second period with Joffrey Lupul snapping one past Tuukka Rask. But the B's turned in another aggressive third period like we saw in the 4-1 win over the Florida Panthers.
Just 1:06 into the final frame, with the Bruins on a carryover four-minute power play from the end of the second, Bergeron buried his fourth goal of the season. It came as a result of excellent movement, started by Reilly Smith up at the point, before Carl Soderberg drove the net and fired a shot, with Bergeron powering in the rebound.
"It’s something that we’ve worked on for a few years now and now it seems to be clicking. Obviously that helps the team a lot," said the centerman. "That’s something that we’ve talked a lot about and that we needed to be better at. So far, it’s been good."
"We’ve got to keep building on that and PK is the same thing. We’ve got to keep playing well there and the special teams is always a key to get some points."
After the anomaly game against New Jersey with the B's allowing four power play goals, they've been working their way back to the top, game by game.
They may have only had to kill three penalties in the win over Toronto, but they actually shifted momentum in their favor with all three, and none more than a PK with less than five minutes left in regulation.
With Carl Soderberg in the box, the B's came out with a dominant performance.
"Well it’s one of those things, once you get along the boards, there’s a battle going on there. So if you’re in a battle with a guy, you knock him down, then you can certainly get the puck," said Julien, of the B's outworking the Leafs when shorthanded.
"The one thing you don’t want to do is get yourself out of position and I think our guys were in battle there where they wanted to get the puck and by knocking guys down, they were able to do that."
"I don’t think we’re doing much differently, I think just maybe bearing down and getting bounces, and clearing those pucks," said Dougie Hamilton, who saw 2:03 in ice time on the PK, after Adam McQuaid left the game in the first period (after just two shifts) and did not return. Julien did not have an update on the blueliner postgame and said one could be expected on Sunday.
"We’re definitely focusing on it now after that stretch that we had and doing a good job."
The Bruins continued to push the pace in the third, to bookend their strong start. Though they let the Leafs dictate much of the second period, it was another step forward to that full, 60-minute consistency they constantly preach.
"For two periods, we were good; I thought that second period we didn’t really have that much time out of our zone and then Claude called it Jekyll and Hyde," said Hamilton. "I think it’s just consistency with trying to play that game that we play in the first and third the whole game."
"But I think the way we play, it’s tough to do it for 60 minutes and it’s something we have to keep working on."