"Gut-Check Time" as Bruins Hit the Road for Dallas & Chicago
WILMINGTON, MA - The Bruins hit the ice for a high-tempo practice on Wednesday morning following their 4-3 loss to Toronto, before hitting the road for Dallas and Chicago.
With the defeat, the Tampa Bay Lightning crept up on the Black & Gold to tie them atop the Atlantic Division with 60 points apiece.
"It’s tough to look at the positive. I know that it is important to look at the positives, but at the end of the day, it’s an important game for our team," an always honest Gregory Campbell said following the team's loss to Toronto on Tuesday night.
"It’s important for us to respond in a way that we show some urgency and some desperation because every game, every point, matters at this point and time. So there’s really a lot of areas that we should have been better in."
As the Bruins head to Game No. 47 in Dallas, they're working through a tough mid-season stretch that has seen them drop five of their past eight games. Most recently, they've dropped three of four, including two on the road. Right now, it's about finding intensity in their game.
"You can feel other teams, their urgency, especially last night playing Toronto, a team that's pushing for a playoff spot and that's what we're going to see from here on in," said Reilly Smith, who admitted that going back to Dallas for the first time since the trade won't change too much for him personally. "It will be good to see some faces there, but other than that, it's a business trip," he said.
The Stars are one of those teams still in the running for a playoff spot, their first since 2008, but are looking to find some resiliency. They just fought out a 5-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers after dropping six straight.
Meanwhile, the Bruins next opponent, the Chicago Blackhawks, sit second in both the Western Conference and the league with 71 points.
"[We're going to see] teams not in the playoff picture looking to get in, teams who are there just trying to stay in and stay in the top spots, so you know, we need to pick up our game just as other teams are, because it's gut-check time right now, and the points are huge."
Captain Zdeno Chara saw some good signs against the Leafs, when the team might be turning things around, but the consistency wasn't there, especially on special teams.
"Things need to be corrected; we just have to be better," said Chara following Wednesday's practice. "At the same time, just a bit of bad luck, but we're making mistakes we need to correct."
"Do the little things right. Work hard and be more focused on the details."
Like out West, this Bruins' road trip will present a tough test, as look for a reaction to their recent struggles.
Chicago will bring motivation of its own. It took most Bruins a good month to recover from the Final, maybe both physically and mentally, before quickly getting right back into training camp.
But, first things first.
"Good teams. It's going to be challenging for us. We know Dallas is playing with a lot of speed and skill, and we obviously know about Chicago," said Chara. "Just got to get ready for Dallas, and then we'll worry about Chicago - the focus right now is on our first game."
And for vets and younger players alike, there's no question that the character is in place to fight through, and turn their game around.
"We’re not always good, but I never question the character of this hockey club," Julien said after the team dropped the game to the Leafs. "They’ve always been resilient, and they will continue to be resilient. Like I said, it’s just going through that situation that I think our team has got to pick its game up and be better."
We saw a span like this back in October and early November, when Boston dropped four of five games, with their lone win coming in the shootout over Anaheim. Eventually, they got tiring enough of losing and responded with a four-game winning streak.
"Yeah, yeah, for sure," first year NHLer Kevan Miller was quick to interject, when speaking with him about the accountability among the team.
"There are tons of leaders in this room and the younger guys, myself, we can look to the older guys to kind of calm us down and keep us ready for the games I think. We've got a big road trip coming up so we just have to get back to the details and good parts of our game."
"Everybody has their job in here, everyone has their role, and I think everyone knows that. Guys just need to look at themselves, me included, and play their role, do their own job and we'll be fine."
One such veteran leader in the room, though he may not be wearing an 'A' on his chest, is Campbell. He knows what it takes.
"The elite teams in the league are elite because they’re able to compete at that level night in and night out," said Campbell. "Everybody is going through the same trials that we are."
"And at this point and time, points are extremely valuable for most of the teams in the League. So whether you’re playing a team that is looking to the playoffs and are in the hunt or a team that’s top of the standings, the margin of difference between those teams is very small now."
Only four points separated fifth through 12th place in the East, heading into Wednesday night's games. The West has collectively put up more points than the East so far this season, but bubble teams like Dallas and Phoenix could still be considered in the hunt with more than 30 games to go.
"Games are tight," said Campbell. "We’re not going to win every game, we’re not going to get points every game, but I resort back to the consistency factor."
"We have to have that compete level high every night to really be successful."