Pregame on Long Island: Bruins Haven't Shown Islanders Their Best
UNIONDALE, NY - The Bruins face the New York Islanders Monday night in the teams' third and final meeting of the season.
The previous two didn't go the Bruins' way. But the Black & Gold are in a much different position than they were for those matchups; they've found stability.
Back on November 2, the Bruins dropped a 3-1 loss to the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum. They were marred in an an inconsistent stretch, and Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien wanted a higher compete level from his team.
When the Islanders visited TD Garden on New Year's Eve, the Bruins jumped out to a 3-1 lead, before New York powered back to a 5-3 win with four power-play goals.
"I just think we didn't come out and play well," said Julien, of a common thread between those games.
"I don't think we played our best against them and I think that's going to be the challenge, is to come out there and play our game, and come out and play the way we can play, and hopefully see a difference there in the outcome."
The Islanders certainly made their own breaks, but Boston also felt those two losses were self-inflicted.
"They've kind of exposed us a little bit, but at the same time, we've been sloppy," Daniel Paille said pregame. "And for us, it's key to maintain our style of play where we're kind of more defensive, where they are kind of on the go. And when we kind of run into their game, it kind of shows our weakness there, so it's important we stay with our system."
The "run-and-gun" style of the Islanders isn't how Boston wants to play. As evidenced by their most recent 6-1 win in Philadelphia on Saturday, the Bruins' best games come when they sustain their forecheck and spend ample time in the offensive zone.
It's a simple notion: more offensive zone time translates to more opportunities. But when the Bruins are really going, four lines are sustaining pressure, and they outbattle their opponent, they're a tough team to beat.
"In all areas of the game, we seemed to be sharp, alert," said Julien, of the commanding win over the Flyers. "We did a pretty good job of defending, but at the same time, I thought we did a good job of managing the puck, especially in the offensive zone."
"Not [the Flyers] best game, no doubt, but when you get in those situations, you really try and analyze what your team has done, and I was pleased with that."
The Bruins may feel confident about their game right now and the Islanders may be a team that's 21-25-8 on the season, but there's no denying that it will still be a tough night containing them.
"They're young and every once in while, they might get some ebbs and flows in their game, but they're a pretty good team and they're really earning the respect of a lot of teams around this league, including us," said Julien.
"We can't expect it to be easy anymore against these guys," remarked Milan Lucic. "They were a playoff team last year, they've showed they're starting to become more of the real deal, and we've got to have a better mindset heading into this one than the previous two."
Lucic-Krejci-Iginla and Bruins' O-Zone Time
The Bruins spent nearly half the game against Philadelphia in the offensive zone. The line of David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla began a shift in the zone that lasted just over two minutes. When the trio's on top of their game, that happens at least once a night. And when the Bruins are on their game, every line creates that kind of pressure.
"Well we've always prided ourselves on being a four-line team. Every line brings a certain element to your hockey club, and for [Krejci's line], I think it's been a while since you've seen them control and manage that puck so good in Philadelphia there."
"They're big guys, they're capable of protecting that puck, and they're capable of producing too I liked their game, and that's certainly important to us."
"But if they're going and the other three aren't going, as far as I'm concerned, we're not that far ahead. But when all four lines come in and play with their identity, it makes a big difference."
On Saturday, Iginla ended with a two-goal, four-point game, Krejci added three assists and Lucic notched an assist. One goal came on the power play for Iginla, but all three help from the unit.
"It's always nice when the puck goes in the net, and even though we got a few last game, I felt like we could have gotten a couple more," said Krejci. "The most important thing is that we got two points as a team - and the puck went in the net for our line as well. So hopefully we can keep it up, and help our team."
"We want to get as many points as we can before the break, and we're on the right track right now, so just keep it up."
Chris Kelly will not be suiting up against the Islanders, but could be making his return back in Boston against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night. It's been just over seven weeks since he broke his right fibula (calf bone) on December 7. He's all healed up, and now it's just a matter of being ready for game situations.
"Certainly don't want to throw him into action with four games in six nights," said Julien. "I think it's a lot for a guy who's been out for six weeks, and certainly don't want any setbacks."
"So we're going to sit him out tonight and probably a good possibility for the Florida game."
Ryan Spooner missed Saturday's game with the flu, but Julien said, "he's fine; he's healthy now."
The team held an optional skate Monday morning, with Spooner taking part. Lucic and Iginla were the only Bruins who opted to stay off the ice.
Johnson Likely to Start
Goaltender Chad Johnson will likely get the start between the pipes. Johnson has gotten into mor e of a rhythm in the past week, in goal for the Bruins' 4-2 in Dallas and also their 3-2 win over the LA Kings last Monday.
He has an 8-3-0 record this season, with a 2.24 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.
Johnson was in goal for the Bruins' last game earlier in the season at Nassau Coliseum on November 2, but the team was very vocal about not offering him enough support in the 3-1 loss.