BOSTON, MA - The Bruins' keys for Thursday night against the Capitals at TD Garden were simple.
Stay disciplined. Be responsible without the puck. Attack their net.
For the first time since February 24, 2012, the Bruins didn't have a penalty called against them. As a result, they dominantly carried five-on-five play for 60 minutes, until the final buzzer sounded on a 3-0 shutout of the Caps.
They only allowed 16 shots on goal, and just four in each in the first and second periods, producing one of their best defensive efforts in a while and giving Tuukka Rask his league-leading sixth shutout this season.
"It was the best [defensive effort] in a long time," Rask said postgame. "Not too many scoring chances, so we had layers all over the ice, and defended the middle really good, and backchecked hard, and had all the elements we want. So it was great to see that."
It's no secret whatsoever that the Black & Gold are a defense first team, and that their system is entirely trust-based, with support in all three zones.
"Especially today, I thought we were handling the puck really well. We dumped the puck in good in the corners and we got it back, we got everyone involved and we just have to keep doing that," said Eriksson, who scored his first goal since coming back from the Olympics. "And if we’re going to play like that, we’ll win more games. So we just have to keep doing it."
In their five games since the break, the Bruins have gone from allowing five goals, to four, to three, to one, to none. Not a bad progression.
"You can always get better defensively and that's a staple of our team, so for us, it's important that to come out every night and we give a better effort than we did the previous night," blueliner Torey Krug had said before the Bruins' 4-1 win over Florida on Tuesday. "And until there's a zero on the scoreboard for the other team, we won't be happy."
The Bruins' locker room certainly had a happy Tuukka Rask following the shutout. He wasn't too busy all night, as his teammates cleared away most of the loose pucks in front of him. It was more of the effort he expects.
"Well yeah, goalies especially, you always want to play good defensively, right?" said Rask, who had to make 39 saves on 42 shots in his last start between the pipes (a 6-3 win over the Rangers on Sunday) - a far cry from the 16 saves he had to make on Thursday night.
"We had kind of slipped from that a little bit, but I think guys were sharp mentally today – that’s all it is, it’s just mental errors and not doing the things you’re supposed to do. So today we fixed that and everybody feels good about it."
"I really felt that, you know, our guys, our whole team really played well without the puck," Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said following the win. "I thought we skated well, I liked our pace this morning in the skate, so it was important for us to bring that tonight."
"And when you take away their time and space the way we did tonight, it makes us a much better team, and I thought we did a great job of getting on them quickly and not giving them opportunities to make too many plays."
With the puck, the Bruins threw 43 shots on goal, generating waves of their four-line attack.
After a scoreless first period, Campbell broke the stalemate at 3:05 into the middle frame.
Patrice Bergeron drew a penalty as he was taken down driving towards the net, and then one-timed a feed from Matt Bartkowski after he got back to his feet and grabbed his stick. By the time the drive made it towards Holtby, Campbell was planted right at the top of the crease with Daniel Paille to deflect in Bergeron's shot.
"Our offensive output has been really good lately but it’s our defensive game that we’re trying to clean up," said Campbell. "I mean, it’s a strength of ours, that’s why we win most games so that was a good showing tonight."
"We were turning pucks over with hard work coming back and their D like to join, so we were really conscious of having really good back-pressure, so that’s where we want to get to."
Just under five minutes later, another hard work, five-man goal resulted in Eriksson freezing Holtby and roofing the puck in top shelf. It came after a Kevan Miller deflected wide, and Carl Soderberg pounced on the loose puck, wrapping around and feeding Eriksson at the goal mouth.
"I thought we played really good in all three zones and for 60 minutes, too," said Eriksson. "We still battled hard and we outworked them today so a great team effort."
But, as usual, the Bruins were more pleased with their defensive effort, than the offensive one.
"I thought the last few games have been a step forward and tonight was even more so," said Bergeron.
"We played through our system, our whole back pressure was great, we didn’t give them too many odd man rushes, and we played well, we played tight and just respected our system."
"When we do that, good things happen."
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