WINNIPEG, MB - With a disappointing loss Friday night, Saturday brought a new day for the Bruins, who left Buffalo with a cold feeling - not only from the sting in the frigid air, but from their second regulation loss of the season to the Sabres.
And as the members of the spoked-B boarded the plane for Winnipeg Saturday morning, a new challenge - and opportunity - awaited them out West.
"It’s huge, right now there’s no time to focus on games we’ve played in the past and our record right now is more about making sure we come out better and have a stronger game," Bruins winger Brad Marchand said following an early afternoon practice in Winnipeg, held at the Jets' practice facility, MTS Iceplex.
"We can’t lose a third game in a row. It’s a huge game and we really have to get back on track."
After the 4-2 loss the Sabres on Friday - in which probably the lone bright spot of the night was Dougie Hamilton's first NHL goal - the B's are looking for more consistency to their game.
"It’s really important. We need to get back to playing the way we’ve been playing, I mean obviously we didn’t play for 60 minutes last night and it’s the reason why we lost," alternate captain Patrice Bergeron said following the B's high intensity practice.
"We had a good 40 minutes and then we sat back and came out flat and we need to learn from it, though. We need to make sure we realize that we need to play for 60 minutes and the team’s that do good in this league do have some let downs."
And the most important takeaways for the B's are what can be learned from the pitfalls of their losses and what the benchmarks for improvement can be moving forward.
"Let’s not read too much into one period last night because we competed really well for two periods," said Coach Julien postpractice, on the role reversal of Buffalo taking a desperate third-period game to the B's. "We don’t expect our team to be perfect."
"You hope that we learn from those kind of things, and down the road, in the long season, those are all things that you hope will pay off, and at times, you can bring that up and day, 'Remember when…'," added Julien. "We’ve got to make sure that we’re focused for the third period. Those are things that you hope you can use to your advantage down the road. Certainly it was disappointing last night that such a good 40-minute effort turned into a loss because we weren’t willing to put in that extra work."
The B's certainly put in the work Saturday at practice, working on speed and battling - flying through 2-on-1 drills and 3-on-3 drills down low (which most often turn into mano-a-mano battles along the boards and in front of the goal).
"I think it’s nice when you get a practice day like today to work on things that need to be addressed and that battle level was definitely there today," said center Chris Kelly. "It’s good to have this group together who can compete against one another and work hard against one another."
"Practice makes perfect and if you practice battling and competing and working hard, then that will transfer over in a game," added Marchand on the intensity. "If you practice just kind of floating around out there in practice, you know that’s going to transfer over, too. So I think the harder you work and the more you compete, then that’s how you’re going to play in a game."
On Sunday, the B's will face a Jets squad that is trying to shed a three-game losing streak at home - having lost close battles to Pittsburgh (3-1), Philadelphia (3-2) and Toronto (3-2) - in a building that is generally tough for opposing teams to play in. Since an 8-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on February 1, the Jets have dropped three of five - but not for a lack of effort, as all have essentially been one-goal games (the lame duck being their most recent 3-1 loss, in which the Pens scored an empty-netter at the end).
"We know it’s the way that Winnipeg plays, they play hard on the puck and they’re thirsty, they’re a fast team as well," said Bergeron. "And they play well in Winnipeg, we know that. It’s about making sure we come out hard and we play our style of our game and battling is part of it and we need to make sure we’re winning those one-on-one battles."
"I think it's a tough building to play in, and it’s a great place to play in in the same breath," Kelly said, on the challenge of the Bruins earning their first win at MTS Centre. "The fans are loud, it’s an easy game to get up to so hopefully we can rebound well."
"We came in here, and, again, they gave us some real tough games, and it's playing three games that we didn’t come out of here with a win," Coach Julien said on the B's series with Winnipeg last season. "But at the same time I think it’s a new year, and we have to get back on track here. We lost two in a row with New York and now Buffalo, so we’ve got to bounce back as well."
"We have to be ready to play hard tomorrow. We know what they’re all about - they’re a hard working team, and their coach does a great job of motivating those guys to play hard - and they do."
"Basically we have to be the better team tomorrow if we expect to win."
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