UNIONDALE, NY - All was status quo this morning at the Nassau Coliseum, as the Bruins hit the ice for pregame skate, prior to facing the Islanders tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET (NESN, NBCSN).
There’s a consistency around this squad, on and off the ice, in practices, in games, where - now that we’re heading into Game No. 16 tonight - it is starting to feel like these B’s are really finding their groove.
"I think we’re a pretty focused group right now," Chris Kelly said following morning skate, on the team's determination, coming off a solid two-win swing through Florida. "It’s a cliche, but one game at a time. We know we’re behind in games, we want to stay in the mix, but other teams have played a few more games than us. We want to make sure we keep playing well."
"We want to come out and have a good start and build off that tonight."
The 8-10-1 Islanders haven't won a game in the confines of the Nassau Coliseum since February 16 (a 5-1 win over New Jersey). While New York dropped its most recent game at home, falling 4-2 to the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday, the team picked has won two of its last three, picking up a 4-0 victory in Buffalo on Saturday and a 4-3 win in Montreal.
"We're very pleased with the effort that we’ve put in and obviously with the wins," said Daniel Paille, as he finished up taping his sticks for tonight's game and took a moment to reflect on the opponent at hand. "But we’re coming to a team here that’s finding their groove, and we want to make sure that we play the same kind of style that we have over the past few games."
"When we look at the standings and realize how many games behind we are, we try to stay with that pack," said Paille, on the B's having played the fewest games of any NHL team, with 15.
"We’re satisfied so far, but knowing that there’s a long way to go, and for us we’ve got to try to win those games that they’re behind and try to keep moving forward."
And move forward, they have, not with flashy goals (though Zdeno Chara's spin-o-rama was certainly a show-stopper) and high-scoring games, but with a level of consistency and line depth that is tough for teams to match up against, and has led to their 11-2-2 record and first Florida sweep since the 2009-10 season.
"I think guys are just able to buy in this trip, in realizing that we can’t afford too many mistakes," said Paille. "Especially with the lesser amount of games that we’ve played, so it’s been a good sign for us to move forward here, and we want to continue going down that path."
Even with strong play as of late, there still exists room for improvement - as voiced by Coach and players - while striving for the "full 60 minutes" consistency you'll hear them talk so often about, especially as Boston builds towards its 33 games in 61 days stretch that begins tonight on Long Island.
"We can always get better," said Bourque, who has seen has own game keep improving throughout the course of the season. "I think we’ve got to catch up with a couple of games here. Most of the teams have played three, four, even five more games than us."
"So as long as we stay in that path of teams that are in the playoff picture, we’ve got a couple of games here that we’re going to start catching up with a lot of games in a lot of days, so it’s going to be important to stay consistent and just take it day by day."
Coach Julien has been pleased with the road trip so far, and is looking for his Black & Gold to to build off the Florida games and finish off the road trip on a positive note.
"We had a lot of time off, we had good weather, and we got four points. All that put together makes for a pretty good trip."
"But I liked our focus, we were able to get our last rest of this schedule because, starting tonight, it’s every second night. It’s going to be a real hectic schedule here, so it’s good that we had that opportunity and it’s good that we won both games."
"Now, it’s a matter of hopefully finishing on the right note here."
BOURQUE BUILDING CONFIDENCE
After bursting through the neutral zone with speed and setting up the play that led to fellow linemate Chris Kelly's first of the season Sunday afternoon, Chris Bourque now leads the B's with three power-play assists.
Game by game, day by day, his confidence has been building through the first quarter of the season. Whether it's his speed showing, or the few extra inches and pounds he has seemed to gain, battling in the corners and along the boards.
"Yeah I think it’s starting to come out a little bit," said Bourque, on his growing confidence. "It’s always nice to contribute and help the team win, so if I can do that in any way out there it’s always good so hopefully we can get some more points 5-on-5."
"But I think that’s coming. I think the last couple of games our line has been pretty good in the offensive zone most of the night, so if we keep that up I think the points will definitely start to come, and as long as we’re winning that’s a good thing."
CUSHIONING THE SCORE
The B's jumped out to 2-0 first period leads against both Tampa Bay and Florida - something they hadn't had the luxury of doing consistently in their start to the season that saw them become a third-period comeback team. The 4-1 win over the Panthers marked their first three-goal cushion (albeit, with an empty-netter) this year.
"It’s always nice to get a bit of a cushion and it’s even better to score first," said Coach Julien. "It’s a pretty impressive when you look around the league at teams that score first."
"We’ve been challenged a little bit in that area since the beginning of the year and lately we’ve been better. Good starts are crucial in this league. If you want to stick with your game plan, you play with the lead and if you don’t you then a lot of time you start pressing and that’s when things start to unravel."
"It’s always nice to get on a bit of a roll, seeing guys score on a more
consistent basis," said Chris Kelly. "I think we have a lot of guys that can score, the
goals will happen."
But regardless of their recent lead and increased scoring, Kelly knows that his teammates in the spoked-B don't really care to think about the points on the scoresheet - just the points in the standings.
"We have a defense-first mentality - that helps us win games and helps us in the long run," said the center. "Maybe it’s not what everyone wants to see outside of this room, they like to see a lot of points for guys. But, a lot of guys don’t focus on the points. I think it’s how we play as a team and how we show up every game.:
LINEUP VS ISLANDERS
Tuukka Rask is expected to start in goal, as he was first off for the B’s at morning skate, opposite Evgeni Nabokov, who had the last game off in the Islanders’ 4-2 loss to Carolina.
B’s same lines and D-pairings, according to rushes:
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