BOSTON, MA - On Thursday morning at TD Garden, it was apparent that the frustration that was emanating from the visiting team room at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night was left behind in Philadelphia, along with the Bruins' 5-2 loss.
"Not enough focus," Coach Julien had said following the defeat that seemed like a step back from the forward progress the B's had been making after stringing together three solid efforts at home. "We're running out of time here to get this stuff going. You always hope it's some sort of wake up call."
But two days later, and with a new opponent awaiting Boston in the Tampa Bay Lightning, the positivity was back in Coach Julien and the Bruins' repertoire.
"We want to bounce back after the last game we just had," said veteran center Chris Kelly, following pregame skate at TD Garden. "And start feeling good about our game and especially moving into the postseason."
Another Bruins center, David Krejci, wasn't looking at the past, but focusing on how he and his teammates could get their game where they want it to be, using this next trio of games.
"We have Tampa tonight, we have three games left - as a team, we know our game's not where we want it to be so we just want to forget whatever happened and focus on the next three games, get our game back and get ready for the playoffs," he said.
"I think we’ve had our wake-up call since the last couple of games. Maybe the Philly one was maybe, a slap in the face, I guess," added Krejci, noting how the B's had showed promising signs of "waking up" before the game of turnovers in Philly.
"We know we haven’t been playing the way we want to so at this time of the year, you don’t want to think about negative stuff. We have three games left so that’s what we should focus on and we shouldn’t really let any negative stuff get into our games."
The Black & Gold are trying to focus on a positive mindset in their room, but there have been some uncharacteristic aspects creeping into their game. Whether it's a lack of practice time or preparedness, the Bruins know they have a job to do, and need to perform at the level they know they can.
"There’s a lot of things that have crept into our game that’s become a challenge for us," said Coach Julien. "I think a lot of it is where you can’t practice, you’ve got to focus better and make sure you keep those good habits. That’s where the challenge is right now, is our focus, as I mentioned the other night, wasn’t really there."
"We weren’t ready to play and we weren’t ready to do the things that were going to give us success," Coach added on the B's not really giving themselves a chance to win the other night in Philly.
"Did we take a step back? I think tonight’s an opportunity to prove that we haven’t and it was just a bad game. Just got to go out there and play hard."
With the three games remaining against Tampa Bay, Washington and Ottawa, the B's are still playing to keep the No. 2 seed and top spot in the Northeast, but more importantly, they're working to quite simply, just feel good about themselves.
"We’ve talked about it the last couple of weeks, trying to get into that mode, but we haven’t done it so far," said defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. "So the next few games should be to get ready and just play our best hockey."
"We know we have it in here," added the blueliner confidently. "So it’s just a matter of us actually going on the ice and showing it and wanting to play the right way and working for each other, so I think there is enough time."
Coach Julien also felt there was enough time for his B's to dig deep and pull out a 60-minute effort to get themselves in the right mind frame.
"It’s not where it should be, but there’s, I guess, an opportunity to get there because we’ve shown it on different occasions," said Coach, on the Bruins' identity at this point in the season. "Not much in the last half, but we’ve shown that it’s still there. We just have to grab it and hold on to it."
Tampa Could Play Spoiler
The Bruins know they have a job to do in these next three games. With tonight positioned as an opportunity to prove they didn't take a step back in Philadelphia, it won't be that easy. Tampa always poses a challenge, even if they are far out of the playoff picture.
For starters, the Lightning is a team whose offense can always excite; Steven Stamkos Stamkos' 29 goals sit just two back of Alexander Ovechkin for the Rocket Richard Trophy, while Marty St. Louis' 58 points lead the NHL - both those numbers were reached in a 5-2 win over Toronto on Wednesday night.
"Well, it’s a team that I thought played a really good game last night," said Coach Julien of the Bolts' win that saw St. Louis net a hat trick. "You just have to look around the schedule and the other night all the playoff seeded teams, almost every one of them except for Washington lost. It goes to show you that teams aren’t giving up, they’re coming out and playing some solid hockey."
"When you know you’ve only got X number of games left, and you want to finish on a positive note, you play your best. That’s what we should expect from Tampa tonight, is that they’re going to come in and play well. They have the players to be a team that can certainly be, what you call, 'spoilers.'"
"Teams that are out of playoffs, they don’t play for much, but they play for the next game, so they’re very dangerous," said Seidenberg. "Especially a team like Tampa with the offensive power that they have. You’ve really got to be tight on them, and guys like Stamkos, St. Louis, they can score goals. It’s going to be a good challenge for us."
Soderberg Back to Wing
After two games at center, Carl Soderberg will be shifting back to the left wing tonight against Tampa Bay, the spot where he played in his Bruins' debut this past Saturday.
Coach had opted to slot Soderberg in at the center position with more open ice to get used to the North American game, but now, with three games to go, the veteran Chris Kelly will be back to his mainstay at center.
"It’s okay for him to feel comfortable there, but at the same time, I have to make a decision," said Coach on shifting Soderberg. "Do I take a guy that’s already a pretty good centerman, a good two-way centerman and put him in a weaker spot because I want to please this guy? Or do I do it the other way around? I’m just trying to get a feel here and see how he does on the wing."
"Again, by playoff time, I’m going to have to make a decision of who’s playing where and go from there. That’s why we have those three games to look at that."
Horton Still Out
Nathan Horton will not be in the lineup tonight for the third straight game, after sitting out day-to-day with an upper body injury sustained on Saturday against Pittsburgh. However, he did skate this morning sans his teammates, is "on the right track" and "progressing well," per Coach.
Decisions on the Back End
With nine healthy defensemen, the D have been rotating in and out of the lineup, but now, with only three games to go, it might be a chance to get the top-six in place before the postseason.
Johnny Boychuk was the blueliner to sit out the last game in Philly for rest purposes, but following Thursday's morning skate, it appears that we could get a look at Game 1 defensive pairings against Tampa. Veteran Wade Redden has played two straight games, and would bring 101 games of NHL postseason experience to the lineup come playoff-time. In that scenario, Dougie Hamilton, Matt Barkowski and Aaron Johnson would be the healthy scratches.
"I think right now it’s just a matter of us deciding what we want as a fit back there," said Julien. "But I don’t think there’s anybody that doesn’t know what their job is at this point in this season, or what their role is."
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