Pregame Skate vs NYR: Still Room for Improvement
B's happy with consistency in strong start, but know there's more their team can show as season progresses
"We're only 10 games in. We've got a long ways to go," Shawn Thornton said following a Monday practice at TD Garden in preparation for the New York Rangers on Tuesday. "I think we've been pretty good, the whole time I've been here - and I know it sounds cliche, taking it one game at a time. But we've got the Rangers on Tuesday, and we just focus on the one game, hopefully win it, and move on to the next one."
"We don't really look much at the record right now, we just stay in the moment," D-man Dennis Seideberg told media following today's morning skate. "We like the way we're playing right now and how we've played as a team so far. We want to keep going, it's all about consistency, especially in a shortened season."
Tonight, the B's will be tested by a Rangers team that has won two straight and is coming off a 5-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Usually well-matched against Boston, the Blueshirts - like many other teams in the league - are starting to pick up steam as they progress in the season, something the Bruins are aware of heading into tonight.
"I think we're going to have to play strong against them, they're going to be a big, physical team that plays very well defensively and is hard to score against, especially with the goaltending that they have there," said B's forward Daniel Paille, often amicably referred to as "Gameday Paille" for his willingness to always talk to media before games. "As long as we stay strong and compete, and stay physical, it should be a good game for us."
"This is a team that when you play them – and there are certain teams in our conference that really test your character, as far as both teams are pretty big teams, both teams like to work along the walls, like the gritty game," said Coach Julien, one expecting another physical, close game against the Rangers. "It’s about competing hard. It certainly makes you a better team by the end of the night if you’re ready to take that challenge the proper way."
The most recent game against the Blueshirts was not a W, but a hard-fought point earned at MSG that saw Nathan Horton tie the game late in the third period, before the B's fell 4-3 in overtime.
The Bruins have gone 6-1-0 since NYC, and are now on their own win streak, taking the past three games and only allowing two goals against in that span, in front of both Tuukka Rask (who won the first two games of the streak, earning a 1-0 shutout over Toronto and 2-1 win over Montreal) and Anton Khudobin. Rask is expected to make his ninth start tonight for the Bruins this season.
With a well-rested Rask and healthy lineup thanks to the returns of Brad Marchand, Shawn Thornton and Daniel Paille, the Boys of Causeway Street are hoping to carry their consistency into tonight. During morning skate at TD Garden, all of the B's hit the ice and returned to their original line combinations from the start of the season (see below for line rushes during morning skate). Tyler Seguin, who had a maintenance day Monday and did not skate, was back in his left wing spot centered by Patrice Bergeron, with Brad Marchand on the left wing, and said he was "all good" and ready for the Rangers.
"We're a little into the season now, so I think every team's going to be playing better now," said No. 19, before adding with a smirk, "but [we're] also a better Bruins team."
"I think the last few games the Rangers have been playing pretty solid hockey, I guess more intense maybe. We're expecting that tonight."
Searching for More
As other teams like the Rangers start to gain chemistry, the B's have enjoyed an established club from the beginning of the season, thanks to a familiar lineup dating back to the Cup run.
"I think we know each other pretty well by now, there’s no doubt about that," Coach Julien told media during his pregame press conference. "But this is a situation where early in the year, it can be very different from where teams are right now. Maybe in our case, we had a very familiar club, they didn’t. I think they’re probably getting a little bit more familiar with each other. They’re definitely going to be a better, harder team to play against."
Boston, however, is not sitting back and watching other teams "catch up." They, too, are looking to continue improving.
"I think, if anything, we’ve been pretty consistent," Coach Julien said on the B's start, before adding that there's always more his squad can bring to every game.
"There’s no doubt that we’re going to get better. I think there’s still some guys that aren’t at the peak of their game, yet."
"That’s pretty indicative, too, of how hard we’re working to score goals. We’re a better goal scoring team than what we’ve shown so far. I think we’ve shown that we’re capable of creating the chances, but right now the finish isn’t there. "
"I like where we are at this stage of the season and how we’ve handled those type games, those types of situations. But, certainly, there’s a lot more in our hockey club than what we’ve shown so far."
Horton and Seguin "Interchangeable"
The line rushes during morning skate saw the return of the B's original lines to start the season:
For the past couple of games, whether due to injuries or trying to get a spark out of his team, the lines have been switched up; something Coach Julien is comfortable doing, with a seasoned, versatile team that knows each other well out on the ice. So much that he's comfortable using either Nathan Horton or Tyler Seguin on the top line.
"Interchangeable, absolutely," Coach said on Seguin and Horton. "There are other guys, too. I said it before, even after they came out and did a great job in Montreal, I said, ‘Listen, this could be temporary. This could be for a while. It depends.’ And, again, there are some players there that are very interchangeable and gives us some different options."