Claude Julien was extremely critical of his club following Thursday night’s game, and why wouldn’t he be? The Bruins embarrassed themselves with an uncharacteristically “brain-dead” defensive performance that left them with their first regulation loss of the season.
Julien sent that message through the media, and he obviously sent it loud and clear inside his team’s dressing room.
The B’s put that embarrassing 7-4 loss to the Sabres behind them Saturday night, and bounced back with a very Bruins-like 1-0 win over the Maple Leafs.
The Bruins looked like a different team from the jump. The missed assignments and instances of players standing around watching the puck that Julien lamented Thursday were nowhere to be found.
As a result, the head coach was in an unsurprisingly much better mood following Saturday’s game.
“It was a real good game on our part,” he said. “I know it was a low-scoring game, but I thought our guys did a good job backchecking and working hard on the forecheck.”
The improved defensive effort made life easy for Tuukka Rask who posted his first shutout of the season. Rask was sharp, but the test he faced paled in comparison to the barrage the Sabres put on him Thursday night.
“I saw everything,” Rask said. “The guys did a great job. I don’t think they had too many scoring chances. Just some of those point shots and scrambles, but I saw everything.”
The examples of improved defensive play were there all night. There was Johnny Boychuk sliding across the slot to block a James van Riemsdyk shot. Then there was Zdeno Chara making much better decisions in his own zone, balancing the ice and making things easier for everyone around. Nathan Horton was one of many players with improved pressure on the backcheck, something that surely brought a smile to his coach’s face.
“Our backcheck was really better, which resulted in not giving up any goals, something that we had to rectify from the other night,” the coach said. “I’m really proud of the way we handled this week.”
Of course, Saturday’s win puts a good spin on what was a tough week for a surging Bruins team. All in all, Julien and the rest of the Bruins have to be happy with where they’re at. The Bruins escaped the week — a week that featured four games in six days — with three wins and six points.
They sit atop the Eastern Conference with a 6-1-1 record, and now they get a little well-deserved rest. Boston gets three days off before returning to the ice on Wednesday against the Canadiens. To say they’ve earned that respite would be an understatement.
“The guys feel good about it and when you feel good about the effort you put in and the way you compete, you hope it becomes contagious,” Julien said.
They can also take the lessons learned this week and apply them moving forward. You’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger difference between two games than what you saw in the two games on Thursday and Saturday.
“This,” Rask said of Saturday’s effort, “is Bruins hockey. This is the way we should play every night. Unfortunately that doesn’t [always] happen, but this was a good example of that.”
That lesson has apparently been learned. Now, the Bruins get to enjoy their well-deserved rest.