BOSTON — It wouldn’t be totally ridiculous to think the Bruins might come out with an underwhelming effort on Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Playing their second game in as many days and following up an emotional win over the Rangers on Black Friday, there was the chance the Bruins wouldn’t have the same intensity on Saturday night. Or perhaps they would take Saturday’s opponent, the Columbus Blue Jackets, a little too lightly. Or maybe the fact that a four-day break would follow Saturday’s game would take the Bruins’ focus from the task at hand.
None of that would be the case, though. The Bruins came out with a strong first period and never looked back as they defeated the Blue Jackets 3-1 at TD Garden.
In the process, the Bruins wrapped up their second-busiest month of the season and they did so in successful fashion. Boston finished the month with a 10-3-2 record. The month also included a stretch of 10 games in 16 days in which the club went 7-2-1. The Bruins have also made TD Garden a house of horrors for opposing teams as well. The B’s are now 12-3-2 at the Garden, thanks in large part to their 9-0-2 record on home ice in November, their longest stretch without a home regulation loss since they went 14 games without a regulation home loss in 2008-09. They haven’t lost in regulation at home since Oct. 26 when they blew a late lead against the New Jersey Devils.
This is not to say that there weren’t lulls in the month for the Bruins. The B’s had arguably their worst loss of the season just this past Wednesday, a defeat they say put even greater importance on the final two games of the month, which turned into wins against New York and Columbus.
The last thing the Bruins wanted was to have that loss to Detroit snowball with the team going into this upcoming four-day break in a rut.
“We talked after the Detroit game about turning this into a positive weekend and taking a bad loss and turning it into a positive thing,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “The positive thing is we turned it into wins in three out of four games this week, and that’s good. I liked the way we played the last two games. We’ve got a bit of a break here, so it’s a good time to have that kind of performance from your team in the last two days.”
The message was received loud and clear in the locker room, especially because it was a point that was likely vocalized pretty strongly after the putrid showing in Motown on Thanksgiving Eve.
“I think that’s something we talked about after that Detroit game is to really bounce back and have some really solid effort and focus on our work ethic,” center Patrice Bergeron said. “Teams are too good to not show up one night. I think we did that the last two games. We competed well, but we also stuck to the system.”
There is still room for improvement, though. There are high expectations for the Bruins both inside their locker room and out. But it’s still a results-based business, and it’s tough to argue with the results. Boston will wake up Sunday morning atop of both the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference. The last three teams to be leading the Eastern Conference on Dec. 1 all ended up finishing no worse than second in the conference when the season was over.
They lead the division by five points and even have a game in hand over one of the teams chasing them, Tampa Bay. They will no doubt enjoy the break, but there is still work to be done. After the hiatus, they have three big games awaiting them against Montreal, Pittsburgh and Toronto before they set out on a Western Canadian trip.
But for now, they’re through two months of the season and they’re one of the best teams in hockey. Simply put, they’re right where they want to be.
“I think it’s been a good month for us,” Boston winger Jarome Iginla said. “I think Claude talked about this month with all the home games trying to build some consistency and our identity and have some success. So it’s been a good month, especially here at home. It does feel good as a new guy coming in and being a part of that success and feeling a part of it. It’s just fun winning. It’s been fun with this group, and there’s a long way to go, but it feels good going into a break with wins in back-to-back games in back-to-back nights.”
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