Bruins Must Accept Identity as Defense-First Team

Bruins Must Accept Identity as Defense-First Team For the first time since Jan. 14, there was music ("Gin and Juice" by
Snoop Dogg) blaring from the Bruins' dressing room after their 3-0 win
at Montreal Sunday snapped a 10-game winless skid. The players were
rejoicing and exhaling after they avoided inscribing their names in the Bruins record books for all the wrong reasons.

"I've forgotten what it feels like," said a smiling Tim Thomas before he boarded the team bus.

The feeling for this Bruins squad comes with the knowledge that it stuck
to its game plan, played tight defensive hockey and got key and
sometimes amazing saves from its goaltender when they were needed. Tuukka Rask was sensational with 36 saves, and for the brief lapses when
the Bruins did slip, he held down the fort.

This
is
what will need to happen going forward with this goal-starved team
unless they acquire a sniper or game-breaker by the March 3
trade deadline. If this team is to have success and make the playoffs,
it's going to have to resemble the low-scoring and defensive-minded team that Claude Julien led down the stretch run in
2007-08.

That won't necessarily be a bad thing, but it won't be as entertaining
as, say, a Capitals-Penguins tilt. This Bruins team has
been
searching for the answers all season, and even through the tough times
and this recent 10-game winless streak, the Bruins all insisted on two
things: the answers could be found within this current roster and that Julien had given them a
plan which they were failing to execute.

Well, on Sunday they executed it, and
they finally won. They won with some timely scoring, smart play in
their own end and through the neutral zone, and a goaltending
performance reminiscent (maybe not in style) of the ones Thomas gave
them when he helped an undermanned squad sneak into the playoffs and
force a Game 7 after trailing 3-1 in the first round of the 2008 playoffs.

They may pour 40-plus shots on net as they did three times in the last
week, but chances are this Bruins team won't be lighting the lamp on a
regular basis. General manager Peter Chiarelli is still working the phones
feverishly to bring in some scoring help and maybe another defenseman
that can help generate some offense. But he won't be bringing in a game-changer like Ilya Kovalchuk, so
what you see is essentially what you'll get. Chiarelli is not going
to sacrifice the future or change the style of this team with one or
two moves. That's not necessarily the end of the world, even though
it seemed that way over the last three games.

"This is a good team if they play their game, listen to Claude and get
the goaltending they did Sunday," one longtime NHL scout told NESN.com
Monday afternoon. "They can win enough games, but it's going to be
boring hockey. But winning isn't boring, eh?"

No it isn't, as witnessed by the fun this recently demoralized group
was
having as it exited the Bell Centre on Sunday. If the Bruins want to have that
feeling more often down the stretch, they will need to realize
that this is the hockey they need to play in order to win. This is the
identity of this year's Boston Bruins, and they need to accept it.

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