The Bruins set Boston hockey fans abuzz with two big trades Friday afternoon. Then they nearly put those same fans to sleep with a lackluster start to the first game with their revamped lineup.
But the new-look Bruins came alive in the third period to pull out a 4-2 win in Ottawa, and it was safe again to start thinking about what this team could do once the new parts are integrated into the existing machinery.
Defenseman Tomas Kaberle and forward Chris Kelly each made their Bruins debuts in the win, while forward Rich Peverley will join the team over the weekend. Kelly was acquired on Tuesday, and played his first game against the club he just left in Ottawa.
“The first shift was a bit weird, but once the game got going I finally felt better each period,” Kelly said. “The guys made it easy for me to come in here.”
Kelly will be a valuable role player capable of playing either center or wing and contributing on the penalty kill and in the faceoff circle. He showed off some of those skills while playing 15:09 over 18 shifts on Friday.
“They did well, both of them,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said of Kelly and Kaberle. “Chris Kelly is very good on the draw. He has to get used to his linemates, but I thought he competed well and did a great job. He’s a smart hockey player.
“Tomas Kaberle, what can you say?” added Julien of the blueliner who was the prize pickup of Friday’s two trades. “Just his poise and his patience with the puck, what an upgrade for our hockey club,” Julien added. “I know once we get a little chemistry going with the other guys, our power play will get better.”
The Bruins were just 1 of 5 on the power play on Friday, but the lone strike was an important one. Dennis Seidenberg scored what proved the game-winner with 4:40 left on a play that Kaberle helped set up. Kaberle didn’t pick up an assist, as David Krejci and Nathan Horton got the helpers, but his presence on the man-advantage was felt.
Even on the power plays the Bruins didn’t convert, they had much better movement and puck possession with Kaberle and Zdeno Chara setting up on the points of the first unit. Kaberle created chances with his sharp passing and also showed a knack for keeping the puck in at the blue line.
“It was just different,” Krejci said of having Kaberle on the power play. “He can control the puck very well. He can make great passes and he has great vision. I think he gave us a little better look on the PP and we got a goal in the third period.”
The third period salvaged what could have been an extremely disappointing start to a new era for the Bruins. With every point vital due to the closeness of the battles for playoff positioning as the season hits the home stretch, Boston couldn’t afford to come away with less than the full two points against an Ottawa club that was in the midst of a major fire sale. The Senators had won just two of their previous 20 games and were dressing a lineup filled with callups from their AHL affiliate in Binghamton after a string of trades this week.
Still, the Bruins came out flat and let Ottawa stick around for far too long before pulling away with three goals in the third.
“We played last night and sometimes it just takes a little bit to get your legs,” Bruins forward Brad Marchand said. “It’s always tough playing two [games] in two [nights]. We really woke up though in the second period and took it to them.
“We’re the best team in the league in the third period and we really wanted to use that to our advantage,” Marchand added. “We wanted a big third. These are huge points for us and everyone brought it in the third. It was a big win.”
Marchand scored two of Boston’s goals to give the rookie 18 on the season, while Tuukka Rask made 32 saves to earn wins in back-to-back decisions for the first time this season.
“I think that was the bottom line here,” Julien said. “We buckled down a little bit at the end and got a little bit of a cushion there. It was touch and go there for a long time. I think you’ve got to give credit to Ottawa. They competed really hard and we didn’t seem to have our jump tonight. It’s been an emotional day. It’s been kind of a rollercoaster for us all, but at the end of the day you realize how important those two points are and you come back home with the win.”
They come back home for practice this weekend with four points in the first two games of their season-long six-game road trip. More importantly, they come back home with a few new faces they hope will help them collect many more wins the rest of the season.