Just as they did when Zdeno Chara and Gregory Campbell were sidelined with injuries, the Bruins didn't miss a beat Monday night when they faced Montreal with top-line left wing Milan Lucic suspended.
With Lucic banished to the press box for a check from behind on Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo on Saturday, the Bruins proceeded to post their fifth straight victory with a 3-2 win over the Habs.
"It's no fun when you miss good players, but it's a team game," Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference said. "We have a deep enough roster and guys that work their butt off in Providence, so when they come up, they fit right in. It's been like that for a few years. There's an expectation to perform. I don't think anybody in this room is going to use it as an excuse if the game goes the other way. Everybody has guys out. You just do it. Nobody's going to feel sorry for you with guys out."
The Bruins performed with missing pieces once again on Monday. Daniel Paille moved up from the fourth line to take Lucic's spot alongside David Krejci and Nathan Horton, with Zach Hamill also seeing time on that line. Hamill continues to show his versatility, as he moved seamlessly to wing after filling in for Gregory Campbell at center on the fourth line the previous three games.
"It didn't seem like anybody was too uncomfortable with each other out there," Ference said. "I think it helps when your expectations are the same for every line and the system is the same for every line. I think that makes it easy for guys to transfer from one spot to another, because it's not like there's a different set of rules for Looch's line compared to the fourth line. People are expected to do the same thing. That probably eases the transition when people do get moved around."
The Bruins have built the foundation of their team on having that depth and the ability to easily rearrange the parts to fill any holes that open.
"This team was built to be a deep team," Campbell said. "The organization's done a great job of filling holes and getting guys. Even the guys that fill in are really great players. It shows professionalism on our part not to make any excuses. Our job is to win hockey games, to show up and compete every night no matter who's in the lineup. Injuries and things like that are part of the game. Every team deals with it. We're no different. Our job every day is to show up, work hard and compete with whoever we have in the lineup."
Bruins coach Claude Julien has always cringed at hearing any of his lines designated as a first, second, third or fourth line. He expects all of his lines to perform all the duties necessary to win. That means scoring lines are expected to backcheck and energy lines are expected to chip in offensively. That not only makes it easier for the Bruins to fill in when players are out of the lineup, but it makes it easier to wear down opponents over the course of a game with a constant attack.
"When we play our game, we just try to be consistent and I think the consistency eventually pays off," Ference said. "It's usually in the third period if we get a good forecheck going and we get some extended shifts in their zone, it tires teams out. And mistakes are made when you're tired. When we're playing really good hockey, that helps us out. Other teams, especially their d-men, when our forwards do a good job and our forecheck is effective, guys get worn out."
Still, that's all nice in theory, but the Bruins have to put that system into practice and go out and prove that those parts truly are interchangeable when a key cog like Lucic is out of the lineup.
"We can talk about depth all we want, but if we can't prove it or show it, it's not really depth, right?" Julien said. "So this is what's been going on here the last little while, is that we've been challenged with some injuries and obviously [Monday] a suspension, and our guys keep stepping up. Whoever's replacing [those guys] or the rest of the team just keeps going. We don't change our game. We don't change our game plan. We just try and play the same every night, no matter who you've got in the lineup. That's just the simplicity of our hockey club."
Right now, the Bruins are proving that it is quite simply a winning formula.
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