BOSTON — The Bruins’ low point of the young season came late on Nov. 2 as the New York Islanders put the finishing touches on a 3-1 win.
With that loss, the B’s fell to 8-5-0 on the season, having lost three of four. They could take small solace in the fact that they were returning home, but with the way they were playing, there was nothing that said things would turn around any time soon.
Slowly but surely, however, the Bruins used the five-game homestand to do just that — turn things around. Boston went 4-0-1 on their longest homestand of the season, and they put the finishing touches on that with a 3-2 overtime win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night. With the win, the Bruins ensured that they grabbed nine of a possible 10 points with the only loss of the five-game stretch coming in the opener, a shootout loss to the Dallas Stars.
The Bruins began the homestand in fourth place in the Atlantic Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference. They’ll head out on a three-game road trip starting Friday in second place in both, just one point behind Tampa Bay.
All in all, the Bruins are in a much better place now than when they started the homestand, which is all you can ask for at this point.
“That’s what we talked about in the dressing room before heading out there was ending this homestand on the right note and ending it with a big two points,” B’s forward Milan Lucic said moments after scoring the game-winner Thursday in overtime. “We set ourselves up before we head on the road here.”
Here are some of the highlights from the five-game homestand.
- Lucic is playing arguably the best hockey of his career. The power forward has made his slow start to last season a thing of the past. He’s moving his feet and he’s skating hard. Frankly, he’s been the beast that everyone has expected him to be, and he’s showing some scoring touch to go along with that. His eight goals in 18 games eclipse the seven he scored in 46 games last year.
- Torey Krug is doing all he can to prove that the playoffs last year were no fluke. He’s third on the team in points this season with 6-6-12 totals. He also registered a point in all five games on the homestand. He’s doing the little things, too. Just one example of that came Thursday night when he kept a puck in the neutral zone to stop the rush going the other way. He passed it up ice to Gregory Campbell who eventually fed it to Shawn Thornton for the Bruins’ second goal. It seems like Krug is involved in just about every scoring chance the Bruins have.
- The penalty kill is a force once again. The Bruins finish the homestand having killed off 26 straight penalties. They began the homestand in 21st-ranked PK, and they ended the five-game stretch with the sixth-best penalty kill.
- The goaltending continues to be impressive. The Bruins as a team allowed just six goals in the five games, one of those a penalty-shot goal in the shootout loss to Dallas. Tuukka Rask stopped 118 of the 122 shots he faced, and Chad Johnson was very, very good in just his third start of the season Thursday. The backup netminder made 32 saves, including an impressive third period in which he kept the B’s in the game.
- The only two Bruins without a point on the homestand were Johnny Boychuk and Adam McQuaid, with the latter missing two-plus games with an injury. That’s not to say Boychuk didn’t have an effective five-game stretch. He logged at least 22:21 of ice time in each game and was a plus-2 over the five games.
- The Bruins beat two teams — Toronto and Tampa Bay — who were ahead of them in the standings when they met. They’re now 8-1-0 in divisional games on the season.
There’s still plenty of room for improvement, though. There was proof of that Thursday night. Boston sandwiched two iffy periods in the first and third around a solid second period, and they got a big play in overtime when they needed it. That’s a bit nit-picky for a team that grabbed all but one point in its last five games. When the playoffs begin, teams aren’t let in or kept out because their wins weren’t pretty enough.
“We weren?t perfect, we aren?t a perfect team; but we are a good team,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “It?s one of those things; there?s breakdowns. I?m not standing here saying I?m happy but the guys worked hard.”
The Bruins worked hard, and they have righted the ship for now. There’s still room for improvement, but there has been plenty of improvement as of late. This five-game stretch is done, and it couldn’t have gone much better for the Bruins.
Now it’s onto the next stretch.