BOSTON — The Bruins weren’t in a great spot heading into their most recent three-game stretch, which included three games in five days, all in different cities.
The B’s invaded Dallas on Thursday night having lost five of their last eight games. It had easily been their toughest stretch of the season, with injuries and a difficult schedule finally starting to take its toll. However, the Bruins got back on track against the Stars with a win, showed great fight in a hard-fought shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday and registered an impressive 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday.
The win over Los Angeles was especially impressive given the circumstances. The Bruins were playing the second half of a back-to-back, with both of those games coming against recent Stanley Cup champions. That included traveling from Chicago to Boston, where a big, heavy Kings team awaited the Black and Gold.
“I gotta be honest here, I was pretty impressed with our team and the way we’ve handled these last three games actually,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “I thought we had a good start in Dallas with that win, and then yesterday was one of those great games as a fan you’d like to see, and I wish we could have had that extra point. But to come out here today and play an afternoon game against a team that’s a real good team, plays a heavy game and is one of the elite teams and was waiting for us here.”
Much of Boston’s improved play as of late can be tied into the resurgence of winger Brad Marchand, who has found his game in a big way. He scored a highlight-reel shorthanded goal — his NHL-leading fourth shorty of the season — to open the scoring in the first period. He then scored the game-winning goal in the third period, just 18 seconds after Jeff Carter tied the score at 2.
The two-goal game is Marchand’s second in as many games, and he now has a four-game goal streak with six tallies over that stretch. Marchand is playing with as much confidence as he’s shown at any point in his career, and that has turned him into one of the league’s hottest players at the moment.
“I think I knew during that stretch that eventually it was going to come around,” Marchand said. “I mean bounces had to start going our way, and it’s nice that pucks are going in. I’m playing with [Patrice Bergeron] and [Reilly Smith], two phenomenal playmakers, and they’re making it easier for me out there.”
The Bruins’ turnaround hasn’t been Marchand’s work alone. Boston has had to lean on a stable of young defensemen in the wake of a seemingly never-ending rash of blue-line injuries. The latest D-man to step in was Zach Trotman, who played a solid 13:19 and earned high marks from the head coach in his second career NHL game. Trotman fit pretty seamlessly with a defensive corps that also saw more fine performances out of young blue liners Kevan Miller (19:05 TOI) and Matt Barktowski (22:58 TOI).
The improved play also has coincided with better efforts on special teams. The Bruins’ penalty kill isn’t back to top form just yet, but they’re showing plenty of improvement. They killed 10 of 12 penalties over this three-game stretch, which came following a stretch in which the PK allowed 10 power-play goals in seven games. The Boston power play also is showing signs of life, with Torey Krug‘s power-play goal Monday being the Bruins’ second in three games, which followed an 0-for-16 stretch in the six games prior to the Dallas game.
Now the Bruins get a little bit of much-needed rest. The B’s won’t play another game for four days until they get back to work Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia. Julien isn’t too concerned that the time off will put a dent in the momentum the Bruins have been able to build over the last three games.
“I think at this point the rest is always welcomed,” Julien said. “I think, to me, we’ve played some playoff-type hockey in the last two games [against Chicago and Los Angeles]. These last two days is what you see in the playoffs. The intensity, the speed of it and everything else … it’s a welcomed rest.”
Hitting the ground running after the break will be just the latest test for the resurgent Bruins to pass.
“To me, it’s mindset,” Julien added. “When we get back to work on Saturday, we’ve just gotta be ready to compete again and be ready to play, and I think we’ll be fine.”
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