BOSTON — The Bruins, throughout their history and certainly in the last eight seasons with Claude Julien behind the bench, have been among the most difficult teams to play against in the NHL.
Even if the league is trending away from the typical “big and bad” style of hockey the B’s have traditionally played and more toward a more uptempo, puck-possession game, that doesn’t mean physicality and intimidation aren’t important factors in winning on a consistent basis.
Don Sweeney was introduced as the new general manager of the Bruins on Wednesday, and he wants to see more aggression from the team next season.
“You can have skill in any different fashion,” Sweeney said. “Patrice Bergeron is a tremendously skilled player, but he?s a hard skilled player. All of our players have to understand that the four teams that are playing this week all have different attributes of skill, size, speed, grit — but they have a sacrifice level that it takes to win in the playoffs. You have to have a blend of that to get there. We have to have more aggression in our game.
“I looked at a Calgary game this year in February where a team that was as hungry as what we used to be steamrolled us in the third period. We created very, very few scoring chances, if any. They were in our end the whole night. They ended up winning the game on somewhat of a fluky bounce, but they had turned the tide of the game, and there were too many nights where we weren?t able to do that.
“In years past, we had been able to do that. We need to get back to that mentality, and we certainly have a number of players to lead in that direction and that charge, and if other players aren?t willing to do that, then we?re going to make sure we find and identify the players that are.”
The challenge for the Bruins next season is to find a balance between playing an aggressive style and making sure there’s enough speed and skill in the lineup to score goals. Boston scored just 209 goals this past season, which ranked 23rd in the league. The Montreal Canadiens were the lowest-scoring playoff team with 214 goals.
It’s quite possible to be a physical team that scores goals and doesn’t play a slow game. The Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers have found this balance and are currently playing in the Eastern Conference final.
“It’s OK to have the mentality that you can win in the playoffs 1-0, 2-1, but it?s difficult to approach an 82-game schedule if that?s what you just have to do,” Sweeney said. “Again, I?m not deviating from the structure part of the defensive aspect of our organization at all, but we do have to find a way to generate more.”
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/Associated Press