BOSTON — Something needed to change for the Boston Bruins.
They ended their road trip by blowing a 5-2 lead to the Philadelphia Flyers, then getting shut out by the Columbus Blue Jackets while not answering the bell properly to their goalie getting concussed by Emil Bemstrom.
Things were different Thursday.
In Boston’s 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden, the Bruins were far more physical and stood up for one another. They handled pucks well and didn’t look careless — even after they grabbed the lead. In short, they played the style of hockey that blasted them to the top of the standings earlier in the season.
Head coach Bruce Cassidy admitted, though not divulging all his secrets, following the victory that the Bruins’ gameday preparation for the Pens was a little different.
“We did have a different day today,” Cassidy said. “We had a different meeting on some things we needed to do better as a group. It wasn’t necessarily a challenge, it was a reset on supporting one another all over the ice. And you hope if you do that to get pucks back, it’ll bleed into anything else that transpires, either physical play or everything else that goes with it. I thought that part was good.
“We addressed the group a little bit about our mentality,” Cassidy continued. “We feel we’re winners in that locker room, but you have to prepare to win, you have to compete to win, go through the process of winning and I thought today was a good first step of getting back to who we are.”
Playing the way the Bruins did against a team like the Penguins is no small feat. And with their schedule not getting any easier up until the All-Star break, it’s something Boston will have to keep in perspective when the going almost inevitably gets tough.
Here are some other notes from Thursday’s Penguins-Bruins game:
— For the seventh straight season, Patrice Bergeron has hit the 20th goal mark.
And yes, it’s not even the All-Star break yet.
The top-line center buried Boston’s third goal, an impressive snipe from David Pastrnak in the third period to put the Bruins up a pair.
As nice as the numbers might be, both this season and throughout his career, it’s not something Bergeron pays much mind to.
“I don’t sit back and look at numbers to judge the way that I play,” Bergeron said. “I take a lot of pride in details that people don’t see, and for me, that’s what it’s all about.”
— Par Lindholm quietly has been an important addition for the Bruins.
He doesn’t have the most fetching job. Given he plays almost exclusively center, he often is a healthy scratch unless someone up the middle gets hurt, or if there’s a dearth of forwards.
But credit to him, he’s done a fine job stepping in when needed this season.
Such was the case against Pittsburgh, as David Krejci was a game-time decision with an upper-body injury but didn’t even end up taking warmups. As a result, Lindholm slotted in on the third line, centering Danton Heinen and Karson Kuhlman.
Lindholm got a first-period tip-in goal following a nice forecheck from him and his linemates, and he also helped kill off penalties, getting 1:47 shorthanded ice time.
Although something generally has gone wrong with a regular if Lindholm is playing, he’s bought into his role and been more than serviceable.
— Joakim Nordstrom is the Bruins’ most proficient shot blocker, and he paid the price for that skill.
Early in the second period Juuso Riikola teed up a shot from the point. Nordstrom was just a few feet away and blocked the attempt, which ricocheted so hard off him it cleared the Bruins’ defensive zone.
Nordstrom, basically on one knee, skated to the Bruins bench and was helped off the ice by Bergeron. The medical staff took a look at the fourth-line winger on the bench for a moment before he went to the dressing room.
He returned shortly thereafter and ended up playing the remainder of the game.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images