Through two games, the Boston Bruins are reaping the benefits of realignment.
Two nights after their 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Black and Gold welcomed another newcomer to the Atlantic Division, the Detroit Red Wings – coming over from the Western Conference – and set the pace en route to a 4-1 victory in front of the 167th consecutive sellout crowd at the TD Garden. Here are three takeaways from Saturday’s victory.
Setting the tempo early
With the Red Wings playing their third game in four nights, the pickings were there for the taking. And the Bruins did just that.
From the get go, the Black and Gold were stronger and faster. They won several battles for loose pucks and outmuscled the Wings in the corner, making Jimmy Howard’s night frustrating.
“We were aware of that,” Patrice Bergeron said about the Red Wings’ opening week schedule, “but we knew they’re a good team no matter what. We needed to bring our best and I thought we did that overall for the whole game and we found a way. They’re a great team, but we played solid defense and that translated into some of those scoring chances for us.”
The only blemish for the Black and Gold came at the face off dot, where, surprisingly, they won just 25 of 57 draws to the Red Wings. Other than that, the B’s outshot the Wings by a 37-26 margin and had a 23-16 advantage in hits. This proves that numbers never lie.
Power play lives up to potential
For the last few years, the power play has been the source of much ridicule in The Hub of Hockey. Whether it came from sports radio or social media, the jokes about the man advantage seemed endless.
But things slowly changed on the power play when Torey Krug came in during last year’s playoffs. After his strong showing, especially with the man advantage, some pundits suggested that the Bruins power play would improve for the 2013-14 season.
On Saturday night, the B’s proved their pundits right going 2-for-4 with the man advantage.
“The coaching staff did a good job of preparing us for what they were bringing and they guys executed and we did a good job tonight,” said Krug, who faced his hometown team for the first time in his career.
Zdeno Chara played a key role in both power play goals. The 6-foot-9 captain was another thorn on Howard’s side as seen on the power play goal by Krug. Chara parked right in front of Howard, and seeing that, Krug fired a bullet past the former University of Maine netminder for his first career regular season goal.
With the Bruins ahead 3-1 in the third, Chara delivered the dagger with a nifty deke past Howard to put Boston ahead by three. On this night, he was the “jack of all trades”, at least on the power play.
And he’s just there to do his job.
“I’ve just been saying, whatever I’m designated to be, I’m just trying to do my job,” Chara said. “Doesn’t matter what position, like I said, whether it’s up front on the blue-line or whatever it may be.”
Third line strong for second straight game
For a line that hasn’t had much time skating with each other, Jordan Caron, Chris Kelly and newcomer Reilly Smith are faring pretty well. Kelly got things started against Tampa Bay with his penalty shot tally and Caron, while robbed of a goal, had a solid performance.
The trio continued their success on Saturday night. Caron earned his first goal of the year, making another case to stay with the big club after several stints back and forth between Providence and Boston in his first three years. Smith, who was acquired from Dallas this off-season, chipped in with an assist on Caron’s second period goal at 7:58 of the second.
All three are making significant strides this year and have arguably been the best line on the ice.
“We have so many good players that we get used to playing with everyone,” Caron said about skating with his linemates. “It doesn’t matter who you play with, I think you get used to it pretty quick and they [Kelly and Smith] are two really smart players. Right now I think we’re really good on the forecheck and second chances and stuff, so we just have to keep doing this.”
Head coach Claude Julien will have a tough decision ahead of him when Carl Soderberg returns from injury. Caron and Smith’s performance the first two games is making that decision even more difficult. Still, that’s not a bad thing to have as the Black and Gold are off to their second straight 2-0 start.