After a five game homestand where the Boston Bruins (14-6-1) won four games, the team hit the road for a three game road trip. It was not perfect, but the team managed to win two out of the three games.
Boston Bruins @ Ottawa Senators:
The first game on the road trip brought the Bruins to Ontario, Canada to face the Ottawa Senators (8-9-4). Playing in their second game in as many nights, the Bruins got out to a two goal lead. A late goal by the Senators however seemed to completely change the game and Ottawa went on to score the next three goals for the 4-2 win. While the loss was disappointing, Boston’s deteriorating play as the game went on did not come as too much of a shock as the team was visibly tired, losing puck battles and making mental mistakes.
Boston Bruins @ Carolina Panthers:
After a rare and much needed weekend off, the Bruins were back on the ice, this time against a Carolina Hurricanes (8-9-4) team that has been up and down this season. It was another solid start for Boston, jumping out to a 2-0 lead yet again. Their first goal came from Reilly Smith on the power-play and their second goal was scored by Carl Soderberg. For a second consecutive game, the Bruins let up another late first period goal, but this time they responded much better. Unlike the Ottawa game, they did not let the late goal by Carolina completely change the game. They came out in the second and third periods and showed they were the superior team, beating the Canes 4-1.
Boston Bruins @ New York Rangers:
The next night the Bruins hoped to do what they were not able to in Ottawa, come out on the second night of a back-to-back and play for an entire sixty minutes. In a surprise move, coach Claude Julien had Tuukka Rask back in net for a second consecutive night. It was far from a complete sixty minute consistent effort once again for Boston. There were defensive breakdowns that lead to a number of great scoring chances for the New York Rangers (10-11-0). Luckily, Rask put together one of his best efforts of the season. On top of saving four or five breakaways, Rask also saved a penalty shot to keep the game scoreless in the first period. Despite being outshot 44-22, the Bruins made the most of their opportunities, beating the Rangers 2-1.
Three stars of the road trip:
1st star – Tuukka Rask
Rask had an outstanding three game stretch for Boston. Although he did allow four goals in the first game against Ottawa, that loss spoke more to the poor play from the players in front of Tuukka than to how well he played. In his three starts, Rask recorded a save percentage (SV %) of 0.939%, had a goals against average (GAA) of 2, and most importantly was 2-1 in the three games.
The thing that really makes Rask the 1st star of the road trip is the fact that the Bruins as a team did not play particularly well. Of course there were moments during each game that Boston played up to their capabilities, but overall on the road trip, they did not play as well as they could have. Rask was the reason why Boston went 2-1 in the three game stretch, if not for him they probably would have lost the game against the Rangers, and the road trip would have been a disappointment.
2nd star – Bruins special teams
Now I know that the three stars of the game are usually given as individual awards, however, in this case it is hard to argue that Boston’s play on special teams was not a big factor in their successful road trip. While on the power-play, the Bruins scored one time in their six opportunities. That is far from a good percentage, but I use the eye test when judging this team’s power-play due largely to how inept they have been in recent years.
Judging solely on how they looked, I think they did pretty well with the man advantage. They had good puck movement and good zone time for the majority of their power-plays and although they were not always successful, they did have good scoring chances and if they continue to do well in those two areas eventually they will start seeing results.
I thought the team played well on the power-play despite the lack of results and I thought they played fantastic on the penalty kill. Unlike the power-play, the penalty killers’ outstanding play did translate onto the stat sheet.
The Bruins were eight for nine killing penalties during the road trip. The only power-play goal they allowed came against the Rangers in the second period and that came with only three seconds remaining on penalty with Rask being screened by his own teammate. The goal allowed broke a streak of 33-consecutive penalties killed by the Bruins.
Power-play goals can be a huge momentum swing in a game; penalty kills can sometimes be an even bigger one, and the Bruins success in killing penalties was huge in them taking two out of three on the road.
3rd star – Carl Soderberg
In a small sample size last season (6 games), Soderberg looked a little lost out on the ice. He had spent his entire career playing in Sweden and there was definitely a learning curve coming over to the NHL. After 15 games this season, it looks like the Soderberg has found out what it takes to be successful in the NHL. On the trip, he had a goal, an assist, and twelve shots on goal. Looking beyond the stats, Soderberg has been engaging physically more than last year and is getting to the dirty areas of the ice, a place where this Bruins team scores a majority of its goals. In the three games on the road, Soderberg looked more like an NHL player. The visible improvement in his game during the road trip earned Carl Soderberg my 3rd star of the road trip.
Overall, it was a pretty successful road trip for the Boston Bruins. After their tough loss in the first game against Ottawa, they came back and beat the Hurricanes pretty easily. They also defeated the Rangers even though it was on back-to-back nights and they did not have their best game.
The team continued their good play with the man advantage and their outstanding play on the penalty kill due in large part to their best penalty killer, Tuukka Rask. Rask was great on the trip and stole the game against the New York Rangers, allowing only one goal after facing more shots than he had all season, forty-four. He did what franchise goalies have to do, which is step up and play on back-to-back night, and he did so brilliantly.
The bad news coming out of the trip was the injury sustained by the Bruins second best defenseman, Dennis Seidenberg. Seidenberg played only one shift in the Rangers game before leaving with a lower body injury. The Bruins are already hurting on their blue line with the injury to Adam McQuaid and if Seidenberg is out for any substantial amount of time, the team may have to be creative in finding their sixth defenseman. Luckily for them, all three of their young defenseman: Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton and Matt Bartkowski have been playing well.
The team did not play at their best for the entire three game road trip, but they played well enough to win two of the games. As it stands now, the team is 14-6-1 and are in first place in the Atlantic Division. Their continued good play by their special teams and most importantly Tuukka Rask was a great sign for the team moving forward. The teams performance on the road will help them going forward as they begin a three game homestand Thursday night.