Torey Krug and Brad Marchand, two skaters south of 6'0" in stature, personified the Boston Bruins’ defiance Monday afternoon. What they ostensibly lack in substance and advantage, they recompensed in preparation and poise to garner an entertaining 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings.
At the time of Monday’s faceoff, the Bruins were barely 24 hours removed from a road game versus another marquee nonconference foe in the Chicago Blackhawks. They had lost one of their more seasoned defensemen, Adam McQuaid, to an injury in that game.
Now lacking McQuaid on top of Dennis Seidenberg, they placed four first- or second-year professionals—Krug included—along with Johnny Boychuk and Zdeno Chara on their blue-line brigade.
That group had to match, if not exceed, the stinginess of Los Angeles, which stands at the top of the NHL’s team defense leaderboard. The Kings remain the only club in the league allowing fewer than two opposing strikes per night with a 1.98 goals-against average.
Adding to the challenge, the Bruins started backup goaltender Chad Johnson to counter L.A.’s Jonathan Quick, who had been particularly hot of late with three goals against over his previous three ventures.
Krug and Marchand ultimately combined to tuck three more biscuits behind Quick in only three periods Monday. Marchand completed that feat and finalized the 3-2 upshot in the face of a potential letdown after the team’s stimulating start to the day.
At the 7:21 mark of the third period, Boychuk incurred a hooking penalty in the offensive zone. Within another 74 seconds, with 11:25 remaining in regulation, Jeff Carter converted the power play to draw a 2-2 knot after the Kings had initially trailed 2-0 at the first intermission.
By that point, given the laundry list of elements working against the Bruins, it might not have been a shocker if the host club had rolled over and let the momentum finish its reversal.
Instead, only 18 seconds elapsed before Marchand polished off his line’s retort with his second goal of the day, restoring the lead with 11:07 to spare.
With that, Marchand continued a daylong motif of answering adversity with productivity—one that he and Krug each took a turn exercising in the first period.
The 5’9”, 183-pound Marchand opened the scoring at the 12:05 mark with a short-handed tally, which he buried a mere 34 seconds after David Krejci had incurred the game’s first penalty.
When they garnered their own power play, the Bruins augmented the lead courtesy of Krug, whose preceding plays cannot be overlooked.
Before he slugged home a diagonal slap shot at the 17:51 mark, the 5’9”, 181-pound Krug absorbed two consecutive body checks. He first accepted a hit from Jarret Stoll on Boston property at 17:22 and then let Drew Doughty bump him 11 seconds later in the L.A. zone.
By that point, Krug had already taken four checks on the day, the others from Justin Williams at 4:36 and Jordan Nolan at 14:19. None of that, however, came before he dished up a pair of his own at the expense of Matt Frattin and Mike Richards.
That was within the second and third minutes of action, a portion of a tone-setting stretch where the Bruins adamantly barred the Kings from pestering Johnson too much too early.
A myriad of Boston-issued hits, zone clearances, offsides and botched shot attempts defined the first five minutes for Los Angeles.
Even when the Kings did start testing Johnson, they could not establish much rhythm. Part of that had to do with the fact that Boston recorded four takeaways within the first eight minutes of action alone.
The Bruins could have wasted any or all of the momentum they built from that and their early chances at the other end when they served the afternoon’s first short-handed segment. However, Johnson was ready to repel the Kings’ first registered power-play bid at 11:55, just 12 seconds before Marchand beat Quick for the icebreaker.
If those who had the privilege of witnessing Monday’s action had not yet sensed that Johnson and his colleagues were enjoying mutual confidence, they ought to have known it by then.
By day’s end, two of Boston’s recently pressed defensive stand-ins stood out as leaders in a pair of key categories. Matt Bartkowski surpassed all of his teammates by blocking five Los Angeles shot attempts while nobody matched Kevan Miller’s five hits on the day.
The team total of 16 blocks by his skating mates was one reason why Johnson only needed to deal with 23 shots himself, ultimately handling 21.
Meanwhile, Boychuk, Chara and Krug all joined Patrice Bergeron and Marchand among those who salvaged a point to add to their respective plus/minus ratings. Boychuk’s indiscretion threatened to put a mild damper on everyone’s valiance when it precipitated Carter’s equalizer, but the likes of Marchand stepped up to pluck off his goat horns.
All of this while on short rest and facing a second fellow powerhouse in as many days, knowing there would be minimal margin for error—especially with the spontaneous addition of another unripe blueliner.
Monday’s result was a somewhat unlikely reward for keeping a matchup as competitive as it should have been on paper despite several unfavorable elements on the ice. Bruins head coach Claude Julien can build on it by seeking similar tests in the future, now knowing how his pupils can play in front of Johnson against an adversary of the Kings’ caliber.
For when and if McQuaid returns, a day like Monday should also dispel any qualms about offering Chara, the top minute-muncher, a few sporadic rest days in preparation for the home stretch and playoffs.
There is no guarantee this will continue to translate to the same victorious outcomes from here on out. There was doubtlessly a little fortune involved, although fortune is only effective when one works to help create and sniff out the breaks.
As the Eastern Conference’s reigning Stanley Cup finalists, the Bruins will continue to log minutes and mileage at a rate higher than opponents who had a longer offseason. They will do so without Seidenberg’s services and maybe a few other key players.
But even if they fall short due to circumstances beyond their control, there should be no reason for any bystanders to credibly claim that they did not compete sufficiently.
All one would need to do is play the “January 20 game against Los Angeles” card.
All statistics for this report were found on NHL.com.
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