Four more minutes, 28 more seconds, and maybe the top talking point after Monday night’s action would have been Claude Julien’s early Jack Adams candidacy.
Instead, a debatable deployment of three forwards and one defenseman in the four-on-four overtime precipitated a rapid sudden-death slip for the Boston Bruins. That put a mild damper on an otherwise irreproachable outing for the home personnel, both on and behind the bench.
Because of the game’s outcome and the nature of the play that tipped the scale, it may seem like an awkward time to break down the plus points of Julien’s coaching. The fact is, however, that the Bruins cultivated a hard-earned point with noticeable influence from their eighth-year bench boss.
For starters, they were engaging an Eastern Conference division leader for the second time in as many ventures. Coming off an acrid 2-0 loss to Montreal on Saturday, they mustered a half-full, one-point improvement Monday.
The chief reason they garnered that single point, by virtue of spilling the game beyond regulation, was because they listened to Julien’s thumbs-down takeaway from the Montreal matchup.
Recall his assessment in the wake of that falter:
If there’s something we’re going to critique here it’s probably the fact that we didn’t put enough pucks on net and get some net-front presence…We’re not scoring goals easily these days, so we’ve really got to get our noses dirty in front of the net and throw some pucks in areas where we can jump on those loose pucks.
Fast-forward 48 hours. The Bruins mustered two doses of valid and invalid offensive production by congesting Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury’s property.
The previously frostbitten Milan Lucic drew a 1-1 knot with a backdoor burial of Loui Eriksson’s feed. On the next play, Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille provided a screen while point patroller Joe Morrow drilled home a wrister for a brief 2-1 lead.
The TD Garden masses thought they had two more strikes in regulation. Midway through the first period, Patrice Bergeron’s homeward-bound deflection did not count, by virtue of his playing the puck with a high stick.
But as you will see in the video replay, Bergeron was in that same dirty-nose zone Campbell and Paille later occupied on Morrow’s goal. The alternate captain at least had the right idea as to where he needed to position his body, even if he was off the mark with his twig.
Almost a full period later, Lucic and linemate Carl Soderberg nearly capitalized on their second bullish rush of the stanza. But as the league’s hockey operations department explained on NHL.com, Soderberg had “directed the puck into the Pittsburgh net with his glove.”
The first washout was clearly the correct call; the second was a tad more borderline. Come what may, the Bruins got just enough from Julien’s constructive advice to garner a point Monday night.
Furthermore, part of the reason they salvaged that point was because they did not let those unfavorable rulings deflate their spirits. That is what one should have come to expect from a team that has slogged through a slew of key injuries for the better part of this autumn.
The Bruins have now played their last 14 games without top defenseman Zdeno Chara. With Monday’s regulation tie/overtime loss, they are a respectable 9-4-1 without him. Highlights include Monday’s effort against Pittsburgh and last Tuesday’s 2-0 shutout of the usually explosive St. Louis Blues.
Top Boston center David Krejci has dressed for only two of 11 games this calendar month. The Bruins have gone 5-3-1 when he has sat out.
All of this is to say nothing of the various sideline stints, some ongoing and some ended, for the likes of Chris Kelly, Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller and Brad Marchand.
In turn, it was hardly shocking to see their professional handling of the two no-goals. They continued to dig in much the same fashion when they were hovering around Fleury’s estate.
At the opposite end, they confined the Penguins to only a 2-2 equalizer through Monday’s 60-minute mark. They kept the momentum swings to a minimum in both frequency and severity.
Julien’s imprint was on that aspect of the game as well. After Morrow gave Boston the lead, the Bergeron line and the Krug-Dennis Seidenberg tandem spent nearly a full minute confronting Crosby’s line.
That sequence culminated in an icing against the besieged Bruins, at which point Julien sacrificed his timeout to buy everyone a breather. His prudence paid off, pushing off Pittsburgh’s formal seizure of any momentum until later in the period.
Julien’s game, like that of his pupils, was not perfect by any means Monday night. A bench minor for too many men on the ice late in regulation could have spilled the point the team had legitimately earned through the first 57-plus minutes.
In the same vein, though, it took no small degree of resolve for the penalty kill to stifle the Penguins’ potent power play.
The Bruins, as evidenced by the 60-minute outcome, had enough of that resolve in stock. From a strategic and tactical standpoint, they also had plenty of preparation for that crucial special teams matchup.
Unlike Saturday, when they incurred a goose egg in the goal column for radiant reasons, the Bruins brought enough for a textbook could-have-gone-either-way game Monday. In all fairness, a few personnel upgrades on their side or a slightly lesser opponent on the other could have flip-flopped the 3-2 outcome.
With an all-California road trip on tap for next week and a visit from the Blackhawks the week after, more of the same essential resolve and purpose is in order. After that, it might not be long before the next challenge is to guard against complacency.
Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics for this report were found via NHL.com