After an impressive three game road trip, the Boston Bruins (16-6-2) were back at home for three games where they looked to continue their winning ways.
After being left thin on the defensive end of the ice with injuries to Adam McQuaid and Dennis Seidenberg, the Bruins called up defenseman Kevan Miller. Miller was impressive in all three of the games, sliding in nicely to the roll McQuaid has as a tough, defensive-minded player. The homestand was a successful one as the Bruins were able to win two out of the three games in dramatic fashion.
Oddly enough, the one loss the Bruins suffered came in the game that I thought they played their best in. Facing a similar team in the St. Louis Blues (15-3-3), the Bruins were more than happy to play the physical game the Blues club brings to the ice.
In that game, the Bruins had the lead after a late period goal in the first, but it did not last long as the Blues came back to score a fluky goal just :31 seconds after the Bruins. It was definitely a goal Tuukka Rask would like to have back, but after it he came back to have a pretty strong game overall.
The rest of the game was an absolute slugfest with each team absorbing some big hits from their opponent. After neither team could break the tie in overtime, the game went to a shootout and the Blues came out on top. It was tough to see a game played as good as this one end with an individual competition that the shootout is, but that is how regular season games get decided if no one can break the tie in overtime.
The dislike I have for the shootout is probably due in large part to the fact the Bruins are not really that good at them. As I have said many times before, the strength of the Bruins is their depth and they do not have the prolific goal scorers that many other teams have. Therefore, it is no real surprise that the team would struggle in the shootout. After the loss to St. Louis, it appeared that coach Claude Julien did not want to have another good effort from his team come down to a shootout.
The next two games Boston played were tied after regulation time and the aggressiveness that Julien showed with the lines he skated out was a welcome sight for his goalie Tuukka Rask, who has not been shy in sharing his hatred for the shootout. In both overtime periods, Julien had three forwards on the ice and only one defenseman. The aggressive line combinations Julien skated out onto the ice in both overtime periods flies directly in the face of his typically defensive coaching strategy. Perhaps the loss to St. Louis in the shootout frustrated Claude enough to cause him to change how he coaches in overtime.
In both games the new coaching strategy in overtime paid off quickly for the team. First, in the game against the Carolina Hurricanes (8-10-5), the Bruins scored less than two minutes into the overtime period with David Krejci netting the game winner. Then, in their next game against the Pittsburgh Penguins (15-9-1), defenseman Torey Krug scored less than a minute into overtime.
Having three forwards on the ice for overtime completely changes the way the Bruins can play in the sudden death period. Not only do they have a potential for more scoring opportunities, they can also be a bit more aggressive on the offensive end because their forwards have the speed required to get back defensively. I am not sure if Claude is becoming more aggressive in overtime because his team is not the most offensively talented group, but whatever it is, Julien’s new strategy in overtime definitely proved to be a winning one in the Bruins last two games.
The team will now head to Detroit to play the Red Wings (11-7-7) on Wednesday at 7:30pm (ET). I will be interested to see if given the opportunity, whether or not coach Julien will continue to be aggressive in the overtime. I think it is the best chance the team has to win because one thing is certain, the team needs to avoid the shootout and continuing to be masters of overtime is the only way to do that.
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