BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 15: Zdeno Chara #33, Patrice Bergeron #37, Tyler Seguin #19 and Johnny Boychuk #55 of the Boston Bruins celebrate teammate Brad Marchand's goal in the third period against the New Jersey Devils on November 15, 2011 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Boston Bruins defeated the New Jersey Devils 4-3. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
The old saying that when one falters, another steps up and continues where the other has left off is the message the Bruins have been practicing. Even with three prominent players' streaks ended after last night's game, the more impressive stat is they were able to sustain themselves without them.
The entire month of November, the Bruins have talked about teamwork. No one player plays for himself and every night is an attempt to help make the other guy better on the bench or on the ice.This mentality has brought the team six straight victories and elevated them to 9th place in the Eastern Conference.
It also helps smooth things out when the NHL's first star of the week heads to the penalty box just 18 seconds into the start of the game. Or when the top two wingers don't record a shot on net until the start of the third period.
Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas said last night was probably the hardest victory they have had to earn all season, and especially in the six-game streak.
"I know this is one of the toughest wins that we’ve had," Thomas said. "Probably the toughest win out of the six games that we’ve had. They really tested us, they really worked hard, they really played a good game. We just stayed with it, and we were the ones that had the ability to turn it on the last ten minutes, and were able to pull out the win because of that."
Even just three weeks ago, it would be hard to imagine this Bruins teams coming out into a game like this and taking a victory. They didn't have the attitude or the connection they have now. It's when they stop thinking about themselves as individuals and start pulling each other up when they need it, that's when you see the team start to click.
Midway through the second period, Bruins forward Brad Marchand got into an altercation with Adam Henrique, which put him in the box with a roughing penalty. Henrique didn't fight back at all, and Marchand was left with nothing good coming from his antics. Less than a minute and a half later, Johnny Boychuk was called for delay of game and suddenly the Devils were gifted with a 5-on-3 for 39 seconds.
They scored. David Clarkson put in a one-timer to give the Devils the ever important first goal of the game. Marchand left the penalty box and ended up sitting on the bench for the rest of the period. But nothing was said. Claude Julien never said a word to him, but just kept him off the ice for the remaining nine minutes of the period.
"No nothing was said," Marchand said. "I got the hint by sitting on the bench. He didn’t have to say anything. It’s just something you knew when you make mistakes and I know I made a couple tonight and I had to pay for it"
But it was what Patrice Bergeron did say that got Marchand back into the game mentally. Bergeron, who is known for his leadership on and off the ice knew that Marchand needed to hear something, and that something directly resulted in a goal.
"Yeah Bergy a couple of times before the third and right before when we’re on the ice just said 'keep your head up and let’s go for it, bounce back' kind of thing to kind of get me motivated," Marchand said. "It just shows his leadership and just another little thing."
The first shift of that third period, Marchand took the puck right off the faceoff, split the defense in front of him and put his snap shot through the five hole of Johan Hedberg to put the Bruins up 2-1. Notably, Bergeron was credited with an assist--both a physical and mental one.
The first line didn't put up any points on the night. Seguin, Horton and Lucic all had their point streaks snapped, yet still the most important streak--the game winning one-- remained intact.
Even when the first line, the headliners and fan favorites are down, there are others to pick them back up. Fourth liner Gregory Campbell had two assists on the night, Shawn Thornton recorded his first goal of the season, and Benoit Pouliot netted his second of the year after sitting in the press box last game as a healthy scratch.
Even with Thornton getting his first goal, he took none of the credit, but literally gave kudos to every other person on the ice who set up the play. He said he just had to stand there.
"I mean Soupy [Gregory Campbell] did a great job of just getting to the net," Thornton said. "Jordy [Jordan Caron] made an unbelievable [pass], I didn’t even know he knew I was standing there. I just came from the corner. So for him to just touch that to me, it doesn’t get much easier than that. So it was a good job from those two guys. Actually before that [Steven] Kampfer being able to keep that puck in started the whole play. And it’s not easy for a defenseman to hold that line there, so it was a good job for him too."
Giving credit where credit is due is common among most teams, but when you realize when you need to step up not only to take a win, but also to take the strain off another player or a line, that's when the real chemistry takes place and makes a winning team continue to streak.
"Well, it's always a nice feeling to contribute with a goal but especially in a game where it was a big goal for our team," Gregory Campbell said about the goal his line was responsible for. "So I think we have to put things in perspective and realize that there's a lot more to our job than just scoring goals but you know, on a night in, night out basis it's tough for those guys - the first and second line - to continue to put up those numbers. I mean they've been doing a tremendous job at scoring goals and when you get a little help from other guys in other areas it goes a long way."