Post-game notes: Bruins vs Senators (2/25/12)

Coming in to this game there was a lot of chatter about how important it was going to be for the Bruins to end this road trip on a good note and tighten their grip on the division, because the “red hot” Ottawa Senators were closing in on them for the division lead (some even believing that Ottawa could take command of the division for the rest of the season if things shook out in their favor in this home-and-home). This seems to have been the case every time the Bruins play the Senators and the results have always been the same.

Right out of the gate the Bruins attempted to make an impression by rolling out the Lucic-Kelly-Krejci line and putting the heat on Auld early (as Auld has only 2 wins this season and was clearly rusty due to the infrequency of his starts). Though they created some good chances early, they failed to convert, and an uncharacteristic defensive breakdown by the Marchand-Bergeron-Seguin line led to the Senators scoring first (a slick wrister from between the circles by Karlsson), just over a minute into the first period and it started to look like it was going to be one of those games.

Fortunately, the Bruins have begun to look a little more like themselves of late. The Bruins have been scored on first a lot this season, even during their November/December tear, but they were nearly always able to bounce back. They did it by pushing through the negativity, sticking to the gameplan, and taking back the lead. I think they lost a little bit of that resiliency somewhere along the way these past 20 games for one reason or another.  Gregory Campbell told Jack Edwards that the team is trying to get back to a place where they just don’t care if they get scored on because they know they can get back out there and get it back. They’re slowly getting their swagger back and they’re not allowing themselves to completely deflate just because they were scored on first. Sure enough, just over two minutes after Senators scored, Claude rolled the Bergeron line out again and Bergeron tied it up off a rebound. Later, with about 3 minutes left in the 1st period, Chara stickhandled (!) through defenders, centered the puck to Bergeron. Sauce to Marchand, shoot, score. Bruins take the lead.

The 2nd period consisted of both teams turning over the puck a lot in the neutral zone and neither team being talented enough to convert or maintain possession. However, just under 4 minutes into the 2nd period the new 3rd line (Caron-Hennessy-Camper–all Providence callups!) put the pressure on, created some traffic, and a shot from Carter Camper trickled past Auld (his first career NHL goal).  For those keeping track at home, that means it took an undrafted, undersized forward 3 games what Zach Hamill (a 1st round pick) could not achieve in 20 games. Chiarelli’s been cycling through AHL call ups since waiving Hamill… Hamill has not been recalled. I think that’s a pretty clear indicator that that ship has sailed.

The 3rd period is when things started to get interesting. With Shawn Thornton scratched (flu-like symptoms) and the Senators trailing by 2 goals, the Senators began actively taking liberties with Bruins players. Chris Neil leveled Johnny Boychuk (a clean hit, though Boychuk was injured on the play and did not return to the game). In the very next shift Kyle Turris illegally boarded Joe Corvo, leaving his feet and hitting Corvo high with his elbow raised. Fortunately Corvo was not injured on the play and finished out the duration of the game. A Senators goalie-interference penalty (one of the first sensible goalie-interference penalties I’ve seen in weeks) let to a power play goal from David Krejci at 10:24 and the Bruins went up 4-1.

With 7 minutes left in the 3rd period Chara felt the need to make Neil answer for his hit on Boychuk. I have a lot of mixed emotions about this. Chara is a true Bruin–he is the captain of this team and when he feels in his heart that he needs to make a statement and defend his teammates himself, he will do it. The Bruins are well-known for their team toughness, but lately they’ve been more easily pushed around by other teams (possibly due to fear of more serious punishment from officials, in terms of penalties or suspensions). So on the one hand I love seeing my captain stand up for his team that way. On the other hand it was poorly timed. The Bruins were ahead 3 goals, it was a clean hit, we were already down 1 defenseman and there were SEVEN MINUTES LEFT IN THE PERIOD. The Bruins need to bring that physicality and intimidation back into their game and relearn how to impose their will but jesus christ, man, pick your battles. With Chara in the box and Boychuk in the locker room, the Bruins were forced to finish the remainder of the game double shifting 4 defenseman and, sure enough, they paid for it because Alfredsson scored twice in about a minute. Suddenly the score was 4-3 and Tim Thomas was visibly frustrated with his defenders.

Thankfully the Bruins managed to hold back the surge, and score an empty netter to ice the game. Bruins win 5-3.

The Bruins are back home in Boston tomorrow, facing the Senators again for the second-to-last time this season with a slightly altered roster. Another important game, since the Senators beat the Islanders yesterday and are once again 3 points away from tying the Bruins for the division lead.

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