March 3, 2011

B's look to continue winning ways at home against Bolts

by Jesse Connolly

David Krejci led the way with two goals and an assist in the Bruins 8-1 win over the Lightning in December. (Getty)

BOSTON -- As the old hockey adage goes, the first home game after a lengthy road trip is never an easy one. Taking on the Southeast Division leading Lightning, a team they're currently knotted up with in the Eastern Conference standings, will only make it a bigger challenge for the Boston Bruins.

 After rattling off six-straight victories on the road, the Black and Gold are back at the friendly confines of TD Garden, where they'll welcome Tampa Bay this evening.

 "Yeah, they are a good team, obviously," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "They’re where they are at right now because of their consistency from the start of the season. They’ve improved themselves also with some deals along the way. Right now that’s not so much about them as it is about us continuing to play the way we have. I think our focus has to be on that more than it has to be on the end result tonight."

 Coming off of such a superb road swing, one in which those six-straight wins were a first since their Cup-winning campaign in 1972, one might think the Bruins would be prone to a bit of a letdown against the Lightning.

 "No, that’s not something we’ve talked about," said Julien. "Again you hope that being out West and coming out East in Ottawa, hopefully if there was any hangover hopefully it was there. And we got through that so I think more again we didn’t talk about any of that stuff today more than we talked about continuing to put our emphasis on the way we played and the attention to details and that kind of stuff.

 "And that’s where the focus has to be right now more than anything else. Win or lose tonight, it’s not the end of the world. But the way you play has to be more important than that."

 As one might expect in an 8-1 hockey game, things started to get really chipping the last time the Lightning paid a visit to TD Garden, as they were decisively defeated.

 Julien doesn't foresee that being a factor, given the amount of the time that has passed since the two squads last met up.

 "Well we saw them react to that when we went back to their building," he said, referencing a last-minute, 4-3 win on Dec. 28 in Tampa. "And they certainly had a lot of jump but we were obviously ready for that. We pushed hard and then found a way to win. And I think there was about nineteen seconds when we scored the winning goal.

 "They obviously know what’s happened here, we obviously know. But that’s a long time ago and I don’t think we should hang out hats on that part of it. And again if we start worrying about how hard they’re going to come out then that means we’re not focusing on how we got to play and how well we got to play. So I keep going back to the same thing."

 Prior to that memorable 8-1 victory over the Bolts, the Bruins offense had been stagnant for quite some time. Since then, they've elevated themselves into one of the top scoring squads in the entire league, one that has many drawing comparisons between this year's team and the 2008-09 edition of the Bruins.

 "We always want to make comparisons, right?" Julien jokingly asked. "But the one thing I like about this team right now, I think the depth is probably a little better. If you look at what we have here and if we run into certain injuries, we got a lot of guys that we can move around. And I think that’s a part of our team. I think that might be a little further ahead from a few years ago. And hopefully that pays off in the end, but only time will tell."