January 20, 2013

B's recognize gritty trumps pretty in early stages of season

By Jesse Connolly

Teammates skate over as Greg Campbell (11) congratulates Dan Paille (20) on his second-period goal in the Bruins' 3-1 victory over the Rangers at TD Garden on Saturday. (Getty Images)

It wasn’t always pretty in the Bruins’ 3-1 victory over the Rangers in their season opener on Saturday night, but then again, no one really expected it to be.

With the season starting just one week after the new collective bargaining agreement was officially ratified, the amount of dirty-area goals will likely trump the number of highlight-reel ones in the early stages of the year. Boston exemplified that in their win over New York.

Milan Lucic opened the scoring in the first period by driving hard down the slot, picking up a rebound off a David Krejci shot and firing it past Henrik Lundqvist.

The B’s doubled their lead when Dan Paille got to the top of the crease and redirected a Greg Campbell drive into the back of New York’s net.

“That was one of the things we talked about, too, is the thing that kind of crept out of our game, that net drive, and having that guy drive the middle and get those rebounds,” Lucic said. “Today was a lot better. Myself, and even [Daniel Paille’s] goal—two guys driving to the net and just getting those dirty goals. Those have been big for us these last couple of years.”

He wasn’t credited with the Bruins’ third strike (despite seemingly getting a piece of the puck), but Patrice Bergeron’s presence atop the crease helped Boston reestablish a two-goal advantage in the final frame. With No. 37 parked out in front, Henrik Lundqvist didn’t have a clear sightline when Johnny Boychuk sent a bomb through traffic that found its way past the reigning Vezina Trophy winner.

“We went from winning the Stanley Cup and having that grit and that desire to go to the net and score what they call ‘ugly’ goals,” coach Claude Julien said. “But at the end of the night, goals are goals. So it was important to us to get back to that… That’s what made us a great team a couple of years ago.”

Against a team synonymous with shot blocking, coming up with those greasy goals is just about the only way to beat a foe like the Rangers.

“Well that’s what we had to do,” said Julien. “We know that they slide in front of a lot of pucks and that was pointed out before the game, and we had to keep our head up and sometimes it’s about taking an extra step aside and getting around that guy. But for the most part I thought we did a good job of getting pucks through.”

Then again, until the B’s are back on top of their game, those hard-working tallies will pivotal.

“You’ve got to have the effort there,” Paille said when asked about the importance of those gritty goals in the early stages of this 48-game season. “It’s obviously going to be tough with this season. On the other hand, it’s short and it’s a way to battle through. I think it’s going to be huge for all of us to be ready for that.” 

Twitter: @JesseNEHJ
Email: jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com