March 28, 2012

Bruins putting it all together at the right time

By Jesse Connolly

BOSTON –  Throughout the past two-plus months, the Boston Bruins managed to trick their loyal fan-base on countless occasions. With every inspirational win, a long-awaited turnaround seemed imminent. But instead of using their victories as building blocks, the B's followed them up with disheartening losses -- with alarming consistency, to boot.

Patrice Bergeron (left) and Johnny Boychuk (right) congratulate Brad Marchand on his third-period goal in the B's 5-2 win over Tampa. (Getty)

When the B’s finally strung together consecutive victories for the first time in eight weeks, narrowly edging the Leafs before beating the Sabres, 4-3, on March 8, we were convinced that the ship had been righted.

Not so fast.

Boston embarked on its most brutal stretch of hockey, dropping four-straight contests by a combined score of 21-8. With a 6-2 loss down in Florida on March 15, the Bruins had officially hit rock bottom. Judging by how they’ve played in the half-dozen games since then, maybe that was exactly the wake-up call they needed.

 The B’s won for the fifth time in six games on Tuesday night, defeating the visiting Lightning by a score of 5-2. Since that infamous flop in Florida, they’ve allowed two goals or less in every contest, padded their lead over the Senators in the Northeast Division and – most importantly – gotten a little bit of their swagger back.

“I think we’re playing a lot with confidence, which is big,” said Brad Marchand, who scored in the third period on Tuesday to put the Bruins up by two. “We just needed to skate a lot more and play within the system. Everyone is fore-checking hard and back-checking hard and playing physical, and that’s what we need.”

After a voyage through California that saw them play three games in four nights, the Bruins hardly looked like a team worn out by a grueling road trip.

“I thought it was pretty good,” center Chris Kelly said of the team’s energy. “It seemed to get better and better as the game went on. I think the guys realized the importance of the two points and stepped it up in the third.”

With the win, Boston’s now grabbed 10 of a possible 12 points in their last six tilts. With six games left on the regular-season schedule before the postseason gets underway, the Bruins are putting it all together at just the right time.

“Yeah, I think so. I hope so,” said Tim Thomas. “We’re putting together some points at a very important time that, heading down the stretch here, gives us a little cushion, which I think is a good thing.”

But despite winning three in a row for the first time in this calendar year, the B’s have no intentions of getting too far ahead of themselves.

“God, you guys always starving for a story, huh?” Shawn Thornton quipped when asked about the trio of consecutive victories after the game. “I think we’ve been more consistent of late, and that’s all that really matters. There’s a streak, no streak, whatever. We played a good game tonight.”

The B’s will look to make it four in a row and six-of-seven when they welcome Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals to TD Garden on Thursday night.