The quest for staying consistently above .500 seems like a long, never ending road at this point, doesn't it?
Doesn't have to be. Not with Loui Eriksson it doesn't.
Tonight's effort was exactly what the Bruins needed after a drubbing at the hands of the Sharks. While penalties did occur, the resulting Penalty Kill was something else, and the Wild just didn't have the competitive know-how to deal with the supposed 3rd liner from Sweden from then on.
On to the details.
The Bruins started off slightly shaky, with an omen of the previous game in a pair of dumb penalties mere seconds into the game. But then...something happened.
The PK didn't look lost, confused or struggling to keep coverage. It worked. It really...honest to god...worked. The Bruins have been looking for this kind of effort from their penalty kill all season and at long last something clicked. The Bruins killed it off. The Bruins killed BOTH off. Somehow it all seemed to just...fit together.
From then on, the B's would control play, culminating in an absolutely absurd wraparound goal scored by Brad Marchand off of a deflected shot. This is mostly absurd because it's a wraparound that actually worked. 1-0 Boston.
Afterwards, Brett Bulmer tried to impose himself physically by fighting Matt Beleskey, which ended up being a huge error on his part since Beleskey decided to pummel Bulmer in less than 5 seconds.
For the rest of the period, the Bruins spent most of their time putting more shots on Devan Dubnyk, stifling any Minnesota offense, and walking into the 2nd period with a reasonable amount of momentum.
We normally joke about period 1b since last year because of how gawd awful the Bruins were in such situations. Turns out our fears and superstitions are well founded. The beginning of the 1b period didn't exactly fare better, as the usually incredible Power Play of the Bruins weren't able to cash in on a 5 on 3 opportunity, then a bad pass turned into a good rebound opportunity for Wild player Jason Zucker, who tied the game at one apiece after a shot in front by Mikko Koivu.
And on a goal as ugly looking as this was, one might find yourself dreading the "Period 1B malaise" that seems to fall over the Bruins in games such as these, wherein one goal comes after another and after another and after yet another.
Enter Loui, who would change this game for the better.
After a number of almost telepathic passes between David Krejci and Himself, Eriksson shot it straight on net for one of those rare 90 degree goals which get priceless reactions out of goaltenders because of the odd nature of the redirect.
Devan Dubnyk was only happy to oblige with throwing his head back in such a way that just screams "Ah, shit." Priceless comedy for a nice 2-1 lead.
After that, the Wild seemed to just concede the rest of the game to the Bruins, taking undisciplined penalty after undisciplined penalty, with a hook from Thomas Vanek giving the League Leading Power Play an opportunity to possibly put the game out of reach. They obliged.
Loui Eriksson's second, putting it right past Devan Dubnyk through the five hole, certainly seemed to make this 3-1 game seem unreachable. Even when the Refs tried to double check it wasn't kicked in, it definitely seemed like everything was coming up Bruins. Minnesota was only able to muster 8 measily shots all period, whereas the Bruins spent most of the period hammering Dubnyk with shots.
Only two events of note: first, an unspecified "Upper Body" injury to Frank Vatrano, who was absolutely plastered against the boards midway through the period and had to skate off behind the play to be taken to the trainer's room. Hopefully it isn't serious, and Frankie V returns to full action soon.
The second was the knucklepuck shot by Ryan Suter that managed to put the game within a goal and was credited to Jordan Schroeder, 3-2. Gustavsson never saw this.
Hockey is weird sometimes.
The third period was mostly spent by the Boston Bruins making the Minnesota Wild look foolish. Nearly every opportunity was smothered by good play along the boards or by being directly in the way of shots. Every bounce ended up working in the Bruins' favor as well, as Loui Eriksson took his place as Boston's leading goal scorer with an absolutely beautiful shot that gave him the Hat Trick. All off of an attempt in front of Gustavsson.
Eriksson is going to make some money at the end of this year, and performances like this are going to make that figure that much higher.
After that, very little actually happened. The Wild only put 8 shots on Gustavsson again, even if two of them REALLY looked like they were going to be goals as Gustavsson flailed about in the scariest way imaginable in reaction to them. The last play of the game after a really ugly roughing call that Ryan Carter, Tyler Randell and Torey Krug all shared. As the game came to an end, there was an unfortunate incident where the Wild's Zucker was hit and fell to the ice in agony. He was helped off by the trainers and to a standing ovation at the TD Garden.
Cue Dirty Water, and two points for the B's as they walk out the winners by a score of 4-2.
- Eriksson: What a powerhouse he was tonight. Between breaking up plays in the defensive zone, scoring goals and creating chances, he is slowly returning to being the player that Claude Julien always knew he was and the player Bruins fans will learn to love. Time will only tell if he gets a breakaway and jukes a goalie out of his mask like he was known to do in Dallas.
If only people would stop asking him what the thinks of Tyler Seguin...
- Krejci: Picking up points is always good, doing them in the usual slick style David Krejci does is always good viewing. Like he did dangling through every single Minnesota Wild player and North Stars player past, present, and future like it was no big deal just to get a shot on net. Not a goal mind you, but just a shot on net. This is like a gunslinger ricocheting a bullet off of everything in the town just for the bullet to hit the ground an inch before the bandito's feet. A reminder of how good he is at this, and how quickly he can turn your situation into a world of hurt because he's read the script, son. And you're not making it out of the second act.
His assists meanwhile were almost predestined to be goals with how precisely timed they were.
- Smart Defense: The Bruins outpossessed the Wild, and did so in two very specific ways: Blocking shots, or blocking passes. Since the Wild spent most of their time trying to pick Jonas Gustavsson's weak side for a tip in, the Bruins could easily nullify most of their chances early and frustrated Minnesota by adapting to their entire game plan. This extended to the whole game, not just one period. The Penalty Kill looked good for the first time in a good long while. Hopefully this continues for the next couple of games.
- Penalties: The Bruins and Wild played a lot of non-even strength hockey last night, and while most of them were pretty obvious calls, much of the list of penalties reflected some lapses in discipline, especially the Krug/Randell minors, which were completely unnecessary. While their next couple of opponents aren't world beaters by any stretch of the imagination it would be nice to not get dragged down by unnecessary penalties and by dragging out the unnecessarily bad (by the total numbers, anyway) PK.
- Game Plan: Claude said after the game that he really thinks that the Bruins executed their game plan well and shored up defensively, unlike last game. He was specific in saying that he doesn't necessarily need to tell players to score or to draw up complicated plays to get them to score right now since they seem to be fitting their schemes perfectly, it's more about positioning and not letting goals in at this juncture.
- Marchand: How long has it been since you've seen a Wraparound go in recently? Less than 24 hours, now that Brad did it. Brad Marchand finds all sorts of great ways to score and I hope he keeps on scoring like this.
- Injuries: They suck. And I wish Zucker and Vatrano a full recover after...whatever happened to both of them.
- The Entire 4th Line: Another rough game for the neo-merlot. In general the line seemed a bit sluggish, and another goal against happened while they were on the ice. Adjustments might be in the future, but a lineup that doesn't have perpetually broken rookies will have to come first.
The NHL.com Pun about Loui Eriksson's hat trick:
The Next Game(s):
The Bruins will play the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7pm on Saturday at home and then play them again in Toronto at 7:30pm on Monday.