After Head Coach Claude Julien publicly questioned his team's commitment, the Bruins have ripped off back to back wins. A Loui Eriksson hat trick propelled the Bruins to a victory at home over the Wild, while timely scoring and solid goaltending bested red-hot James Reimer and the Maple Leafs two nights later. A re-energized Bruins squad looks for another win tonight in the Air Canada Centre against the Leafs.
Boston dominated the Leafs in their first meeting of the season, although it might not have shown it on the scoreboard, The Bruins outshot Mike Babcock's team by a total of 37 to 22, yet tallied their first goal on a Zdeno Chara rocket with 3:43 remaining in the final frame. With another duel in the books between Tuukka Rask and Reimer, the Bruins are beginning to feel confident. After seemingly being unable to win at home, the Bruins played with swagger on Saturday night, undaunted by the fact that Toronto had won five of their last six contests. The Bruins finished their hits, were willing to fire pucks at the net, and stuck to their game plan. They pulled off another win last night in Toronto.
On Wednesday, the Bruins venture into Joe Louis Arena to battle the Red Wings. Detroit a game in hand over the Bruins, yet only leads Boston by one point. A traditionally potent Detroit attack has staggered this season, ranking 24 in the league in goals per game with 2.3. They average a whole goal less per game than the Bruins, who sit at third in the league (3.3 per contest). In addition, the Bruins should find optimism in the fact that Detroit won't easily exploit the Bruins' porous power play. The Wings only strike on 17.9% of their power plays, good for 20 in the league.
Outside of rookie sensation Dylan Larkin, most members of the Red Wings are performing below their average. Standout defenseman Niklas Kronwall (yes, the same guy who obliterates oncoming forwards using his back), has looked like a shell of his former self, accumulating only seven points and a -8 rating through 21 games.
Just nine days ago, the Bruins used a fleury of goals in the second period to propel themselves past Detroit. Tuukka Rask looked like his former Vezina-winning self and the Bruins limited Detroit's chances in five-on-five play. If the team can muster the same type of effort, the Bruins should be able to dispatch the Wings.
The Bruins return to action after everyone has sufficiently stuffed their faces with turkey and watched Jay Cutler pout after another multiple interception performance. The Black and Gold are scheduled to duel with the first place Rangers (15-3-2) on Friday in a matinee at the Madison Square Garden. The Blueshirts boast a +1.2 goal differential, placing fifth in goals for per game (3.1) and only allow a minuscule 1.9 goals per game, which paces the league. Aside from a brief three game skid in the middle of October, the Rangers have looked nearly unstoppable. New York rattled off nine straight victories over a span of 19 days, in which the team outscored their opposition by a total of 33 to 13.
The matchup against the Rangers will serve a measuring stick for a Bruins squad that appears to re-gaining their spirit and tenacity. If the Bruins are able to compete with the Rangers and battle for a victory, it will show that the Bruins completely buy into Julien's message and are ready to be viewed a playoff contender instead of a streaky team that has potential. The clash with the Rangers could be the Bruins' most important and revealing game to date, especially if the Bruins are able to enter the game with a winning streak. If the Bruins can defeat both of their Original Six rivals, Boston would begin to resemble a playoff contender rather than a merely inconsistent team.