Bruins’ Defense Joins Rush Toward Victory

The Claude Julien-era Boston Bruins have always been known for their stout defensive play — a theme most would expect to carry over into the 2011-2012 season.  Heading into Tuesday night’s game against the Ottawa Senators, the Bruins had the 11th ranked goals against average in the NHL, and were facing an Ottawa team that ranks last in the category, though the figures might be misleading as each team is currently headed in opposite directions.

Unlike the Senators, the Bruins obviously have not been able to bury the biscuit, put the puck in the net; any way you want to phrase it, the Bruins have not been doing it. While a 2.48 GAA might be respectable amongst the NHL’s elite, the solid goaltending duo of Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask has to be given their due credit in earning the team’s one “success”.

The goalie matchup featured Craig Anderson against Thomas. Thomas is 3-4 with a 2.14 GAA, receiving little support from his forwards, while Anderson is 6-2 with 3.66 GAA, receiving all the support in the world.

Defense is more than just a stat, and if the Bruins want to get better as a team they must translate defensive breakouts into offense, work on in-zone coverage, and do everything possible to provide improved support to each of their goaltenders.

The Bruins defensive pairings consisted of Zdeno Chara with Johnny Boychuk, Dennis Seidenberg with Joe Corvo, and Andrew Ference with Adam McQuaid.

Lets see how the blue-liners faired tonight against the Senators:

FIRST PERIOD:

Ference and McQuaid were responsible for the first defensive collapse of the night, unable to clear out the puck in front of Thomas, as Nick Foligno scored at the 5:19 mark of the period; Stephane Da Costa and Bobby Butler assisted the goal. Although it was a fluky play, Ference and McQuaid must get in better position against oncoming forwards, preventing the constant up-close action Thomas has been facing.

Good work from Chara and Seidenberg at the point on the power play. Chara got his wrist shots on net and both assisted Milan Lucic with the first Bruin goal of the game. Lucic was right where he needs to be on the power play, proving how crucial it is for Bruins defensemen to get their shots on net.

Seconds after the Bruins power-play goal, a shot from the point deflected off Corvo and was followed up by a nifty feed from Foligno to Da Costa, which gave the rookie his third goal of the season, providing the Senators with a 2-1 lead. While the deflection might have been his fault, there was nothing Corvo could do about the end result — just an unlucky play.

I was impressed with the penalty kill shifts by Boychuk and Ference and felt both did a solid job fending off the Ottawa power play together.

SECOND PERIOD:

Each defensive pairing for the Bruins was impressive in the early parts of the second period, providing good support for the forwards and consistently keeping the puck in Ottawa’s zone.

The second Bruins goal of the game was recorded by Patrice Bergeron; however, a terrific job joining the play by Ference helped spread out the Ottawa defensemen and improve the odd-man rush. Ference has shown great offensive awareness at times this year, an aspect of his game that keeps improving. He was a key factor in attributing to Bergeron’s third goal of the season.

The strong penalty kills by each defensive unit continued in the second period; the penalty kill has been somewhat of a bright spot for a much maligned, struggling Bruins squad in the early parts of the season.

THIRD PERIOD:

Corvo has not been too impressive sporting the black and gold this year. His passing has been mediocre at best, and he can’t seem to get a single shot on net; these flaws showed early on in the third period, a theme Bruins fans hope to see end soon. Nobody is hoping for a Tomas Kaberle part two.

Poor in-zone coverage by Seidenberg and Corvo led to Ottawa’s third goal of the night, as well as the game-tying goal for the Senators. While they didn’t get much help from their forwards, Seidenberg and Corvo must block out bodies in front of the net to avoid deflected pucks, just like this one that got Ottawa right back in the game.

Boychuk with a “Johnny Rocket” from the point once again gave the Bruins the lead, this time 4-3. The Bruins defensemen continue doing a great job getting shots on net, proving their worth in sparking some much-needed offense. Getting shots on net is a simple, yet overlooked theme in hockey these days; and although cliché, it is one of the fundamentals of hockey that cannot be stressed enough.

FROM THE ROOM: 

Johnny Boychuk post-game:

Dan Paille on balanced offensive attack and more:

Chris Kelly post-game:

Shawn Thornton jokes about pre-game meals, and discusses the Bruins victory over the Senators:

 

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