Trailing 2-0 after two periods of Tuesday’s game against the Hurricanes, Bruins coach Claude Julien decided it was time to change up his lines. The Bruins had averaged just 1.8 goals per game in their first five games and had scored more than two goals in regulation just once, and they weren’t showing any signs of turning it around Tuesday. The Bruins went on to lose that game 4-1, and Julien elected to continue tinkering with the lines in practice leading up to Thursday’s matchup with the Maple Leafs.
To say his juggling paid dividends would be an understatement. The Bruins offense exploded Thursday night, as six players registered multi-point games in a 6-2 trouncing of Toronto.
The most impressive line was Milan Lucic, Chris Kelly and Tyler Seguin. The trio combined for three goals, five assists and a plus-6 rating. The entire line was on the ice for three of the Bruins’ goals, and Seguin was also out there for both of the team’s power-play tallies.
“I think it was definitely a good thing because no one really had too much chemistry,” Seguin said of the changes up front. “When all the lines are mixed up, you kind of just focus on playing your best. And with that tonight, everyone kind of just focused on your game and what they have to do in taking accountability, and I think that’s why we were successful. Not thinking about the chemistry, and just ‘I need to do my role,’ and things will work out. That’s what happened tonight.”
As odd as it sounds in a team sport, that focus-on-yourself mentality was one of the things Julien emphasized before the game. He said he wanted guys to find their own game rather than worry about their line’s chemistry.
Two guys in particular desperately needed to find their games for the Bruins — Lucic and Nathan Horton. They started the season as David Krejci’s wings on the top line, but both got off to terribly slow starts. Horton had a goal and an assist entering Thursday’s tilt, while Lucic had only an assist.
Like Lucic, Horton got off the schneid Thursday with a multi-point game. He banged home a rebound for the Bruins’ first goal of the game and then set up new linemate Patrice Bergeron’s third-period insurance marker.
“We put certain guys on certain lines so they could find their own game,” Julien said. “I thought Looch with Kelly and then Segs just got good speed, good skill, and it just made him skate hard and retrieve pucks for them and make plays, so that was good.
“And then Horts, the minute you play with Bergie and [Brad Marchand], you have to have your work ethic going and your compete level, and he did that tonight. For a lot of players, it was just about finding their own game. Just the two guys that we’re talking about now, because that’s who’s been mentioned a lot, I thought were tremendous for us tonight.”
Although he wasn’t being talked about nearly as much as Lucic and Horton, Bergeron was another player who hadn’t quite gotten things going yet this season, as he entered Thursday night with no goals and two assists through the first six games.
Bergeron wasn’t all that noticeable for the first two periods Thursday either, but then he broke through with five shots on goal in the third, including his first goal of the season — a snipe over Jonas Gustavsson’s glove.
Julien said after the game that another one of his messages to the team had been to not over-pass the puck. He said, “A lot of times, our first thought is to look to give it to somebody else, and I think we need to get a little bit more hungry at putting pucks at the net.” Bergeron clearly heeded Julien’s advice, as did many other Bruins — the team wound up with a season-high 43 shots.
“I think obviously that’s how we’re going to score goals, so you have to go out there and shoot,” Bergeron said. “Obviously you have to have good chances to put it on net, but when you feel you have the choice between a pass or a shot, then maybe you go for the shot. I did that tonight and finally got a result.”