The injury-plagued Boston Bruins are getting healthier; well, somewhat. The returns of both Dougie Hamilton and Carl Soderberg help, but the yearlong loss of top defensemen Dennis Seidenberg, paired with the indefinite loss of reliable forward Loui Eriksson will take its toll on the storied franchise.
With replacements up from Providence, many of whom just starting their NHL careers, the past few weeks have been a test, especially defensively.
While playing the same system definitely helps, there is no true way in preparing someone for their first NHL game- a pace and physicality like no other.
The Bruins have and will continue trying to solve the problem internally, but it wouldn’t be surprising to seem them add a reliable, veteran defenseman of the “shut-down” variety, in preparation for another hopeful run at the Cup. No one will replace Seidenberg, but doesn’t mean they can’t help.
On Saturday, both the pros and cons of having young offensive-minded defensemen up showed.
While Torey Krug was easily beaten on the first goal of the game, scored by Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien on an impressive rush, he made up for it by threading the perfect pass to Daniel Paille, who slammed the puck into the open net for the equalizer.
On the Byfulgien goal, Justin Florek, playing in his first ever NHL game, should have provided Krug with more help when the hefty defensemen made his way around Tuukka Rask’s net; he shares blame for the goal, but these happen when so many rookies are forced into the lineup.
The score was knotted at one after one period of play.
Early in the middle frame, the two rookies took part in giving the Bruins their first lead of the game.
Florek, after nearly tipping in an impressive centering feed by linemate Greg Campbell, parked himself in front of Ondrej Pavelec, fended off two Winnipeg skaters, and successfully screened the goalie as Krug’s point blast went in over his shoulder.
“Any time you aren’t contributing the way maybe you were before you get frustrated,” said Krug postgame. “All you can do is help the team win and when you’re not contributing it’s tough but it is a good feeling when you get the first one, actually I was hoping Flo [Justin Florek] got his (first NHL goal). I was hoping he tipped it, but it was still nice.”
It was a terrific screen by Florek, who played much better than expected in his first career NHL game.
“He played well. He’s a good skater, he’s got good size, and obviously on one of [Torey] Krug’s goals it was him doing a great job in front of goaltender there, and I thought he had a real good game for us, no doubt, “ said Bruins coach Claude Julien of Florek postgame.
Minutes later, Krug added another goal after terrific board-play and cycling by Bruins winger Carl Soderberg. Once Soderberg got the puck back to Krug at the point, the young defenseman skated inward, shifted, and threw a deceiving wrist shot on net which deflected off Jacob Trouba’s stick and past Pavelec.
Offensively, Krug was outstanding on Saturday, finishing the game with two goals and an assist, making him the first star in the Bruins 4-1 victory over the Jets.
The Bruins next face a huge test in the form of a California road trip, in which they’ll play three of the top teams in the entire NHL.
“Well it’s going to be a challenge, I’ve said it all along, the players know about it,” said Julien. “We mine as well mention the fact that they have a combined six regulation losses between those three teams so it goes to show you how hard it is to go there and win some hockey games. It’s a challenge that I and the rest of the team are really looking forward to because that’s the kind of challenge we need right now.”
FROM THE ROOM