Hats off to Bruins, Bergeron
On Sunday morning, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli sat in the stands of Pittsburgh’s
“When we get three lines going,’’ Chiarelli said, “we’re going to be a good team.’’
Goalie Tim Thomas and defenseman Zdeno Chara, as evidenced by their selection to the All-Star Game yesterday, have been the only consistent difference-makers this season. Last night, Thomas and Chara got plenty of help.
The Bruins, who exploded for four third-period goals in a win against Pittsburgh on Monday, carried the momentum into TD Garden last night by blowing out the fast-sinking Senators, 6-0.
Patrice Bergeron scored his first career hat trick. The No. 3 line piled up the points, as Blake Wheeler potted a first-period goal, Tyler Seguin scored a goal and had an assist, and David Krejci busted a five-game scoreless streak with a pair of helpers. The top threesome went scoreless, but Michael Ryder, Marc Savard, and Nathan Horton skated with as much pop and energy as they have all year. As usual, the fourth line performed its much-appreciated grunt work, with Shawn Thornton and Daniel Paille each taking their turns exchanging fists with big lug Matt Carkner.
“Four lines going,’’ said Savard. “Kind of like that Atlanta game we had before Christmas. We had every guy doing what they do best, outplaying the guy in front of them, and ended up with a big win.’’
The primary concern of management and the coaching staff had been the team’s up-front inconsistency. Even during the 3-0-2 post-Christmas road trip, the Bruins weren’t getting consistent play from their forward crew. One line would have some touch, but the other three would go missing. In another game, it would be another line emerging, but with little help from the supporting cast.
That wasn’t the case last night.
The attack started with Bergeron, who showcased his two-way strength on each of his goals. The heart of Bergeron’s game is his hockey sense and the ease with which he completes the sport’s subtle nuances. When Bergeron is clicking, his game is a blend of grit and touch. Last night, it was a perfect-pitch mix.
On his first goal, Bergeron anticipated that Chris Campoli — he would abuse the hapless Ottawa defenseman all game — would rush a pass from behind his net to Mike Fisher. Sure enough, Campoli served up a too-hot-to-handle pass that clanked off Fisher’s stick and onto Bergeron’s blade. The center wasted little time snapping the puck into the net at 3:33 of the first.
Early in the second, Bergeron stripped Campoli at Ottawa’s offensive blue line, then went away with Brad Marchand on a two-on-two rush. At the other end, Bergeron tapped in his own rebound past starter Brian Elliott at 2:50.
Bergeron completed his complete-game thrashing of Campoli in the third. Again, he clawed the puck from Campoli along the boards, then flipped it over relief netminder Mike Brodeur at 5:04. For the second time, hats flooded the rink — Bergeron was incorrectly credited with a second-period strike that belonged to Marchand — to honor the alternate captain’s first career three-goal game.
“I think Bergy is probably one of the most consistent and most focused players that I’ve played with or really even seen,’’ Seguin said. “Practice in, practice out, games, he’s always playing that same way. He deserved that hat trick. We’re all happy that he got it.’’
As complete as Bergeron’s game was, it was just as thorough a night for every player wearing Black and Gold. Thomas recorded his sixth shutout, arguably one of his easiest blankings, by making 31 stops, most of them routine. The Bruins didn’t allow any sustained pressure or flurries.
Once they retrieved pucks in their own end, they executed near-perfect breakouts to gain one of the most important components of their game: speed.
Aside from Seguin, the Bruins aren’t blessed with many burners. They have to work at generating speed through the neutral zone, which requires efficient breakouts, forwards coming back hard for pucks, and blowing up the ice at full tilt.
Last night, they did that for 60 minutes.
“We had good breakouts tonight,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “It also depends on how teams forecheck you. There’s teams that make it harder. It depends on the systems and it depends on the execution. I thought our execution was pretty good tonight, from D-to-D right up.
“We were having some success tonight coming up the middle. The centerman was coming down low, that was open, and we were making some good tape-to-tape passes. Once that happened, we just seemed to go up the ice with some speed. For us, it was about moving pucks forward.’’
Bergeron had his hat trick. Thomas recorded another shutout. Seguin sniped a high-glove wrister. Horton, after missing two games, had some of his best legs of the season.
Yes, the Bruins will take all that.