Bruins Trip West Lays Groundwork for Turn-Around After Rough Start

The West: land of hopes, land of dreams, land of destiny.

In our nation’s early history, when the East provided nothing but woes for the ambitious Americans, families took a leap of faith; they packed up, and headed west.

Over a century and a half later, the Bruins, weary after an 0-3 start, made the same move. Two games later, it appears the trip may have paid off.

A Painful Start

(Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)
(Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

Three games into the season, the Boston Bruins were nothing short of disappointing. After a tough 6-2 loss to Winnipeg, in which the team imploded after a solid first period, the Bruins were poised to take on two of the Eastern Conference’s strongest teams – the Montreal Canadiens, and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Those two games were all as depressing, as Boston dropped their only home game to Montreal this season (technically, the Winter Classic at Gillette is a neutral site), and followed up by blowing an early 2-0 lead against Tampa, ultimately dropping that one 6-3.

Bruins fans across the nation were worried. As a Red Sox fan, I was hauntingly reminded of the Red Sox’s treacherous season. Sports fans across New England had good reason to be worried that this winter would be just like last summer – watching a team that had recently been so successful drop out of the race by mid-season.

West they went.

Westward, Ho!

Sometimes, a road trip can prove to be a great thing for a struggling team. Boston needed just that.

The B’s headed to Colorado on Wednesday night, in need of a breakout victory against two beloved former Bruins – Jarome Iginla, and the more recent departure, Carl Soderberg. A breakout win is just what they got.

With Jonas Gustavsson in net, the Bruins jumped out to a jaw-dropping 5-0 lead. It wasn’t until late into the third period that Colorado notched a goal, and by that point, it was much too late – even for the Bruins team that had dropped several leads in the previous week. The Bruins chased Semyon Varlamov from the Avalance net in a day of firsts for the Bruins, and closed it out with a David Krejci empty netter to secure a 6-2 victory.

Three days later, it was off to Arizona. In years past, the Coyotes haven’t exactly struck fear into the hearts of their opponents. However, heading into Saturday, the story was much different than expected.

Led by youngsters Max Domi and Anthony Duclair, as well as goaltender Mike Smith, the Yotes had jumped out to an impressive 3-1 start – having dished out solid losses to Los Angeles (4-1), Pittsburgh (2-1), and Anaheim (4-0).

Meanwwhile, the Bruins were in desperate need of another win, against a Coyotes team that looked as good as ever.

The game did not start as Boston had hoped. Just 2:12 into the first period, a weird play in the crease led to a kicked in puck by Boston defenseman Kevan Miller, and the Bruins ceded a goal on their opponents first shot of the game.

The Bruins’ woes continued. Boston vastly out-shot the Coyotes headed into the midway point of the second period, but had yet to tally a goal. It was then that Kevan Miller dropped the mitts with Joe Vitale, and dished out some of the greatest haymakers in the feisty defenseman’s career. In the words of NESN broadcaster Jack Edwards, Miller “used Vitale’s face as a punching bag.” Vitale started the fisticuffs, but one thing’s for sure – by the end, he wished he hadn’t:

*Good job by Kevan Miller holding off at the end – he could’ve dished out some serious face-mashing if he were a merciless fighter.

Four minutes later, the Bruins found the back of the net, thanks to Tyler Randell’s second NHL goal (which he scored on his second shot… how about that shooting percentage!).

David Krecji’s bomb on the powerplay put Boston on top later in the second, and the Bruins headed into the third period up by one. A beauty of a goal by Brad Marchand on the penalty kill extended the lead to two, and it looked as though Boston had locked up the W.

But then, the all-too familiar collapse began. The Bruins gave up a pair of relatively quick goals, and blew the lead, as Arizona tied it at three aside 7:21 into the third.

It was gut check time.

Patrice Bergeron, whose “St. Patrice” nickname probably grew in popularity quite a bit last night, tipped in a Ryan Spooner shot on the powerplay to take the lead back. The Bruins held off a solid Arizona surge, led by Tuukka Rask, who was finally beginning to look like the Vezina-caliber goaltender we all know and love.

Bergeron fluttered another powerplay goal past Smith with just over a minute to go, and locked up the victory for the B’s.

The Road Ahead

After a shaky three game start to the season, the Bruins finally began to look like a team with some substance on their short trip west. Following a breakout offensive performance in Colorado, the Bruins persevered in Glendale after what looked like another collapse approaching, and the B’s left the west with all 4 possible points.

Tuukka Rask recovered from a shaky start against the Coyotes, and made some huge saves for the Bruins to keep them alive late. Brad Marchand returned from then sideline, and made the difference with a shorthanded goal, while tallying five shots.

The Bruins head home with a lot more confidence than they had when they left, having proved that they can break out offensively, and persevere through hardships.

After a three-day rest, the team will host the Flyers on Wednesday night, and will remain on the east coast for quite a while. It’s imperative for Boston to continue earning points back east, so that Boston can prove to us, and themselves that they’re worthy of competing.

Here’s to hoping that the success of the West comes home with the team.