Things in Boston were not looking very rosy 11 days ago.
The Bruins were sitting at 8-8-1 after losing five of their last seven games to start the month of November. A disappointing 5-4 defeat to the San Jose Sharks was the exact opposite of what Claude Julien’s troops wanted to do to kick off a crucial five-game homestand. They sat just one point ahead of last place Toronto in the Atlantic Division and three points out of a playoff spot.
Since then, things are looking much more sunny on Causeway Street.
Boston has reeled off five straight victories and find themselves in third place in the Atlantic as they jettison to Western Canada to begin their three-game road trip on Wednesday in Edmonton. They find themselves within striking distance of the Ottawa Senators for second-place in the Atlantic and, more importantly, find themselves in the playoff structure post-Thanksgiving.
There’s plenty of adjectives we can use to describe what we’ve learned about the Bruins during their recent run of good form. Some examples of which include….
One of Boston’s early season woes was (the lack of) a penalty kill. They were rooted to the bottom of the League for the better part of six weeks as they gave opponents more power play goals than the Salvation Army.
Bruins kill of weak hooking call on Colin Miller. 16th straight PP they've killed for an improving Bruins penalty kill unit
— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) November 27, 2015
However, they are trending up. The Bruins have allowed just one goal in 16 shorthanded situations in their last five contests. Outside of Keith Yandle’s fluky power-play tally on Friday, Julien’s bunch have been near perfect on the PK.
Their standout performance came in Toronto when they went a perfect 6/6 against the Maple Leafs. Tuukka Rask repelled 12 shots from the blue and white en route to a 39 save performance, which was arguably his best of the season.
It’s a good sign to see the Bruins closing the door on the penalty kill recently but there’s still work to be done. They still own the third-worst penalty kill in the League (75.3%).
When opportunity has knocked, Boston has answered.
Their Black Friday matinée against the New York Rangers is a perfect example. With less than five minutes to go, the Bruins power-play, which had scored just once in their previous four games, had the perfect opportunity to do what they have done all season: punish opponents. Surely enough, Ryan Spooner lit the lamp with 3:46 left in regulation to tie the game at three.
The momentum generated from that goal carried over as Boston dominated the final moments of that contest, eventually leading to David Krejci’s game-winner just two minutes later.
The same thing can be said about Frank Vatrano. Bruins Nation has found themselves a new cult hero of sorts after the rookie winger took a bad penalty in the third period in Detroit with the Black and Gold on the back foot. The penalty kill did it’s job and Vatrano repaid the faith shown in him by Julien with an overtime goal to win a critical division game.
A good team takes advantage of the situations they have been given. Right now, the Bruins are doing just that.
Think for a moment about the different situations Boston has found themselves in over the last ten days.
Last weekend against the Leafs at TD Garden, they dominated much of that game but ran into an inspired James Reimer. Zdeno Chara made sure the Bruins got their just reward with a goal in the dying moments.
Two nights later, Toronto turned the tables and dominated much of that game, especially in the final 40 minutes. Rask stood on his head making several critical saves. Krejci’s shootout winner gave the B’s two more crucial points in the standings thanks to the performance of their recently scrutinized franchise goaltender.
In Detroit, the Red Wings put the Bruins on their heels for the final 40 minutes of that game. Rookie defenseman Colin Miller made sure the Bruins got a point they scarcely deserved before fellow rookie Vatrano gave them the extra one in OT.
On Black Friday, Boston faced one of the Eastern Conference powerhouses in the Rangers and went toe-to-toe with them. They blow two leads yet still come back and earn their signature victory of the season.
The theme of resiliency has been prevalent. When faced with a challenge, the Bruins have not shied away from them. Their mental toughness has come a long way since the beginning of the season when the club looked mentally fragile. Whenever the Bruins blew a lead, they began to make more mistakes, further digging their own grave.
Now, this resilient bunch is playing for and with each other. The “Trust in Boston” mantra that is the dressing room battle cry to their fans is playing out on the ice. For the first time this season, the Bruins look like a united squad. They may not be the most talented group but their heart, character, resiliency, and willingness to battle for one another are the most admirable attributes any hockey team can share.
For Boston, it’s coming to light at just the right time.