After recent home losses to the Colorado Avalanche and Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins Nation was thinking, “Here we go again, same Bruins as last year” but today Boston’s team has people thinking a little differently after seeing the Bruins defeat the Atlantic Division’s first-place Canadiens in overtime (2-1) in Montreal followed by an overtime loss (4-3) to the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh.
The Bruins (16-12-3) return to TD Garden Thursday night in a tie for second place with the Ottawa Senators in the Atlantic Division. Both clubs have 35 points on the season.
While winning both games was the objective, not too many followers of the Black and Gold expected coach Claude Julien’s club to return to Boston with three of a possible four points in their hip pockets but they have and Julien was pretty happy about it after the contest in Pittsburgh.
“We played a good game against a pretty good hockey club,” Julien said. “It took an overtime to decide a winner but it was a hard-fought game, so no complaints. I thought we did a good job of staying in there and even when we fell behind 3-2, we fought back in and found a way to get ourselves a really valuable point.”
“When you look at those two teams we played, first place in those divisions (Montreal in the Atlantic Division and Pittsburgh in the Metropolitan Division), and definitely three points on the road on top of that, it’s a good road trip. I mean, you gotta be happy with it. There’s no doubt you’d love to have that second point tonight (in Pittsburgh) but sometimes that’s just the way it goes so we go back home and, right now, the important thing is we need to be ready to play a team (Anaheim) that is waiting for us at home and is going to be well rested. We’re gonna have to be smart (Thursday).”
Brad Marchand, who scored his ninth goal of the season against Pittsburgh, echoed his coach’s sentiments.
“We played two tough teams, we got three points so we have to be happy with that but we have a big game (Thursday) again and we have to be prepared to have another good game,” said Marchand.
“In the League today, anyone can win on any given night and the big thing is about being consistent, I think, we’re working towards that. We have a lot of moving pieces, guys are in and out of the lineup a lot and when we have our full team, we’re a pretty good team and we can compete with anyone and know that but we do have to continue to score more goals and work on that and if we do that, again, we’re going to be a good team.”
As Marchand pointed out, mostly due to injuries this season, Boston’s lineup has been reshuffled on close to a nightly basis. That may be the case Thursday night as defenseman Kevan Miller (a California native) left the game in Pittsburgh after the second period with what Julien called, ”an upper-body situation.”
As Marchand observed, the Bruins will need to continue to be a good team Thursday when they host the Anaheim Ducks.
The Ducks last played on Tuesday in Dallas, dropping a 6-2 decision to the Stars. They will have the advantage of resting in Boston while the Bruins were playing in Pittsburgh then boarding a plane and traveling home.
Anaheim (15-10-5), like the Bruins, got off to a slow start to the season but are finding their stride and currently reside in a second-place tie in the Pacific Division with the Edmonton Oilers. Both clubs have 35 points on the season.
In the NHL’s overall standings, the Ducks are in 11th place while the Bruins are in 13th place.
These Ducks are flying high
The Ducks are led offensively by Corey Perry, who has scored seven goals and assisted on 19 others for a total of 26 points. He is 23rd in League scoring and sits one spot behind Marchand in that category.
Ryan Kesler (25th in the NHL) follows Perry in team scoring with 25 points on the strength of 12 goals and 13 assists.
Team captain Ryan Getzlaf (28th in League scoring) may have just three goals this season but he has assisted on 22 others to give him 25 points as well.
Cam Fowler is 10th among NHL defensemen with 18 points on seven goals and 11 assists. Nine of his points (four goals, five assists) have come on the power play.
In the crease, John Gibson has received the bulk of the playing time having appeared in 21 contests this season. He has a 10-8-0 record. Gibson brings a .908 save percentage and 2.64 goals against average to TD Garden.
Backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier is enjoying a fine season. He has appeared in 12 games and has posted a 5-2-1 record with a 2.65 goals against average and a .907 save percentage.
Compare and Contrast
Anaheim is 11th in the NHL with 83 goals scored and 12th with 81 goals against. Boston is 20th in the League with 74 goals scored and 8th with 75 goals against.
Boston is 7-7-0 at home while Anaheim is 5-6-4 on the road.
Anaheim is 6-3-1 in their last 10 games. Boston is 5-2-3 in its last 10 contests.
The Ducks have the third-best power play in the NHL. They have scored on 23.5 percent of their man-advantages. Boston’s power play has been limping along at a 13.2 percent rate and is 28th in the League.
Conversely, the Bruins penalty killing units are third-best in the NHL. They have successfully defended against 86.4 percent of opponents’ power plays. The Ducks PK is 22nd with a success rate of 80.6 percent.
The contest will be the 30th all-time between the two teams. Anaheim holds a 15-9-5 record versus Boston.
Blidh Recalled to Boston
Perhaps in a move to offset the Ducks physical style of play, the Bruins recalled forward Anton Blidh from their AHL affiliate in Providence. Blidh has the size (6-foot, 201 pounds) and combines speed and skill with a touch of grit that will allow him to take the heavy hits the Ducks like to dish out. He has skated in four games with Boston this season and has registered one assist.
Opening faceoff is scheduled for 7:00 pm ET and can be viewed on NESN and Prime Ticket.
Follow ESPN New Hampshire’s NHL Writer, Shawn Hutcheon, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.