Sometime in the next two months, the Bruins will be facing a losing streak. Then again, maybe not.
After two games into the second half of the season, the Bruins (34-5-4) have yet to endure back-to-back losses, recovering from a 3-0 loss to the Seattle Kraken last week with wins over the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday and the Philadelphia Flyers. Monday. But with seven of the next eight games on the way – starting with Wednesday’s visit to the New York Islanders – this could be an opportunity to brush negative strands from their system.
“I always thought it would be healthy at some point to go through this,” coach Jim Montgomery said after practice Tuesday. “And honestly I’m quite surprised we didn’t go through the way we played from December 15 to January 2. Like, there were a lot of games where we weren’t sharp and our goalkeepers had to be great they were great.
“I think the biggest reason we’ve been so consistently good is because our defensive game has allowed some games, where our offense wasn’t very good, to score a goal or two and win those games. It kept us from falling apart.
“Also, we think about the future that will happen. Inevitably we will lose two in a row, you think.”
Maybe not yet, anyway. Montgomery was almost looking forward to seeing how the Bruins would react to the failure, believing that the positives would eventually outweigh the negatives of the relatively short shutout.
“I think it will, but I also love the fact that we take pride in not trying to be in it,” Montgomery said of slipping into a recession. “Then we can build on that when it comes time for the playoff. We find ways to improve. We find ways to fight back.”
After the Kraken snapped their home score streak at 22 games, the Bruins bounced back against the Maple Leafs (4-3) and Flyers (6-0), improving their record at the park to 21-1-3.
“We’ve been playing good hockey again here for the last two games,” said Montgomery. “I think we’re back playing Bruins hockey like we’ve been for a long time, and I think it’s hard to get anyone out of the lineup. It’s just that.”
Montgomery takes the opportunity to give fourth line center Thomas Nozick a rest. Joona Koppanen, who made her Bruins debut against Kraken, will be in the lineup against the Islanders in place of Nosek.
“Not that he deserves it,” Montgomery said of Nosek. “Just the chance to play Kubanen. [Nosek] He understands the situation and this is another game for him to get back to 100 per cent health.”
Expect more adjustments to the lineups. With 72 points in 43 games (1.68 per game), the Bruins are looking for a playoff berth early. Last year, the Washington Capitals secured a postseason spot with 100 points (1.22 per game), a goal the Bruins could realistically reach by March. But the Bruins face a heavy schedule (23 games) in the second half of the season. They are 13-4-1 on the road.
“We’re now building toward how do we improve the percentages to give us the best chance?” Montgomery said. And it allows us to experience different things. Like, we are playing against a certain opponent, we have to put a certain line together to see if they can handle this situation further. These are the things we’re looking at now.
“You don’t get this opportunity if you don’t have the start that we had.”
Montgomery on the play of defensemen Hampus Lindholm and Charlie McAvoy: “The best teams over the years have really good teams, and we’ve got really good D corps. When you have two guys who can handle a lot of minutes and 200-foot field hockey, you’re really lucky, because it doesn’t matter what Another team has it, whether they have one line or two, you can always go head-to-head.”
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at [email protected]