BOSTON — The Bruins appear to be back.
The B’s used one of their best performances of the season to roll to a 3-0 win over the Washington Capitals on Thursday night, taking full advantage of a battered, bruised and likely fatigued Washington club. The win was Boston’s third in a row and now gives them their sixth three-game winning streak of the season.
It was the type of win that has become a staple of the Claude Julien era when the B’s are at their best. Boston was aggressive yet disciplined, used a balanced offensive attack to take advantage of its opponents mistakes and limited the Capitals’ space in all three zones. The result was a resounding win for a team that’s starting to hit its stride after two losses coming out of the Olympic break.
Thursday night’s win was also a bit of payback. The Bruins last lost on Saturday at home to these same Capitals. Washington made the Bruins pay for an uncharacteristically sloppy and undisciplined effort. Julien then lamented the fact following the loss that the Bruins didn’t play physically enough, and Boston responded in the rematch with a bruising game that started with 14 first-period hits.
Yet the Bruins were still able to find a balance between playing a physical and aggressive game with being smart. The end result was a penalty-free game, obviously the biggest key to slowing Washington’s second-ranked power play, which the Bruins could not do the first time around.
“It goes hand in hand,” center Gregory Campbell said. “The harder we work, it’s just going to create more chances for our team. The harder we work is probably going to limit the penalties we take. Sometimes penalties are, you can’t avoid them, but lazy penalties or penalties where your man gets a step on you and you have to pull somebody down, that’s what we want to avoid. It’s hand-in-hand. The harder we work, the less likely we’re going to find ourselves in the penalty box.”
The Bruins also excelled in taking advantage of a vulnerable Washington team. The Capitals were playing their second game in as many nights, their fourth in six days. The Bruins were also able to somewhat exploit what was a young and inexperienced defense corps. Boston did that by getting pucks deep and getting in on the forecheck, which was especially relentless. By pressuring Washington in its own zone, the Bruins were able to limit Washington’s ability to generate any sort of offense. The result was just 16 shots on goal for the Capitals and just 32 attempts.
“I think our guys did a great job of pinning them in,” Julien said. “I think our forecheck was really good again tonight. You know, we had, we wanted our guys to be a little bit more physical on the forecheck and finish their checks on these guys. They played last night, they’re a little young back there, so it was important for us to get on them physically and make them throw pucks away, and guys did a great job.”
The product — a three-game winning streak — would seem to indicate the Bruins are back on track, but more importantly, the process on Thursday night said that as well.
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