The Bruins are 13-13-0 at home this year. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)
The TD Garden had its share of empty seats for Thursday’s game between the Bruins and visiting Sharks. The blizzard that’s walloped Boston all day and night had something to do with that, of course.
But at the same time, the truth is that the on-ice product (especially the home version), has been nothing to risk your car or safety over.
For the second year in a row, the Bruins have struggled to do much of anything at home. They had just 17 wins in 41 home games a year ago (the Bruins make the playoffs last year if they take care of business in their home finale), and it’s been more of the same this year, as they entered Thursday’s game with just 12 wins in 25 home games to date.
It’s tough to diagnose exactly what’s gone wrong at home for the second year in a row, but the obvious? Here, the Bruins have been uninspired, shaken, and just straight-up unwatchable at times.
But the Bruins were anything but on Thursday night.
They struck early, hit often, and counterpunched the Sharks with the hunger rarely seen on Causeway Street since 2015.
And though it’s just one game, of course, it was an undeniable focal point for this team’s first game under their new bench boss.
“I liked that we reestablished some urgency in this building,” B’s interim coach Bruce Cassidy said after the 6-3 victory.
Urgency was the name of the Black and Gold’s win, which snapped a two-game slide (and a three-game losing streak to the Sharks), but what made it noteworthy was the fact that it began like so many other games that the B’s have let slip this season.
The Bruins got on the Sharks’ Martin Jones early (about as early as they could) when David Backes potted his 12th goal of the year just 52 seconds into the game. But the Sharks responded in time, as Joe Thornton capitalized on a turnover for his fourth goal of the season, scored 6:59 after the Backes goal. It was the perfect (and in my best DMX voice) ‘here we go again’ moment that could capture the essence of this Bruins team and what’s gone wrong for this club. Read as: Anything and everything.
But the Bruins did not let the Thornton goal snowball into multiple goals against, and instead responded with a physical shift right after the goal, along with two goals in 1:39, the first on a putaway by Patrice Bergeron, and the second on a power-play bullet off the stick of David Pastrnak, to end a first period that finished with a 3-1 B’s lead and Jones planted on the bench.
“I thought the feeling on the bench was pretty positive and we thought we had a pretty good start. Yes, they scored that goal, but we still had chances in their zone,” Bergeron said of their response. “I thought we stayed with it and we kept being on our toes and being good on the forecheck and creating some chances out of it. That’s kind of what you need to get that momentum back.”
And when the Sharks made it a one-goal game in the second period, the Bruins escaped the second period with their multi-goal lead intact, with a net-front goal from Tim Schaller and a second power-play goal off Pastrnak’s stick.
It was the high-intensity, complete game that’s become a road exclusive for this group.
It’s what the Bruins need more of, too.
“I think a lot more participants, myself included; doing all the little things it takes to win games,” Backes said. “Blocking shots, getting pucks deep, second and third efforts in critical efforts, and the result speaks for how much we invested in the game.”
With 16 of the B’s final 26 games this year set to take place at TD Garden, the Bruins know that their home consistency could be the biggest difference between a surprise playoff berth or the club’s third consecutive failure to make the postseason.
“We knew we needed a great effort and we certainly provided that,” Backes noted. “We’ve got to know what it took and how hard it is to bring games and bring that same effort on Saturday afternoon and put this one behind us after we brave this snow storm.”
On a night seemingly unworthy of the drive to the rink, the Bruins showed up and made a half-full building rock. And now, with a back-to-back weekend slate on deck with rivalry games against the Canucks and Canadiens (and full buildings expected each night), it’s on the Bruins to make a safer travel worth the effort, which at times has been more difficult than any snowy drive.