The Bruins are two winning third periods separated from the early season malaise that plagued them, but while some areas have improved in order to get the Bruins some wins, it’s been more of the same from Boston’s first-liners. That’s been a good thing.
On Saturday, David Krejci’s trio was as good as it’s been all season, with its members producing a Zdeno Chara power-play goal and tiring out the Maple Leafs in a 3-1 B’s win.
With Saturday’s win, one in which Jarome Iginla may have been the best player on the ice, members of the first line have had at least a point in all but two games this season: a shutout loss against the Avalanche in the third game of the season and last Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the Islanders.
As the season progresses, that Islanders game, one in which Krejci, Iginla and Milan Lucic still got seven shots on goal, looks to be the outlier in a campaign that has seen those three produce pretty steadily.
Iginla didn’t have a Gordie Howe hat trick Saturday (though he would have had James Reimer not robbed him in the third), but he gave a friendly reminder that at age 36 he still brings a top-line skill set with a side of nasty.
Given that Saturday’s Toronto-Boston first-round rematch (or, you know, normal division game) was a Hockey Night in Canada game, hockey fans all over were treated to a lesson in just how well Iginla has fit in with the Bruins.
Iginla was dominant on a night in which the first line was relentless in doing what it does when it’s at its best: wearing the opponent down. With Iginla’s six shots on goal and the Krejci line’s prolonged stays in the Toronto zone, anyone wondering whether Iginla could still be a top player when the Penguins didn’t bring him back learned that not only can Iginla still play, he can still play a large role in the outcome of a game.
This wasn’t a case of the line going out and scoring a ton. In a 3-1 game that featured an empty-netter, goals weren’t easy to come by. Truth be told, looking at the box score shows that both the team’s ability to overcome the loss of Adam McQuaid to an injury after two shifts and the Bruins’ strong special teams play were the most notable reasons they came away with a win.
The Bruins killed three penalties, including a holding the stick penalty in the final minutes of the game from Carl Soderberg with the B’s holding onto a one-goal lead. They also got a pair of power-play goals.
Iginla and his linemates did much of the leg work on the first of the Bruins’ two tallies on the man advantage. With Jay McClement in the box for holding, Krejci won a faceoff and drew the puck back to Torey Krug. The emerging defenseman then sent a pass down low to Iginla, who fired a shot on net and was able to get his own rebound and feed Chara. From there, Chara buried it past Reimer to get the B’s on the board.
While Krejci goes down as the unsung hero on the play given that he doesn’t get a point out of it, it was Iginla’s relentlessness to stick with the play that produced the goal. He was hardly done there.
Just 45 seconds into the second period, Iginla dropped the gloves with David Clarkson for his third fighting major of the season. He and the Leafs power forward fought a pretty even bout, and though it took an effective player off the ice for the B’s, Iginla wasn’t concerned he was hurting any momentum the Bruins might have had.
Whether dropping the gloves, battling with old friend Dion Phaneuf or pretty much walking through Nazem Kadri to get to the net on a scoring chance in the third period, Iginla has his coach clearly satisfied with how the veteran has stepped in.
"A player who’s been around the league for that long a lot of times doesn’t even want to do that stuff or doesn’t feel that it’s his job," Julien said. "He’s going to do whatever it takes to help our team out. I'm really impressed with him since he’s been here."
Whether it’s the presence of Iginla or something else, it seems all three members of the line are motivated to perform. In a season in which the second line has struggled to produce and chunks of the roster have fallen asleep at points, Krejci’s line -- known over the years for being streaky -- has been very consistent. It isn’t ridiculous to think Iginla has something to do with that.
“I felt coming in you want to be a part of the line and help the line,” he said. “Krech and Looch have been playing together for a while and they’re very successful and you want to come in and help continue that. I think as a line over the year, it’s building.
“We want to wear other teams down, but we want to put pressure and offensive pressure on them and put some in. I think we’re getting more looks on a nightly basis and spending more time in their zone than ours and I think we’re starting to read off each other and starting to get some real chemistry.”