Friday, January 6, 2012
Cam Neely likes B's depth, scoring balance
By James Murphy
BOSTON -- With their 9-0 rout of the Calgary Flames on Thursday night, the Boston Bruins have put up 15 goals in their past two games and are once again proving that they are more than just a defensively sound team. The Bruins had seven players with more than one point Thursday, and as they prepare to welcome the Vancouver Canucks to TD Garden for a rematch of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, they look more and more like they could become the first team to repeat as Cup champions since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998.
The last time the Bruins scored nine goals was on Oct. 28, 1998, against the Montreal Canadiens. Cam Neely was two years removed from his playing days then, but following another offensive outburst from his team on Thursday, the Bruins president was thinking back to the days when the lines he played on -- with the likes of Adam Oates, Joe Juneau, Bob Joyce, Craig Janney and Dmitri Kvartalnov -- carried Bruins teams but never had quite enough depth behind them to get over the hump and win a Stanley Cup. Neely can only wonder what might have been in 1988 and 1990, when he and the Bruins lost to the Edmonton Oilers' dynasty in the Stanley Cup finals. But now he is happy to be part of what is arguably the deepest team in the NHL as an executive and to be wearing that coveted Stanley Cup ring that eluded him as a player.
Bruins president Cam Neely, shown here at the banner-raising ceremony in October, said Thursday he's happy with how this season is unfolding.
"I certainly can appreciate depth," Neely told ESPNBoston.com with a smile Thursday night outside the Bruins' locker room. "That's something I've really grown to appreciate over the last season and a half here. It makes such a huge difference. You look at the score 9-0 and the scoring is throughout the lineup. Everybody is involved and it is great to have."
There were times last season when even Neely publicly expressed his desire for the team to open up their game and create offense. But just as the harshest critics of coach Claude Julien's defense-first system have learned, when a team has as much depth as the Bruins do and buys into Julien's system, they score and score in bunches. The Bruins have scored 135 goals and are averaging 3.65 goals per game while allowing only 68 at a 1.84 clip.
"It's one of the things Claude and the coaching staff brought in when they first came to the organization," Neely pointed out. "Let's shore up our end of the ice and get that in a place where everybody understands the system and how to play within it. They took care of that first from the goaltender on out and then tried to create some offense. Over time that offense came but they never stopped solidifying the defense.
"It just shows how the players understand how we have to play to be successful. You look at the goals for and goals against and the differential is pretty impressive. They understand at this point -- and most of them have been together for a long time now -- of how they have to play to be successful and it's showing especially this year for a long stretch of time."
Bruins winger Patrice Bergeron has seen the same steady improvement as the Bruins stick to their system, and he believes it started to come to fruition late last season.
"Honestly, I have to say that even last year I felt like that as well," Bergeron said. "We had pretty much the same team after the trade deadline, and I felt like from there on we started chipping in and doing everything for the team. And I think we just carried that along this year. And it's been great and we've been obviously keeping that going and staying with it.
"I think it's confidence, honestly. I think the depth we've been talking about all year has been helping us a lot, but four lines feeling confident, feeling good about themselves obviously helps a lot. And every line wants to contribute and go out there and find ways to score."
Even on a night like Thursday, when the Bruins' most consistent line of Brad Marchand, Bergeron and Tyler Seguin was missing Marchand (who was out with the flu), they were still able to slot Benoit Pouliot in. Pouliot notched three assists as he and his new linemates combined for three goals. It was as if they didn't even miss the pesky Marchand and his 15 goals.
"I think I was talking to Bergy and we said we were going to send [Marchand] a text at the same time saying 'We still miss you,'" Seguin said with a laugh. "But you know I heard he is jabbing at me in the papers so I got to jab back at Marchy. But I thought Pouliot did do a great job. He's fast and obviously it's hard to replace a guy like Marchy but I thought he stepped up his game tonight for sure."
Pouliot is simply happy to be on the right side of a 9-0 game and playing for a team that can win so easily when they're missing one of their leading goal scorers. Pouliot acknowledged that he never expected a team known for defense to be such an offensive juggernaut.
"It's pretty fun to watch, fun to be a part of," Pouliot said. "I didn't expect that at all, scoring like we've been scoring all year. Our plus differential is pretty high and it's good but our goalies are the main thing keeping us in the game. We backed them up, keeping the momentum on our side and scoring goals and playing pretty well."
With the wins and goals coming at the rate they are, Pouliot and the Bruins appear to be poised for more fun this spring as their depth has them set for another Cup run.