“With no fans, there’s no momentum swings other than what you can do within your group.” — Brad Marchand after the Bruins’ morning skate Thursday
Brad Marchand — now the proud wearer of an alternate captain’s ‘A’ — isn’t wrong about much, but he was proven wrong by his Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday in TD Garden.
In the Bruins’ home opener, their first game at the Garden with every seat empty instead of filled, Marchand and the formerly offensively challenged Bruins rallied from 2-0 and 3-2 down, blew a 4-3 lead, and then prevailed 5-4 in a shootout after Tuukka Rask bailed them out in overtime.
There were more than enough “momentum swings” to excite even the exposed cushions looking on.
It took the Bruins until 57 seconds into the third period of their fourth game to score a 5-on-5 goal. But after Jack Studnicka scored his first NHL goal and cut the Flyer’s lead to 2-1, the floodgates opened. Three of Boston’s four third-period goals came with the teams at full strength, and coach Bruce Cassidy was pretty certain the awakening had something to do with what was said during the second intermission.
“It was great to see them respond. I mean it’s in the room,” Cassidy said. “What was addressed after the second period was essentially we’re too easy to play against offensively. We’re a hard team to play against defensively, I think we’re willing to play the right way, but offensively, we were too easy to play against. So we discussed the couple of ways we can get better, be harder to play against and maybe a little more forceful manner so hopefully, the message gets across.”
If Cassidy was speaking in a “forceful manner,” he probably wasn’t alone. And that might be where Marchand’s morning comment wasn’t that far off. The “other than what you can do within your group” is what the Bruins had to find and in a test of leadership and character, Boston passed.
The Bruins won 16 of 35 games when trailing or tied after two periods last season. They’ve been a resilient group for a decade, built around the core of Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Tuukka Rask. Famously two other key leadership pieces, captain Zdeno Chara and defenseman Torey Krug are gone now. Others are going to have to chime in. Marchand, with his letter, and Bergeron, with his ‘A’ now a ‘C,’ are going to have to figure out how to strike the right tone to get the older guys going and blend in the younger players.
It looked for a while as though that spark was going to remain elusive. There’s no way to know exactly what was said before the Bruins took the ice for the third period, but clearly, it struck the right chord. Cassidy said he’d been preaching getting to the inside and getting to the net. Studnicka and Charlie Coyle scored a couple of dirty goals to tie the score 2-2.
The Bruins may have also benefited from the vacant viewing area. The Bruins’ first two periods might’ve brought out the boo-birds.
“Your home-opener you haven’t scored … they might of sort of got the guys frustrated too. You never know, their expectations, are we’re going to go out and play well and score,” Cassidy noted.
The Bruins have often turned boos to cheers in recent years. We’ll never know how negative feedback might’ve fazed them Thursday. But we do know at gut-check time against one of the favorites to challenge them for supremacy in the East, the Bruins overcame two deficits and then hung in there when a late goal sent them to overtime.
It was the type of win that could make newcomers to the team feel more comfortable and a victory that definitely gave the leaders a lesson in how to motivate their peers — empty building or not.