VANCOUVER — The final score Saturday night was a little ugly, sure. But after a long week that stretched from the disaster that was the Pittsburgh game to a 6-2 loss to the Canucks, the Bruins emerged from their longest road trip of the season satisfied with the way they played, the way they won, and simply the way they held up under fire.
There was injury. There was illness. There was a 15-game suspension.
Still, the Bruins finished a 3-1-0 trip through Toronto and Western Canada, finding ways to eke out victories under exceedingly difficult circumstances.
“Definitely lots of adversity this past week that we’ve had to face and battle through, but it speaks a lot of, I guess, the character and the team and the system that we have,” Patrice Bergeron said. “I think we believe a lot in [Claude Julien’s] system and it doesn’t really matter who is out of the lineup. We just try to go out there and play as a whole and do the job together.”
The Bruins ended the week missing four forwards (Loui Eriksson, Chris Kelly, Daniel Paille, and Shawn Thornton), with a few likely out for a long time. They also ended the week missing two defensemen (Dougie Hamilton, Adam McQuaid), with one out for a lengthy period.
And those were just the guys who couldn’t play.
Dennis Seidenberg took a puck to the right side of his jaw Thursday night against Edmonton and didn’t skip a shift, despite the “buzzing” he felt and the swollen grapefruit he was left with on his face. Jarome Iginla appeared to seriously injure his finger in a first-period fight with Ryan Kesler on Saturday, but returned for the start of the second period.
Because of the injuries, the Bruins were forced to bring up a good chunk of the Providence roster. Kevan Miller was recalled Dec. 2 on an emergency basis, and the Bruins added forwards, Matt Fraser, Ryan Spooner, and Nick Johnson during the road trip.
“I think it says a lot about the resiliency of this team,” said Bruins forward Reilly Smith, who scored both goals in Saturday’s loss. “There’s a lot of really good character guys, a lot of help from guys like Fraser and Spooner and Johnny, [Miller] as well, just coming in, stepping in and being factors in every game, every shift they’ve been out there. There’s a lot of good players here and I think it shows a lot of character.”
It wasn’t only the injuries. The Bruins had a stomach bug that swept through the team, starting with Gregory Campbell playing through it against Toronto, then moving on to Zdeno Chara, Chad Johnson, Miller, Tuukka Rask, and Smith, possibly hitting others, too. (Smith played well on Saturday night, hours after he was sent home from the morning skate with the bug.)
“It has been pretty stressful, especially with the time change, lots of travel, playing every second day, having a lot of guys being sick,” Seidenberg said. “So it’s been challenging, but I think you always grow out of those situations.”
Plus, despite it all, the Bruins managed to maintain their place atop the Atlantic Division, 3 points ahead of Montreal. They are in second place in the East, just 1 point behind Pittsburgh.
“It’s been tough,” Torey Krug said. “Fought through a lot of things. Lot of stuff on our minds. Teammate back in Boston. Guys battling the flu. Lot of injuries. For us to come out the way we did, we’re happy with that, but we’re not content moving forward.”
The good news for the Bruins, as they continue to deal with players out of their lineup, is that the team’s next nine games are all against teams not in playoff position. Before they head to California and face the Ducks, Kings, and Sharks the second week of January, the Bruins have games against the Flames, Sabres (2), Predators (2), Senators (2), Islanders, and Jets.
That should help them, as they attempt to keep up their pace, with Hamilton, Eriksson, Kelly, and Thornton likely to be unable to play until late this month, at the earliest.
Still, even with all that the Bruins are going through, even with three wins in four games on the road trip and four wins in their last five games, the Bruins weren’t entirely happy, not after finishing the trip with a game in which Rask had to be pulled after allowing four goals to the Canucks.
“We come into the road trip expecting to win every game, because that’s just who we are,” Krug said. “We did a good job the first three games. This one [on Saturday], we just let get away from us. But we played good hockey, missing a lot of guys. It’s something that we’re happy with, but we’re not content with. We’re going to go back to Boston, regroup and get ready for the next game.”
. . .
Brad Marchand kissed his ring finger, the one that sports the 2011 Stanley Cup ring, after skirmishing with Kesler of the Canucks Saturday.
“I did it after [Kesler] was eye-gouging me,’’ Marchand said. “Just my emotions were a little high after that. He’s welcome to say what he wants. We both play different games, and whatever happens on the ice stays out there.”
Kesler saw it differently.
“Obviously, no class,” Kesler said of Marchand. “I’m a firm believer you win with class and you lose with class, and it’s all I got to say about that.”
Julien did not defend Marchand.
“He’s a good player and he’s an agitator,” Julien said. “There’s some good things to that part of his game, but there's certain areas where, again, I’ve said it before, you can’t cross the line. Sometimes his emotions get the better of him. We’ve worked with him and we’re going to continue to work with him. The perception that it gives our organization is not what you want to see with those kind of things. Certainly something that we’re going to deal with.
“He’s too good of a player and we don’t want him to be a different player, but there are certain things we want him to be different at. From what I hear, what happened, that’s definitely not something that we will accept in our organization.”