BOSTON -- It doesn’t take a London Underground automated message to remind Bruins defensemen to “mind the gap” in the Stanley Cup finals against the Blackhawks.
Coach Claude Julien pointed to the efforts of his defensemen in giving Chicago’s fleet-footed forwards too much leeway early in Game 1. Julien commented that his defensemen were “a little bit loose” and weren’t quick enough in meeting the on-coming rush through the neutral zone.
At times -- particularly during the first-period onslaught when the Blackhawks outshot the Bruins, 19-4 -- the blueliners were on their heels again early on in Game 2.
“They're a team that excels if you give them space in the neutral zone,” Julien said during Sunday’s press conference at TD Garden. “We’ve just got to be on top of them a little quicker. Those adjustments that were made, maybe it didn't look like that in the first, but as the game went on, it got better.”
Part of that was just weathering the storm, as the Blackhawks came out flying.
“I think that’s an area that -- you’re always trying to have a good gap,” said defenseman Adam McQuaid, who picked up an assist on Daniel Paille’s winning goal in overtime. “The first period, they were coming at us and coming at us, so at times, it made it difficult to get up. But you want to try to do that as much as you can.”
McQuaid went on to mention that confidence is paramount to good defensive play, whether in the defensive or offensive zone. A split-second decision missed here and there can result in the puck in the back of the net or a missed scoring chance.
The same applies for rookie defenseman Torey Krug, who’s been burned by a couple of poor decisions made in vain while trying to clear the defensive zone in each of the first two games.
“He doesn't lack confidence,” Julien said of Krug’s play in the series. “That's what I want from that young player -- don't lack confidence. The odd mistake, I know it's the Cup finals, but there are mistakes made in the Cup finals like anywhere else.”
Krug echoed that sentiment Sunday. For a blueliner whose meteoric presence was announced via his offense during the Eastern Conference semifinals against the New York Rangers, there’s always the potential for danger. It’s a high-risk, high-reward proposition.
Krug’s early bone-rattling hit on Brandon Bollig during Game 2 was proof that the 22-year-old wasn’t going to let his Game 1 blunder have any lingering impact. But the Michigan State product knows it all begins with smart decisions made in the defensive zone.
It’s a lesson heeded by his fellow defensemen.
“We try to take care of the puck and get the forecheck going,” said Krug, who logged 18:02 of ice time with two shots on goal in Game 2. “That’s a big part of our game, getting the puck in deep and letting the forecheckers do their work. I think every part of the game revolves around that. It’s important for us.”