The blue-collar, lunch-pail mentality has been part of the Boston Bruins' DNA for decades, since the end of the high-scoring Bobby Orr-Phil Esposito era in the 1970s. The names have changed, but the Bruins' essence — honest effort, toughness and tenacity — have remained the same.
Rarely have they had to rely on that identity as much as they have this season.
The Bruins, who began a four-game Western trip Monday with a 3-2 loss at Anaheim against the Ducks, and will face the Kings on Tuesday at Staples Center, have been rocked by injuries to franchise defenseman Zdeno Chara (left knee), big-bodied defenseman Adam McQuaid (broken thumb), and skillful forward David Krejci (undisclosed), among others. The Bruins are fourth in the Atlantic Division and lead the wild-card standings in the East, short of what is expected of a team that won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and lost to Chicago in the 2013 Cup Final.
“We've faced a lot of adversity this year, but I think at the same time, it makes you a stronger team. It builds a lot of character, and you know how to handle it down the road if that presents itself again,” center Patrice Bergeron, a two-time winner of the Selke Trophy as the NHL's best defensive forward, said Monday morning.
“I think it is somewhat a good thing. We can learn from it and relish the challenge and keep trying to get better as a team. It's never getting satisfied, and getting the job done no matter who's in there.”
The Bruins averaged 2.46 goals over their first 24 games, down from the 3.15 they averaged last season, to rank third in the NHL. They scored two goals or fewer in seven of the eight games they played before they faced the Ducks, including a 2-0 victory and a pair of 2-1 decisions. For them, this is a 2-1 league. Or so they hope.
“I don't know that we're looking for those. We're stuck in that situation where we're not scoring many goals right now,” Coach Claude Julien said.
The defense has experienced constant change since Chara injured his knee on Oct. 23, but Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug have stepped up. So have call-ups Joe Morrow and Zach Trotman. Julien has had to shift his forwards around and might have found an effective combination in Milan Lucic, Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson.
“We're missing key players. There's no hiding that,” center Chris Kelly said. “But I think our system and our structure is something that we can always fall back on regardless of who's in and who's out of the lineup. I think we've done a pretty good job of coming back and playing our system and relying on that.”
This trip likely will show how good a job they've done.
“L.A. has won the Cup twice in the past three years, so it's definitely a measuring stick for us,” Bergeron said. “All the teams on this trip are hard to play against and have a lot of skills and are at the top of the standings in the last few years. It's going to be a big challenge for us.”
The St. Louis Blues are expected to decide Tuesday whether they'll offer a contract to goaltender Martin Brodeur, who joined them on a tryout last week.
They contacted him after a lower-body injury put Brian Elliott out on a week-to-week basis and they became concerned about the inexperience of Jordan Binnington, who is backing up Jake Allen. Brodeur, the NHL leader in career wins with 688, could play during the Blues' trip this week to face Chicago, Nashville, and the New York Islanders.
Can he really help? Brodeur, 42, showed signs of slowing last season with the New Jersey Devils, who didn't offer him another contract. He compiled a goals-against average of 2.51 and a save percentage of .901 in 39 appearances.
“If he says he can play, I'm putting him in. Bottom line,” Blues Coach Ken Hitchcock said in St. Louis. “This is really Marty's call, Marty's standard. As a goalie, on his worst days, he's awfully good.”
The Blues are hoping he has more good days left than bad ones, but that's not guaranteed.
Daniel Alfredsson will announce his retirement during a pregame ceremony Thursday at Ottawa. He spent his first 17 NHL seasons with the Senators and one season with Detroit. Back problems prevented him from returning this season. He finishes with 444 goals and 1,157 points in 1,246 NHL games, plus Olympic gold (2006) and silver (2014) medals with Sweden.
Connor McDavid, the 17-year-old phenom who's expected to be the No. 1 draft pick in June, was invited to the selection camp for Canada's world junior championship team, though he's still recovering from a broken hand he suffered in a fight on Nov. 12. The world junior tournament will be held in Montreal and Toronto, Dec. 26 through Jan. 5.
Weakened by injuries at center, New Jersey has signed 34-year-old Scott Gomez. At practice Monday, he centered for Jaromir Jagr, 42, and Patrik Elias, 38. In the last four seasons, Gomez scored 13 goals for Montreal, San Jose and Florida and was minus-45 on defense. Maybe General Manager Lou Lamoriello knows something no one else does.