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How the Bruins have become Team Unity, and why it matters

02.04.11 at 8:57 am ET
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Just four minutes into Thursday’s slugfest at the Garden, Stars forward Adam Burish came in on Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask and fired a shot several seconds after the whistle had clearly blown, stopping play.

That is a big hockey no-no.

And Andrew Ference made sure Burish paid the penalty. The Bruins defenseman came over to enforce the hockey the law, eventually drawing Burish into a fight ‘€” which Ference clearly won ‘€” and a message had been sent. Don’t mess with these Bruins or you pay the price, especially on Boston’s home ice.

“We’€™re a tight group,” said Patrice Bergeron, who scored twice and assisted on an empty-netter. “We’€™ve always said that and we all know that. We’€™re ‘€¦ we get along real well off the ice and we try to bring that on the ice. I think that Ference fight is the best example just by showing that he took a shot after the whistle on Tuukka and Andy responded right away. So I think it’€™s ‘€¦ it showed our unity, and we’ve got to keep going.”

As for Ference himself, he said Thursday’s win showed how the Bruins can get back to being the right mix of talent and toughness, just like 2008-09, when they were the top seed in the East and a favorite to get to the Stanley Cup finals.

“One of the good things we did in that year, and something we’€™ve established over the last few is, when our team is emotionally and physically involved, we’€™re a very good team,” Ference said. “We’€™ve proven that the other way around, too. When it’€™s not there, we lose games. You know, go back to the Carolina series a couple years ago. I think that’€™s what almost all of us pointed our fingers at, it was missing. We know that that has to be there for us to be successful, and it was good [against Dallas].”

Bruins coach Claude Julien certainly had no problem with it.

“It was an opportunity for us to step up for each other, and we did and I thought it certainly played in our favor,” Julien said of the four fights in four minutes ‘€” three in the opening four seconds. “We’€™re a team that can handle that and guys seem to be ready for it and certainly that part of it was good. Those two quick goals also were proof that we were ready to play.”

Attempting to put perspective on one of the most physical starts to a hockey game in recent NHL history, Julien said his team responded well to the physical challenge of the Stars and then went about the business of winning the hockey game.

Thursday’s 6-3 Bruins win began with three fights in the opening four seconds, including the opening bout between Gregory Campbell and Stars forward Steve Ott, who leveled Campbell with a head shot two seasons ago when Campbell was with Florida. Campbell, though, tried to downplay the payback angle.

“I mean, it was two years ago,” Campbell said. “A lot of things happen in hockey and if you hold on to something that happens two years ago, I don’€™t think it does you much good. So, unfortunately as much as you love to hate Steve Ott, he’€™s a pretty valuable player for them and he plays hard, but it wasn’€™t something that I held a grudge over, though.”

Said Julien: “Hockey purists know what this is all about. Certainly not a goon show, and I don’t think that was purpose of it. It’s two teams that are extremely physical and seem to have a dislike for each other whenever they play against each other. In 82 games ‘€” and we’re in No. 52 ‘€” I think this is the first time we’ve seen this kind of reaction. I’m pretty sure Bruins fans didn’t mind it. We’ll leave it at that.”

The Stars, like the Bruins, lead their division and wanted to prove a point to themselves about being tough enough for a Cup run. And Ott, for his part, wanted everyone to know that the Bruins weren’t the only tough guys standing up for one another Thursday.

“We are a tough team and a tough group in the sense that we all stick up for each other and we all go hard,” Ott said. “I mean I am sure it seems ‘€¦ I’€™ve noticed we are a frustrating team to play against. Both sides are going to be ready the rest of the way. We are coming in on crunch time playoff time here. I mean, everybody is scratching and clawing and it is going to be tough hockey for the rest of the way.”

The Campbell fight was followed up with a bout between Shawn Thornton and Krys Barch one second later and a fight between Adam McQuaid and Dallas’ Brian Sutherby two seconds later.

In other words, Thornton and the Bruins were saying early on: “Not in our house.”

“I think Soupy’s was carryover, mine not so much,” Thornton said. “I just didn’t really like them coming in and trying to set presence, I guess. We all answered the bell and played well. The guys who scored the goals made us look smart by scoring the those goals, too.”

Read More: Adam Burish, Andrew Ference, Boston Bruins, Claude Julien
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