BOSTON — For the third time in three meetings this season, the Boston Bruins downed the New York Islanders today at TD Banknorth Garden.
But for the second straight game against the team that’s currently anchoring the entire NHL, the Bruins had to claw their way to the win against the pesky players who are buying into former Providence (AHL) head coach Scott Gordon’s system.
It’s all about aggression and determination, and the Isles don’t seem to lack for either — a far cry from their deficiencies in the skill and experience departments.
“They’re coming really hard and you can tell that a lot of those guys are buying in, and it works,” said Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart, a one-time Gordon disciple with the P-Bruins. “I think when you bring those young guys up and then the system, once they’re playing it a long time, they’re going to be a tough team in a couple years.”
Hopefully for Gordon, who’s just a month away from completing his first NHL season behind the bench, New York will give him a couple years to reach the heights he wants to hit. In the NHL, it’s rare a coach loses as much as Gordon has this season and gets that opportunity one, two campaigns down the road. But if there’s an organization that should use a little patience for once, it’s the Islanders. They’re more than two decades removed from their four-Stanley Cup heyday and have changed coaches six times since the turn of the century.
Nothing else has worked, so patience might be the way to go. Of course, here in Boston rebuilding really isn’t an option. That’s why Peter Chiarelli opted to go with veteran name coaches like Dave Lewis and Claude Julien when he took over as the Boston general manager. But watching today’s game, one couldn’t help but wonder what the Bruins — even though things have worked out great in the Hub during the Julien era — would look like had they turned the reins over to Gordon. For one, you know Nate Thompson, now an Islanders fourth-liner who was Gordon’s captain last season, would be in black and gold. Thompson epitomizes everything that the Gordon style is about.
Bruins center Patrice Bergeron had a historically productive season for Gordon during the NHL lockout. He’d obviously still be a cornerstone of the Boston franchise. Just like the Isles are leaning on Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey and others to mature quickly, the Bruins would probably still be counting on Phil Kessel, Milan Lucic and other kids to carry the load.
And if Gordon can even win two dozen games with a defense corps built around Mark Streit and Radek Martinek, B-list performers at best, imagine what he’d do with Zdeno Chara, Dennis Wideman and the Boston cast of characters on his back line.
While the results for Gordon’s team haven’t always been positive, there have been signs — like today’s game — that things are on the right track.
“We are doing a good job of working hard and not quitting right to the end,” said Isles forward Blake Comeau. “We had a few chances in the last 10 minutes. Our goalie was playing well. There were a few positives in this game.”
Gordon didn’t get to implement his brand of hockey for Boston, but he honed it in their farm system until he got his big break. Somewhere down the road, Gordon’s game might be an even a pricklier thorn in the Bruins’ sides.