We know that whether he stays with the Bruins for years to come or continues his NHL career elsewhere, Mark Stuart is going to wear a captain’s ‘C’ someday.

In a 5-1 rout at Philadelphia Thursday night, Stuart showed the type of leadership he usually reserves for those times he deems it necessary in the locker room by fighting both tough guys Daniel Carcillo and Ian Laperriere and setting the tone early against the would-be Broad Street Bullies.

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The Bruins led 1-0 after Blake Wheeler’s goal at 13:15, but had been outplayed for much of the first three quarters of the first period. It took Boston nearly eight minutes to register their first shot on goal and had played much of the stanza in the Flyers’ end. But at 14:02 of that period, Stuart showed no fear in dropping the gloves with the heavyweight Carcillo (remember when he bloodied Shawn Thornton at the Winter Classic?).

Bodies were flying all over the place the rest of the night, and it really looked like big and bad were finally back for the Bruins — as I wrote on ESPNBoston.com after the game.

Here are some other quick-hit thoughts:

•A couple days rest were just what the doctor ordered for Zdeno Chara, who looked like a Norris Trophy winner again. And in turn, his partner Dennis Seidenberg played his best game since coming to Boston. Most important, those two guys led the team in ice time.

•I often criticize general manager Peter Chiarelli for projections he makes that don’t come true. But you cannot criticize what he’s done with the goaltending situation. As great as Tim Thomas was the last four games (or at least three of them), Tuukka Rask continues to look like he’s going to have a closet full of Vezinas by the time he’s Thomas’ age. Rask finished with 31 saves, including a couple breakaways extinguished and some huge point-blank stops early when the Flyers had the momentum. In handicapping the Bruins’ chances of hanging onto a playoff spot, the goaltending tandem is far and away their best advantage.

•Chiarelli also gets kudos if anything he said to the team about its lack of retaliation against Matt Cooke had to do with the Bruins playing rough-and-tumble hockey against the Flyers.

•I referred to Vladimir Sobotka as an “active scratch” the other night. But he was as active as ever in Philly, including a huge 40-second shift, along with linemates Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand, and Chara and Seidenberg, that earned the Bruins momentum before their first goal of the night.

20100311 postgame blog

Could it be that big and bad are really back now?

The Bruins have been mocked for their season-long tag line ever since their lack of response to Matt Cooke’s cheap shot on Marc Savard last Sunday. In a 5-1 win at Philadelphia Thursday night, the Bruins found their physical game again against a more-disciplined but still-rugged Broad Street Bullies squad.

As always, when the Bruins are playing with an edge, all areas of their game improve – as evidenced by their goal total that more than doubled their season’s average.

Leading the re-emergence of the big-and-bad mantra was defenseman Mark Stuart, who’s a future captain of the Black and Gold if there ever was one. Stuart not only fought two of the toughest players of all-time – Daniel Carcillo and Ian Laperriere – but even finished those bouts with an edge in points. When Carcillo tried to goad Stuart into a night-ending third fight in the third period, Shawn Thornton had Stuart’s back. And then when Carcillo was still trying to wreak havoc with his team down three goals, Matt Hunwick – never mistaken for a fearsome force on Boston’s back end – didn’t back down and tried to get at Carcillo before the linesmen pushed Philadelphia’s resident rowdy boy away from the scrum.

The Bruins got dynamic offensive play from Patrice Bergeron and sensational goaltending from Tuukka Rask. And Zdeno Chara’s few days off did wonders for his return to Norris Trophy-winning form. However, they earned a huge two points against a team just ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings because Stuart and his teammates sent the message early that they wouldn’t be pushed around.

It could be that a perfect confluence of factors ushered in the return of the old-school Bruins mentality. We know that general manager Peter Chiarelli, who was “disappointed” with his team’s non-existent response to Cooke, spoke to the club before the game. There’s no doubt the players got a tongue-lashing and also learned the bad news that if they wait around for Marc Savard to return from his concussion they could be waiting until next fall. It didn’t hurt, of course, that the sight of those orange-and-black uniforms are enough to make even the meekest of the other 29 NHL teams become unleashed monsters.

Whatever lit a spark under the Bruins, they have to hope they can carry it over for the rest of their road trip (three more games) and the season. The way they’re structured, the Bruins are only going to win enough games to get into the postseason if they duplicate Thursday night’s performance each and every night.