BOSTON — There’s been a small cast of Bruins players who have seemingly been in the thick of the action every time the team has bounced back from a difficult defeat or two.
Andrew Ference gets a high marquee spot among that group.
The second-pair defenseman scored pivotal goals in Game 3 at Tampa and Game 4 at Montreal, and last night in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final might’ve played his best all-around game of the playoffs.
In addition to his goal and assist, he was plus-2 and threw six hits.
“The stats guys maybe had the ‘iso-cam’ on me,” joked Ference when asked about the extra physicality during the team’s off-day availability at Boston University’s Case Gymnasium.
Well, the total number of hits might’ve been a tad exaggerated but the magnitude of the hits and their importance within the context of the game cannot be overstated. Most noticeable was Ference’s bone-rattling hit on Chris Higgins in the corner of the Boston zone that sent the Vancouver forward sprawling to the ice — much to the appreciation of the Garden crowd.
“Our whole team was skating better,” said Ference. “I think with our team, when you’re skating well, we hit. Because you’re in position and we’re playing our system. It’s not looking for hits. It’s more a byproduct of being in the right spot and having some speed.”
Whether he or his coach want to admit it, Ference was dreadful in Game 2 of this series. Not only did his giveaway start the Canucks on their way to the game-winning overtime goal, a second giveaway led to another Canucks goal and Vancouver went on a 2-0n-1 on another Ference miscue (that defense partner Johnny Boychuk broke up).
There’s no doubt that while you can count the poor games on Ference’s ledger on just a finger or two — Game 6 in Tampa was another beauty — he has been better than average most nights. That’s the point head coach Claude Julien hammered home this afternoon.
“That’s been it throughout the whole playoffs. I think every game that you lose, you’re looking to blame somebody, somebody’s made a mistake. It’s obviously something that’s bigger than during the regular season,” said Julien. “If it’s not him, it’s somebody else. It’s Boychuk, seven goals against. You can stand here and say, ‘Well, three of them were power-play goals from the other team, five of them were from one game, and the other two were spread out through three games. Is it that bad?’ We don’t take the time to look, are all seven goals his fault?
“That’s what I think you have to put up with at this stage of the season where everybody is trying to dissect everything. Andrew played a solid game for us. I think he’s been, by far, a much better player than he has been a guy to point the finger at throughout the whole series. He’s been a real consistent player. Everybody is entitled to have a tougher night than other nights. That goes through your whole lineup.”
Like the rest of the guys in Boston’s lineup, Ference has shown an impeccable ability to not let the past bother him. That’s why the team has overcome deficits in games and in series, and why Ference has put up solid 3-6-9 postseason offensive totals in 21 playoff games in a little more than 20 minutes of ice time per game.
“I felt good all playoffs. I’m feeling positive the games,” he said. “Even those games that we lost, I feel between me, my D partners, the whole D corps, we really have been able to walk away from goals that have been scored against or tough games, things like that, because we feel positive as individuals and as a group.”