BOSTON – The Boston Bruins know there are worse positions to be in than tied 2-2 in the first round of the playoffs.
During their Stanley Cup championship run last year, the Bruins dug out of a 2-0 hole in the first round against Montreal, and rallied from down 2-0 and 3-2 down in the Cup final against Vancouver.
So the second-seeded Bruins aren’t panicking as they head into Game 5 of their Eastern Conference series with the seventh-seeded Washington Capitals on Saturday night.
“I think that we all know that we could be in a better position. But at the same time, Washington has played really well and, obviously, now it’s best of three,” Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said after practice at TD Garden on Friday. “So it’s a huge game for us.
“I think that most of the guys in here, from last year, we know that there is no room for getting too high or too low, or getting frustrated or panicking. You just got to regroup and get mentally and physically ready for the next game.”
Goals have been difficult to come by through the first four games, with each team scoring seven times. In response to his team’s offensive struggles, Bruins coach Claude Julien Friday juggled all four of his lines in practice in an attempt to provide a spark. Each line kept one pair of forwards intact from the end of Game 4 and added a new winger.
Although only injuries caused him to make line changes during the Bruins’ run to the Cup, Julien decided four games were as long as he could wait to try and generate more scoring.
“We’re not getting the production that we’d like to, but having said that, we’re doing a good job, we’re not playing a bad game,” Julien said. “We’re breaking out of our own end no problem, we’re going through the neutral zone no problem, we’re getting pucks in deep no problem.
“At the end of the day it’s just trying to resolve the situation of capitalizing on our chances and that kind of stuff. So, that’s the only area and they (Capitals) do a good job of playing, sitting back and playing hard and capitalizing on their opportunities. For us, it’s just a matter of finding that. So it’s not them frustrating us more than it’s us frustrating ourselves for not being able to a good job.”
Boston’s line changes might also make it more difficult for Washington coach Dale Hunter to get the matchups he wants. In addition to strong play from rookie goalie Braden Holtby, the Capitals have played strong team defence to limit the Bruins’ biggest threats. The Bruins haven’t had one goal from any of their top five point-getters from the regular season.
“It’s a team game. The defence, the forwards, and definitely (Holtby) there, too … it’s a team game and we know they’re good players,” Hunter said. “We know what they can do. Just read the stats this year—plus 30 or 40, whatever it is, they’re up there. So they can score 5-on-5 as well as power play. So they’re dangerous guys. So far the guys have been busting their tails. When they do get the chance, (Holtby’s) been there.”
The Capitals managed to win Game 4 on Thursday night without top centre Nicklas Backstrom, suspended because of a match penalty at the end of Game 3. Backstrom’s return should provide Washington with a lift.
“Yeah, obviously, he’s our best forward. He makes the power play go,” Washington defenceman Dennis Wideman said. “He creates a ton of offence. He makes a ton of plays that there’s not too many guys in the league can see or do. Obviously, when he’s in the lineup, we’re a lot better team.”
The better team in Game 5 will be the one that manages to grind out enough goals in this tight series. The Bruins hope their new forward alignment will allow them to head to Game 6 with a series lead.
“I think last year … it’s different year to year. Last year it worked out and this year, hopefully, this is going to spark everyone and we’re going to come out flying next game and have a great game,” Boston forward Brad Marchand said.