BOSTON – When the Boston Bruins limped back home for Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup final two years ago, things looked grim indeed. But then they outscored the Vancouver Canucks 12-1 in the next two games and went on to win the Stanley Cup.
Two years later, the vibe could not be more different. Coming off losing a game they should have won and winning a game they should have lost, the Bruins are carrying all kinds of good karma with them into Games 3 and 4 at TD Garden. Since the final two years ago, the Bruins are a combined 51-24-6 at home in the regular season and the playoffs and are riding a six-game winning streak on home ice in this year’s playoffs.
You’d almost be tempted to say the Bruins have all the momentum, if momentum actually meant a fiddler’s flatulence in the grand scheme of things in the playoffs. As far as the post-season is concerned, the two things that seem to change more quickly than any other are momentum and home ice advantage.
“The bottom line is you still got to go out there and play the game,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “You can't let that part of the I guess equation get the better of you. If anything, you want to make sure you take advantage of (home ice). It's really about focusing on what we have to do. We're definitely always more comfortable at home. We don't mind playing on the road. You'd always rather play in front of your fans.”
If nothing else, the Bruins have proved in these playoffs and over the past couple of seasons they are a resilient bunch that should never, ever be counted out of a game or a series in the post-season. In Game 2, they were absolutely putrid in the first period and looked as though they were going to get run out of the United Center to return home in the same position they were two years ago. But thanks to the goaltending of Tuukka Rask and a rebuilt third line that featured Chris Kelly between Daniel Paille and Tyler Seguin, the Bruins willed their way back into the game and into the series.
“I think it was mostly about, you know, about finding a spark somewhere,” Julien said. “It was a 1-0 game. We just didn't seem to generate much offense. With Gregory Campbell out, our fourth line kind of lost its identity, the so-called Merlot Line. I'm trying to find something here that will give us some spark. Those three guys together seemed to blend in well. Thankfully for that. They scored both goals to help us win the hockey game.”
The Bruins have also compiled a 5-2 record in overtime in these playoffs and were in complete control of the extra time in Game 2. They actually outshot the Blackhawks 29-24 in overtime in Game 1 and had a number of outstanding opportunities to end the game before the Blackhawks scored in the third overtime period. The Bruins success in overtime comes largely from their philosophy that you have to take some chances, even when so much is on the line.
“When it's overtime, if you don't play on your toes, you don't go after it, you’ll never win,” Julien said. “You may lose, but at least you lose trying. Sitting back on your heels doesn't give you a chance at all. That's the reality of things.”
The Bruins almost certainly won’t be sitting back on home ice in the first period of Game 3 the way they did in Game 2. In a final where the margin for error has been razor-thin, the Bruins are looking to take control in a building where they’ve been very, very difficult to beat.
You get the sense that Tim Thomas’ name in the Bruins dressing room is a little like Voldemort in the Harry Potter books – he who is never to be named. Consider this exchange between Rask and your trusty correspondent concerning Thomas. Question: “Do you ever talk to Tim Thomas at all? Do you keep in touch with him?” Answer: “I’m not going to comment on that. That’s between him and me. I’ve talked to him in the past.” Question: Are you still friends, do you still chat?” Answer: “Yeah.” Question: “Has he offered his support?” Answer: “I’m not going to comment on that.”
• Claude Julien had a great response when asked whether the win in Game 2 was an early Fathers’ Day present. “Yeah,” he said, pointing his thumb toward the Bruins dressing room, “my kids gave it to me.”
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.