The Bruins lead the series 3-2, but they know it will be a challenge to enter a hostile environment and win.
“It’s going to be a tough one,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “We’ve got to rely on our experience and knowing that we haven’t won this series yet. We have to bring our best game next game because they will. They will bring their best game, and if we don’t bring ours, you’re looking at a Game 7. We can’t take those chances. We’ve got to come out and play the best hockey we can.”
It’s become cliché to say the Bruins have been in this situation before, but the fact of the matter is they have, winning more times than not during Julien’s tenure in Boston.
In 2013, the Bruins held a 3-1 lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the quarterfinals, but Boston lost two in a row and needed a historic Game 7 comeback victory to advance. In 2011, the Bruins had a 3-2 lead over the Canadiens in the quarterfinals and lost Game 6 in Montreal 2-1 before winning Game 7 4-3 in overtime.
This spring, the Bruins had a 3-1 lead on the Detroit Red Wings and were able to close out the series on home ice.
“Our biggest focus right now is to close out the series as fast as we can,” Bruins forward Reilly Smith said. “You don’t want to give a team like Montreal time to linger around because anything can happen in games and their goalie’s been pretty hot. If you give them a chance to shut you out, he’ll definitely do that.”
For the majority of this series, the Bruins haven’t been at their best, but they showed a major turnaround in Saturday’s 4-2 win in Game 5. All four lines played well, goaltender Tuukka Rask was solid, the power play was effective, and the Bruins kept the pressure on en route to the victory.
“I like the way we’ve gotten better as a team. I like that we’ve progressively improved our game,” Bruins forward Gregory Campbell said. “We’ve been fairly strong mentally. Montreal’s a tough place to play, and we were down 2-1 but we fought our way back and put ourselves in a good position.”
They’ll need more of the same in Game 6.
“Obviously, we’re expecting another good game. Every game has been good so far, and it’s been competitive and both teams have played hard,” Campbell said. “It’s a fine line of learning from those experiences but also turning the page because it’s a new year.
“We were in a situation last round where we were up 3-1 and there were comparisons to the Toronto series. It’s something we have to take as a new opportunity and be prepared as a team. Everybody always says the fourth game is the toughest to win, but it’s a game we want to play our best.
“We’re happy about having the lead, but it’s behind us and [Game 6] is important. We’ve just got to keep playing, playing hard and playing well. That’s all we can do.”
Boston’s top line has been physical in this series, but its point production hasn’t been great. David Krejci has only three assists in the postseason. Linemate Jarome Iginla scored his fourth goal of the playoffs in Game 5, a power-play tally, and as a group there was improvement. Still, Julien is expecting a lot more from Krejci, Milan Lucic and Iginla in Game 6.
“When they play a straight line game and they play within their strengths, which is big, strong and managing the puck well and hanging onto it in the offensive zone, that is when they become good,” Julien said. “Although it wasn’t a 5-on-5 goal, it was nice to see Iggy score [in Game 5].
“That line, you can see, is starting to turn the corner. We need our best team to close out this series, and if those guys can find their rhythm, that’s going to be a big help to our team.”