BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins have been here before. In the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, they returned from Vancouver for Game 6 down 3-2 in the series. Facing elimination, they dominated the Canucks with a 5-2 win in Game 6, then did it again in Game 7 at Vancouver for a 4-0 win that gave the organization its first Stanley Cup in 39 seasons.
Here they are again, down 3-2 to the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2013 Stanley Cup finals. Can they recapture the magic?
“It’s a different team, different situation but we’ve been here before,” winger Brad Marchand said Sunday at TD Garden. “I think we have a bit of confidence but, at the same time, they’re a very resilient team. They’ve played great so far. They played good last time they were in our building so we’ve got to make sure we realize that and we don’t take it for granted.”
Marchand is correct. The Blackhawks are a very different team than the Canucks squad that lost Games 3 and 4 at Boston in 2011 by a combined score of 12-1. The Blackhawks definitely had an off night in their 2-0 loss at TD Garden in Game 3, but they bounced back in a big way in Game 4, exploding for six goals in a 6-5 overtime win to tie the series at two games apiece.
Chicago then took the 3-2 series lead with a 3-1 win over the Bruins in Game 5 and is on the verge of clinching its second Stanley Cup in four seasons. To prevent that, the Bruins will need to channel their nerves better than they did in Game 5.
“I thought right off the bat we looked a little nervous,” Rask said. “We didn’t make plays. We didn’t make passes. It didn’t cost us right away, but after the first minute or two we kind of settled in. Both teams had chances. It wasn’t as bad as it has been in previous games.”
Rask was critical of the Bruins immediately following Game 5, questioning why they need to see their best all-around player and leader -- Patrice Bergeron -- exit the game with an injury to finally find their game in the third period?
"It's kind of sad that we've got to lose a guy like that to wake the team up and start battling out there," Rask said. "When you're in the finals and only play 20 minutes, it's not going to be good enough to get you a hockey game, so we have to realize that, and now we know we're going to have some new bodies and new lines on Monday. Everybody needs to play 110 percent."
But if there’s one thing the current core of the Bruins knows how to do, it is to go all in and leave it all on the ice in a do-or-die situation. The past few seasons, the Bruins rarely have made things easy on themselves. But when their backs are against the wall, they tend to answer the bell as witnessed with their miraculous 5-4 comeback win from a three-goal, third-period deficit in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against Toronto.
“It just kind of happens that way. Obviously, we would have wanted to win last night,” Bruins winger Nathan Horton said. “But that’s the kind of character we have in our room. When our backs are against the wall, we show up. Like I said, we play for the guy next to you and we all know what we have to do now. We can’t lose and we’ve got to come to play.”
Marchand agreed that his team has a habit of making things more difficult than they need to be, but also has the character to pull it out in the end. He believes the Bruins won’t waste an opportunity to do something special.
“I just think we’ve got a group of guys who have a lot of character and we want to win the Cup and to do that you’ve got to push to the last second of the last game,” Marchand said. “We’ve learned that the hard way, so we just want to try to use that tomorrow. I mean, we are very desperate right now. We’ve got to make sure we realize what’s on the line. We don’t want to lose this opportunity. It could never come again, so we are going to come out very hard tomorrow.”
This never-say-die attitude is why Bruins coach Claude Julien won’t be giving any Knute Rockne speeches prior to Game 6 or Game 7 if the Bruins get that far. As Julien pointed out Sunday, he thinks his team will be ready to seize the opportunity.
“You don't have to say much to this group,” Julien said. “We're an experienced group that's been through a lot. Not just that, but we have a good group of guys that understand what's at stake. They understand what's happening, and they know what they need to do.
“I don't need to go in there and give this big speech and get these guys riled up because they know what's at stake, and we've proven it in the past. Now we have an opportunity to prove it again tomorrow, and that's up to us to show it on the ice versus talking a great game in the dressing room and not showing up on the ice. I'd rather see our guys be focused, ready and excited about playing tomorrow, and the word 'excited' should be a key word to tomorrow's game.”