Bruins Not Taking Lead for Granted
BostonBruins.com - When the Boston Bruins arrived at Hansom Air Force Base Tuesday morning, fresh off a flight from Pittsburgh, they descended the plane with a two-game series lead over the Penguins.
"Any time you can come back from a road trip like that, having won both games, it’s encouraging. Our team is really playing good hockey right now, without a doubt the best we’ve had this year," Bruins' Head Coach Claude Julien told media gathered around just outside the airport tarmac.
"That has to continue to beat these guys. Like I said last night, we were in the same position as Pittsburgh a few years ago and we worked our way back into it. I think we understand the situation here. We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves here. We need to understand that these next games are crucial for us, just as much as it is for them."
It's too soon to call any such lead "commanding" from the Bruins' point of view.
But looking strictly at the numbers, the B's were able to outscore the Penguins on their home ice, 9-1, with Game One's 3-0 shutout, followed by Game Two's 6-1 victory.
Prior to the series, Pittsburgh had been scoring an average of 4.27 goals per game.
David Krejci now has three goals in the series alone and Nathan Horton has two goals and three assists. Eight Bruins have at least two points through the two games, including Brad Marchand (2-0), Patrice Bergeron (1-1), Jaromir Jagr (0-2), Milan Lucic (0-2), Gregory Campbell (0-2) and Johnny Boychuk (1-1). Because of the scoring outburst - and Tuukka Rask's 29- and 26-save efforts - the B's collectively have a plus-40 rating in the series, and a 15.3-percent shooting percentage.
On the penalty kill, Boston is a perfect 6-for-6, against a Penguins' power play that has been ranked at the top all postseason.
Still, the Bruins won't let any sense of comfort creep into their room.
"You don’t have a choice but to respect that team that you’re playing against, because they are a pretty potent team," said Julien.
"Things can change pretty quickly in this game. We’ve seen it, we’ve experienced it. I said that before, it’s a very humbling game and that’s where we have to be using our experience to our advantage, knowing that it can change quickly," he added.
"I don’t think there’s any comfort level in our team right now, more than it’s continued determination."
The Bruins have had the advantage of scoring first in both games, and as a result, put the Penguins back on their heels. Boston has kept pressing at the offensive end, while playing responsible, structured defense. But maybe the tide would turn if Pittsburgh got on the board first, or if their offensive weapons found confidence in their game.
"It's pretty simple: we were in that situation before and we were able to come back in the series and win it," Julien said following the B's win Monday night.
"We've been through enough, positives, negatives, not to get ahead of ourselves. We know this is a good team. I'm not saying it, we know it. The Penguins are a good team, they're deep and we're going to have to continue to play extremely well if we plan on winning this series."
The Bruins, of course, though they haven't been in a hole yet this postseason, have had their share of setbacks to overcome. They were leading all Toronto series, but that hardly felt like having an upper hand. If the comeback from the Game Seven 4-1 third-period deficit over Toronto doesn't inspire enough, the B's only need to look to 2011, when they were down 0-2 in two out of four series, before rallying back.
They've also been on the other side, seeing Toronto come back in the first round, and Philadelphia surge for four straight wins in 2010.
"We've been through a lot over the years; Game Seven against Philly, we were up 3-0 and we lose; two years ago against Tampa, we're up 3-0, as well, and they came back and won that game. I think with everything we gone through as a team we definitely don't want to take anything for granted here," said Milan Lucic following the win in Pittsburgh.
"When you get a series lead like this, we're definitely happy that we got the two wins, but we need to get refocused and have the same attitude like we had going into this game."
"We have a group that’s been through a lot. Really good highs and also some tough series where we’ve let teams back in," mirrored Andrew Ference, as he spoke to reporters the following day, with his always commanding demeanor. He doesn't need to tell you he's been there before; his attitude (and the entire team's, for that matter) suggests it.
"So I think that we have enough guys that they know when it’s the right time to get excited and when it’s time [for] business as normal."
"You learn a lot obviously from different situations that you’re in. A lot of us have it together and one of the important things about this time of year is to have an even keel. It’s not the time of year to be playing purely off emotions and you try to have a good balance of that, and I think you can really only get that through experiencing good and bad, I think that’s where experience kicks in."
It's not just a handful of players that have had their mindsets defined by those situations.
"Our whole team can," said Ference, of relations to the Penguins' current status. "We have a large group of guys that have gone through this and been in that situation on both sides of the coin, so that’s the good thing about being with the same group for a long time is that you can really lean on your past experience and not just talk about what could happen because we’ve done it all."
"I think with this team, whether it’s coming back or having teams come back on us. We’ve all seen it together and we all know certain lessons that we’ve learned, even with those experiences."
That experience means its business as usual for the Bruins as they shift back to TD Garden for Game Three Wednesday night, and they're not taking their lead for granted.
"Definitely not," said Shawn Thornton. "These next games will be a lot tougher, I’m sure. I think these guys are a very dangerous team. We’ve seen them score a lot of goals."
"We’re a long ways from where we need to be."