'The Comeback' Driving Force for Bruins
BostonBruins.com - After the Bruins gathered for practice at TD Garden Sunday morning in preparation for the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks, Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien addressed the media as usual.
Following a sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins, his team had just given themselves at chance to go for their second Stanley Cup in three years.
But, with the brief break in between series, there was some reflection to be had, on how the Bruins had reached their current standpoint.
"Claude, if I could take you back to Game Seven against Toronto - " a reporter began his question.
"I don't want to go back there," the B's bench boss quipped.
Laughter from the gathered reporters, of course, ensued.
But the B's weren't laughing with 11 minutes to go in that third period of Game Seven. This team has come a long way from three goals shy of a Game Seven defeat at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs on May 13. If you're a Leafs fan, it pains you to constantly hear this, but that game, and the historic third-period and overtime comeback that took place, shocked the Black & Gold and put them on their present path to the Stanley Cup Final.
"I definitely think it was a driving force going forward," Bruins' General Manager Peter Chiarelli told media of the Game Seven effect, following the sweep of Pittsburgh.
"I think the fact that we did that certainly catapulted us into our level of play and performance, definitely. You could see the team pick itself up. Going back to when it happened, you could feel the momentum. Watching the team as often as I have, you could feel the momentum after we scored the second goal. I’ve never seen something like that happen, with two empty-net goals like that, but I could feel it coming, and I could see the Toronto team see that it was coming too."
"Whether it was going to happen our not, as the minutes progressed I thought, ‘This might happen.’ That’s a testament to the team. There wasn’t really a switch. We had some good games in that series, we had some not so good games, but I think it was more of a realization to these guys that, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get this thing done.’"
"They waited a little long, but certainly it was a boost to their play the rest of the way, without question."
Since then, the Bruins have played to their strengths, operating under their defensive system, that sees layers backing up Tuukka Rask's calm control between the pipes. When their defense is near flawless, they are able to generate their breakouts, push the pace up ice and forecheck hard in the offensive zone. When they fall victim to turnovers or errant passes, their backchecking helps them regain possession. When the system has its moments of lapse, Rask is there to make the save.
The four-line effort that has been in full force since the Rangers' series, with contributions at both ends of the ice, could have taken a hit when Gregory Campbell was sent out of the lineup with injury, but the B's managed to keep continued momentum with in their rollout. And when a Bruin or his line has been snake-bitten, they have focused tenfold on playing a strong defensive game, making sure they generate more chances for, than against.
"It means a lot - we pride ourselves on our game. We work hard at it," Julien told media, on what it means to now have a shot at the Cup. "As you saw, there was a lot of commitment. You looked at the blocked shot from Gregory Campbell, to [Friday night] when the game was on the line. I think our guys really paid the price and did what it took to get there. The peaks and valleys of a season sometimes pay off a lot more than people give credit for because you certainly grow from those tough times, you learn from those things, it makes you a better team down the road."
"I thought this year had its ups and downs, it was a tough schedule. But right now we're probably playing some of our best hockey of the season."
"The guys in here are a lot of the similar guys from two years ago, last year. We have a good team, started playing well at the right time," said veteran center Chris Kelly, displaying their committed effort by now slotting into his different role on the Bruins' Merlot Line with Campbell out for the rest of the playoffs.
"The Toronto series, I think, really woke us up, made us realize that we needed to play better if we wanted to have a chance."
"Obviously, not everybody, but lots of people, thought it was over," said David Krejci, of the Game Seven comeback.
"But I’m sure there were still some people out there that believed in us, we believed as well. You know, we won the game and we moved on, we moved forward."
Watch the Bruins Beat following "The Comeback" below...
So, is there now a feeling that you need to make good on that opportunity?
"I think you’ve got two teams that can look at it that way," Coach Julien said Sunday afternoon. "We can look at that Game Seven and Chicago can look at the fact that they were down three to one to Detroit and came back and won three straight."
"Again, every team that makes it this far can look back at a turning point where it just kind of just gave them that extra jolt that they needed. And that was the case for us this year, where it was a close call. We could’ve been watching from afar for two rounds already. But instead, we’re where we want to be."
The B's knew where they wanted to be - and that Game Seven shook it out of them.
"You know what? This team, obviously, we had an up and down season. We hit a little bit of a slump at the end of the season, but I knew we had a good team," said Krejci. "I knew if we were going to start playing the way we wanted to, we were going to be okay. We talked about it after the season, the regular season, we closed the book. Whatever happened before happened and now it’s a new season. All of a sudden we started playing pretty good hockey. We’re in the Final right now, but we’ve go to keep going."
"We know we're not done yet."
We can look to that game as a turning point, but within the locker room, it means nothing to the Bruins without the end results.
"We knew even before the first round that we have something good on this team. We have lots of guys that’s been here a couple of years ago, and we had some tough games against Toronto but we came back," said Krejci.
"The biggest thing in the playoffs is to stay in the moment. If we look back at that Game Seven, we wouldn’t be here anymore. We would be done. The Rangers would’ve beat us."
"We’ve done a pretty good job to stay in the moment. We took it game by game. Right now, we’re talking about the Final."