It's Close-Out Time, as the Bruins Head Back to the Bell Centre
BOSTON, MA - It's close-out time for the Bruins.
With a 3-2 lead in the series, they head back to Montreal for Game 6 looking to take advantage of the opportunity they earned themselves with a 4-2 win Saturday night at TD Garden.
"It’s going to be a tough one," said Head Coach Claude Julien, speaking with reporters in Boston on Sunday. "I think, again, you have 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, then you’re looking at a Game 7. So we can’t take those chances, we have to come out and play the best hockey we can."
"Our biggest focus right now is to close out the series as fast as we can," said Reilly Smith.
"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 so if you give him a chance to shut you out, he'll definitely do that."
"So we're going to the Bell Centre definitely trying to get [the win], that's our main focus."
Throughout the playoffs, the Bruins have preached that every game is a "must-win." There's even greater emphasis on that now. They don't want to give the Habs any life.
"I mean, it’s basically a must-win game," Johnny Boychuk said not long after the buzzer had sounded on Saturday's win. "I mean, you can’t sugarcoat it – it’s going to be a tough game."
"We have to battle hard…We have to be prepared for everything. They’re going to be putting everything on the line and we shouldn’t be expecting anything less because they are a good team and we better be prepared."
The veteran Bruins can draw on plenty of experiences as evidence that they can't let the Habs back into the series to force a Game 7.
The last time they faced Montreal in the playoffs in 2011 en route to the Cup, the Bruins went up 3-2 in the series, before dropping Game 6 at the Bell Centre, 2-1, and then needing overtime in Game 7 to close out the series.
"It's a fine line, of learning from those experiences, but also turning the page," said Gregory Campbell. "This is a new year. I mean, we were in a situation last round where we were up 3-1 and there were comparisons to the Toronto series. So it's something we have to take as a new opportunity, and be prepared as a team."
"Everyone always says that the fourth game is the toughest to win, but it's a game, and we want to play our best."
Luckily, the Bruins are coming off their best 60-minute performance of the series, jumping out to a lead, and staying in control throughout the game.
"I thought for sure [Saturday] was probably our best game," said Campbell. "Is there still room for improvement? Of course. We struggled to find our game a little bit early on in the series, and we've progressively gotten better, so again, it's positive, but there's still some room to grow."
For the first time this series, the Bruins looked like their Presidents' Trophy selves.
"Right now, we're just focused on trying to be the team that we've been all year," said Campbell. "That's a team that's risen to challenges, and we've played within the system, and it's given us success, so that's what we'll continue to try to do."
A close-out game at the Bell Centre will definitely be a challenge, and once again, the Bruins will be embracing it.
"They're going to be hungry and prepared, but the game plan doesn't change for us," said Campbell. "We've set out to accomplish something, and we're still on that journey, so it's far from over, and we have to continue to play hard, and play well, and be prepared."
If they continue to play Boston Bruins hockey, they'll give themselves a good chance.
"You know, I think we played a pretty complete game [Saturday]," said Matt Bartkowski. "And I said that before the game, if we play a full 60 minutes and we don't really give them much - if we do that, we're fine."
On Sunday, Shawn Thornton was fined $2820.52 by the NHL's Department of Player Safety (the maximum permitted under the CBA) for unsportsmanlike conduct for an incident with P.K. Subban that occurred at 19:13 of the third period.
"I obviously got caught up in the moment," Thornton told media on Sunday. "The fine - I'll pay the fine. Obviously I agree with what the League does there, pay the fine, and move on. Sorry that this silly incident kind of overshadowed how my teammates played and the great win and how the good the series has been."
"I think that there's definitely more important things that we can be focusing on. I got caught up in the moment, and shouldn't have done that. But I think we can move on, and get ready for Game 6, and hopefully have a good showing."
Bartkowski Getting into Groove
After being a scratch for Games 2 and 3, Matt Bartkowski has slotted back into the lineup for two straight games, helping factor into the Game 4 OT-winner in Montreal, and then Carl Soderberg's opening goal in the Game 5 win in Boston.
"Everybody wants to play, I'm sure, especially me I can't stand watching games," said Bartkowski, who had a fairly systematic approach to staying in the lineup. "But if you play bad, you don't play. If you play well, you play."
Power Play Breaks Out
The Bruins had been 0-for-10 on the power play this series, before both of their units broke out with back-to-back goals from Reilly Smith and Jarome Iginla on Saturday that gave them a commanding 3-0 lead at the start of the second period.
Smith cited more composure with the puck as a reason for finally breaking through.
"I think the biggest thing I noticed on our power play is that we were getting outworked by their PK, and in battles," said Julien. "Decision-making with the puck was soft so we kind of talked about that after the first period. We just had to get a little bit harder and smarter and more determined and we had to outwork their penalty kill."
"We came out in the second period, and those two goals kind of redefined our power play."
Boston is strongest with their five-on-five play, but if the man-advantage is finally in-motion and feeling confident in the series, that will certainly give them a boost, especially if they can cash in at the Bell Centre.
Lucic-Krejci-Iginla 'Doing the Right Things'
While the playoffs take every player contributing, and different players stepping up on different nights, the Bruins are certainly a harder team to contain when Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Jarome Iginla are firing on all cylinders.
Iginla has two goals in the series (one with an extra attacker, one on the power play) and Lucic has an empty-netter, with the trio also combining for three assists.
On Saturday, they started getting more zone time, and combined for 12 hits, including seven landed by Lucic.
As an entire team, the Bruins had wanted to ramp up the physicality and force the Habs' defense to look over their shoulders more before making plays. It helped get the forecheck going.
"I noticed that he was a whole different animal, and he was putting fear into their D, and that's what he does," said Bartkowski, of Lucic.
"They started doing the right things," said Julien. "We’ve seen them enough all year that when they play a straight line game and they play within their strength which is being big, strong and managing the puck well and hanging on to it in the offensive zone, that is when they become good."
"Although it wasn’t a five-on-five goal, it was nice to see Iggy score [Saturday] again and 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."