TORONTO, ON - The Bruins are now looking at their sixth Game Seven in their past seven playoff series. Its the 24th Game Seven in their lifetime. The last time they faced the Leafs in such a contest, it was 1959.
But the numbers are irrelevant. It's about one game, this year, Monday night.
The Bruins had two chances to close out the series, and those are gone - the latest coming on Sunday night in a 2-1 loss to the Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.
"Yeah, and it's still there," said Captain Zdeno Chara, of chance No. 3 still there for the taking. "We've just got to get ready for the next one. It's the biggest game of the series."
Game Six went scoreless for two periods. Tuukka Rask and James Reimer made the saves when they had to, and both teams traded scoring chances. But it was Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf tipping in a Nazem Kadri shot from the high slot that sent Leafs Nation into a frenzy, 1:48 into the third.
Phil Kessel sent the crowd into a chant just under six minutes later, when he found a rebound in a pile of Bruins and Leafs in front of Rask, and put it home.
"I think tonight was definitely puck management. We talked about it before the game, we talked about it in the first period," said Coach Julien, on what led to the defeat. "I didn't think our puck management was very good. That means sometimes being strong on the puck and making the right plays and shooting versus overpassing. I didn't think it was very good."
"As I said to our players after the game, we've been a Jekyll and Hyde hockey club all year and that's what you're seeing right now. It's important for us to bring the good Bruins team to the table tomorrow in Game 7."
Of course, the "Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" has the good Jekyll's split personality with the evil Edward Hyde. For the Bruins now, that "good" side must win out.
"When you look at the way we lost, that's what cost us the game," Coach Julien told NESN, of the poor puck management. "It's as simple as that. There's not a million explanations. We've been a Jekyll and Hyde hockey club all year and we showed it again tonight."
"He's right," said the always candid Dennis Seidenberg from the visiting team locker room at the ACC. "If you look at our season, a lot of ups and downs, just have to look at the season to know what he means by that."
"Hopefully, tomorrow we're going to find out a way to get on the good side and try to do our best."
"I don't know," added the defenseman, when pressed for why the team has played that way. "It's a mindset. One game you play good, one game you get letdowns. Just have to have the right mindset tomorrow."
So, the mounting frustration of not being able to close out series has to be weighing on Coach, right?
"No doubt, I'd like to have it any other way, but this time of year, frustration on my part is not going to help my hockey club turn it over."
All season, we saw the Bruins talk about not playing up to their potential - they were never satisfied after losses, and were defeated in games they oft should have won. But when they're "on," everyone who watches their games knows that they're tough to beat, most times, unstoppable.
The season was a grind, especially through the final month and a half with a game every other night or a back-to-back. Even then, the Bruins didn't make excuses.
"I think they've done well. They take a lot of heat because of the expectations of our hockey club, and that's fine, because you create those situations. When you create hope and you give your fans and your city reason to believe, you have to be able to deal with that," Coach Julien said at the ACC prior to Game 6, when asked about the season's lead-up to the playoffs.
"We've had to face a real tough year and schedule. There's no doubt you still feel that stuff, but the players have been good and have made sure not to even talk about that because you don't want to have excuses this time of year," he added.
"You want to have solutions and you want to have success. You have to go above and beyond that and just play it game by game; that's what we're trying to do."
The game by game approach will prove true Monday night.
"It's the most important game of the season; everybody knows that," said Seidenberg. "Playing a real simple game, playing hard, winning one-on-one battles. Again, playing simple, that's the most important thing."
Following the game, the Bruins' thoughts may have been on moving forward to Game Seven, but as it turns out, their air travel was not.
GM Peter Chiarelli issued the following statement around 11:00 p.m. Sunday night: "Late during tonight's game we were made aware that there was a malfunction with our airplane. As a result we are staying in Toronto on Sunday night and the team will travel to Boston on Monday morning."
Regardless of when the Bruins arrive home, they know what needs to be done come Monday night.
Prior to Game Six, Coach Julien had offered his thoughts on what defines "desperate hockey," the type of hockey needed in the playoffs. And at no time will those words mean more than in a Game Seven, on home ice, at TD Garden, with one more chance to give the Leafs an early summer vacation.
"Desperate hockey is about giving everything you got. As far as our team is concerned, we need everybody to bring their A-game and everybody, no exceptions, has to respect the game plan. You go out there and execute," Coach had said.
"That's what a desperate hockey team does. A lot of coaches say, 'Well, a guy getting out of his comfort zone, that's desperate hockey; blocking a shot when you haven't blocked one all year, that's called desperate hockey.'"
Jekyll and Hyde would approve of the Bruins' play, but Coach Julien - and the men in spoked-B - do not.
"We've got to get back and hope that the good Boston club shows up."
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