BOSTON, MA - Throughout the postseason, the Bruins' mindset - win or lose - has always been to focus on just one game, the task at hand. They didn't look back, and didn't look ahead to what might be.
Right now, more than ever for the Black & Gold, it's about one game, Game Six, Monday night at TD Garden, to decide whether they'll get on a plane to Chicago for Game Seven and a shot at the Stanley Cup, or they'll stay grounded in Boston.
But even that's looking too far ahead at this point.
Right now, more than ever, it's about playing desperate hockey. And the Bruins are in that right state of mind.
"I think our guys have been through enough that they're fine," B's Head Coach Claude Julien told media Sunday afternoon at TD Garden, after he and his team had flown back from Chicago, following Saturday night's 3-1 loss that has pushed them to the brink.
"I didn't see anybody hanging their heads today. If anything, I think they're looking forward to the challenge tomorrow, and that's a great sign, I think, for a coaching staff to see their players like that."
"I don't think I need a big pep talk with these guys because the reason is, I see them in the right frame of mind, and all we've got to do right now is go out there and prove it tomorrow," added Coach.
"Talk right now is cheap; you've got to show it. That's what I'm going to give our team the opportunity to do tomorrow."
Tomorrow is all the Bruins have, and if this team has shown us anything, it's that they play their best hockey when they are challenged and pushed to the edge. They are ready to prove that from the drop of the puck.
"We are very desperate right now," said Brad Marchand. "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."
"We obviously want to make it to Game 7 and have that opportunity to fight for the Cup. To do that, we have to make sure we lay everything on the line tomorrow and we got to be prepared to do that."
Though Coach Julien acknowledged his team looked a bit nervous off the hop in the Game 5 loss, and not surprisingly have some nerves heading into the do-or-die situation, his statements about the team staying focused and loose are an important indication of group that's never given up hope.
"We forgot about last night. We are just focused on playing hard tomorrow," said Marchand, on a low-key flight back to Boston with the team in good spirits. "Guys seemed like they were getting prepared and getting ready."
Nathan Horton explained that the team's mindset is excitement now more than anything else. "Wish we could play today [Sunday] and get right back at it," said the forward, of the team's hunger to get the home victory to force a Game 7.
And no matter how each Bruin prepares and gets ready for the do-or-die game, Coach knows that they are all well aware of what they need to do come Monday night.
"Surprisingly enough maybe for you guys, you don't have to say much to this group," said Julien. "We don't say it because we want to say it, but 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. And 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."
"This team has shown a lot of pride and guts as far as going out there and competing," added Julien.
"Not everybody is 100 percent, but yet we're still getting guys to compete hard, and that's what you've got to keep doing right until the end because the other team is in the same position as we are right now."
With no breathing room left for losses, the game plan for the Bruins is simple - win one game, and then win another. Two games. That's it. They're not thinking about the two straight games they just lost that could have earned them another Cup.
"The big picture is just win two games. We concentrate on one at a time," said Horton. "Like everyone says, we are at home. It’s obviously a must-win and we all know that the fourth game is the hardest to get and we are going to make it as hard as we can. We are not done yet."
"Only two more games. We got to win two games. That’s what we are looking at."
We've learned a great deal about the character and close-knit nature of these Bruins in the past few years, and throughout this postseason. We'll learn much more in the coming days.
"You play for the guy next to you in your room. You don’t want to let them down and, when your backs are against the wall, that’s the time to step it up," said Horton.
"Everybody knows that our backs are against the wall in the room and that’s what we do for each other. We compete and we want to play and we want to win for each other."
In 2011, the Bruins had to win Game 6 in Boston to force a Game 7 in Vancouver. They did it, and hoisted the B's first Cup in 39 years as a result.
"You always have life until it’s over," said Rask, knowing that experience gives the team confidence in this dire situation.
But, it's two years later. It's the Blackhawks, not the Canucks. And while that experience helps provide belief, it's up to the 2013 Bruins to prove themselves Monday night.
"This is a new season. Obviously, we know what we did in the past but it’s not going to help us tomorrow on the ice," said Rask.
"We still have to go out there and make it happen."
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