WILMINGTON, MA - This time of year, you'll hear a familiar refrain from the Bruins.
One game at a time. Short-term memory. Don't get too high, don't get too low.
The refrain is there, because it works. In the playoffs, a win can put you over the moon, and every loss feels like losing a Game 7 in overtime. A player has to trick his mind into never being satisfied, while never being too hard on himself.
"It's never fun to lose, especially at this time of the year," said Patrice Bergeron, as the team gathered at their practice rink, Ristuccia Arena, following their 4-3 double overtime loss to Montreal in Game 1 on Thursday night. Most Bruins stayed off to rest, while a dozen opted to hit the ice. All regrouped.
"That being said, you've got to put it in the past. It's a series and it's one game, so we need to make sure we bounce back."
There was a calmness to the Bruins' locker room following the loss; not in a complacent sort of way, but stemming from the fact that while the OT loss stung, it was, after all, just one game.
That's why come Friday, the group's feeling towards its play on the ice was still a positive one.
"Of course it is," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. "I said it last night, there was no panic after the game. It was only Game 1, and it's a long series."
"That's definitely the way you have to look at it in playoffs," said Bergeron. "It's about always the next game, so we need to regroup and [Friday] was the day for that, and we're ready for [Saturday]."
Most of that positivity is a result of the amount of chances and pressure the Bruins were able to generate. They sent 98 shots towards the net. Fifty-one hit the mark, three of which went past Carey Price, 30 were blocked and 17 didn't get on goal.
"You look at our shots and the chances that we were able to create last night, I think that's definitely a positive and we were able to, once we got our feet moving in the second period there and were down 2-0, we were kind of able to control the pace of the game and get all those chances," Milan Lucic said Friday. He had seven of those shot attempts, and an additional chance that he mistimed, after a backdoor feed from David Krejci.
"I'm going to go back to what I said earlier; bury those great opportunities," said Julien. "We played well, but there were a lot of open nets that we missed, there was a lot of chances that if we would have shot them properly, instead of panicking maybe, we get ourselves a goal."
"It was a tough loss to swallow, but you've got to have a short-term memory and forget about it as quick as you can and focus on the next one," said Lucic. "Because it's coming soon, with a 12:30 game. We're excited about it, got a chance to get some rest, and looking forward to it."
Game 2 is set for 12:30 ET (NBC, 98.5 The Sports Hub) on Saturday at TD Garden. It gives the Bruins a quick turnaround, much like when they lost Game 1 against Detroit and were able to bounce back right away and win four straight.
"You know how important it is going into the next game after being down one into the series, and obviously we experienced that in the last series," said Lucic. "And we came out and had a big game in the next one, and we need to do the same thing going into [Saturday's] game. We know they're going to make adjustments to try to be better."
"Like I talked about last series: You want to get better as an individual and as a team as a series goes on, and we really need to do that moving forward."
"It is what it is," said David Krejci, using his go-to, simple phrase. "It's just one game and it's going to be a better day [Saturday]."
"Tuukka Being Tuukka"
Tuukka Rask was hard on himself following the OT loss, probably too hard on himself (especially according to his head coach and teammates), but that's nothing new.
"That's him. I mean, he always keeps himself to high standards and he expects himself to be at his best all the time, and he's been like that for us all year," said Bergeron."I thought he was good for us. He always wants to be better, to steal games for us, and I know he's going to bounce back."
"It’s emotions, and he expects a lot of out of himself, so he’s in a better place today," Julien said on Friday. "He just had a good night’s sleep and we all know how he is. He’ll bounce back."
"He's always doing whatever he can to stay on top of his game and he's a professional when it comes to his preparation, and sometimes he is hard on himself, but that's athletes everywhere," echoed Lucic.
"They can be hard on themselves at times but Tuukka's a world-class goaltender and he's going to do whatever he can to come back and have a big performance."
Montreal scored twice on the man-advantage, with P.K. Subban using his patented point shot to cash in for the game's first goal and then the winner in double overtime. There was traffic in front of Rask, but he expects to still always make the save.
"You're in the shooting lane, you're going to block it, but you try to give your goaltender the best view of it possible," said Julien, of the balance between a penalty killer blocking the shot or letting his goalie get a clear view of the puck. "[Tuukka] was screened on a lot of those shots there last night, so as hard as he was on him, I don't think we're as hard on Tuukka as he was on himself."
"But that's Tuukka being Tuukka."
Bartkowski's Short-Term Memory
Sometimes, the battling and compete level in the playoffs can lend to taking penalties at inopportune times. The Bruins have a strong penalty kill, and often lean on their aggressiveness to outwork the opponent's power play.
That wasn't the case on Thursday night. Subban's two tallies on the man-advantage made the Bruins just 1-for-3 on the PK, while not converting on either of their two power plays
Naturally, when a power-play goal gets through, the focus shifts to the guilty party who was in the penalty box. Unfortunately, that turned out to be Matt Bartkowski on Thursday, who was in the box for both Subban scores. The Bruins were able to kill off their other penalty - a tripping call to Daniel Paille - at the start of the second OT.
"I assumed that was coming," said Bartkowski, acknowledging that he was expecting a stream of questions from reporters. "At the end of the day, I'm not going to comment on if it was a penalty or anything. Like I said [Thursday] night, I think I could have prevented it before the call."
Friday was a day to go over video, hit the ice and move on to Game 2.
"It's just short memory, that's all it is. Take what you can from it, learn from it, and fix the mistakes," said Bartkowski.
"If you've played hockey for this long, you know how to deal with things like that."
"I'm not getting down on myself. It's just one game, and I can play better, we can all play better, and looking at the game, halfway through it, I think we dominated from there on in, for the most part. There were a few mistakes we had that we can clean up, but on the whole, it wasn't really that bad of a game."
"For the majority of that game, I think we outplayed them. That's what we need to build on - just take that positive energy and apply it to the next game, and just realize that if we bring that for the full 60 minutes, or more if need be, then we'll be fine."
Generating More Traffic in Front
With nearly 100 shots towards Price's vicinity on Thursday, the Bruins didn't have trouble getting pucks through to the net, but if the netminder sees it, he'll stop it.
For Game 2, the Bruins will put a greater emphasis on creating havoc around Price. Net-front presence is always important, but it's not always easy. They'll need to fight for space, and they'll also have to convert on the opportunities they get this time.
"You can tell he has confidence now and he's making big saves. Whether he has that swagger or not, we still need to find a way to score," said Brad Marchand.
"I think if we continue to play well and get opportunities, hopefully we'll get some more. We just want to be persistent and not give up at any point in the game. In playoffs, anything can happen and you've got to play right to the buzzer."
Friday's Optional Skate
The Bruins held an optional practice on Friday, prior to Game 2, with off-ice work and most players opting to rest instead of taking to the ice.
Patrice Bergeron got in a short skate, while Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, Jordan Caron, Justin Florek, Matt Bartkowski, Johnny Boychuk, Andrej Meszaros and Chad Johnson went through drills with assistant coaches Geoff Ward and Doug Jarvis, and goaltending coach Bob Essensa.
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