BOSTON, MA – All of the talk heading into Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals between the Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs was about the adjustments that the Leafs had to make after their 4-1 loss in the first game of the series.
Now, after Toronto evened the series at a game apiece, with a 4-2 win in Game 2 on Saturday night at TD Garden, the focus is shifting to the Bruins and what they have to tweak to retake the lead in the best-of-seven showdown.
“Obviously – a playoff series like this – we knew it was going to be a tough series,” said Milan Lucic, following B’s practice at TD Garden on Sunday morning. “We didn't expect to sweep them, at all. They obviously came out and played much better in Game 2 and made some adjustments and now it's our turn to figure out what we've got to get back to in order to play like we did in Game 1.
“We're looking forward to that challenge tomorrow night. It's turning into a real good series here.”
Are the adjustments that need to be made straightforward?
“I think so,” Lucic said. “It's adjustments, and mistakes that we made that are easily correctable. It's up to us to be committed to playing our game, our system, and playing the way that we know we can play. If we play hard and play most of the time in the offensive zone, we're giving ourselves a good chance to win.”
Lucic said it is important that the Bruins find a consistency to their game. For much of the last month, the Black & Gold had trouble stringing good games together. Now that it is the postseason, steadiness is vital.
“Especially the last month of the season, that was probably the biggest challenge of our hockey team, was fighting that consistency in our game night in, night out,” Lucic explained.
“There's no better time to find it than now, so it’s up to us to find that in our game. It's the hardest part of being a good team. We've done it before, I think there's a lot of confidence in this dressing room and its' just about going out there and doing it.
“We can say all we want in the dressing room and to you guys in the media, but at the end of the day, it's just us going out there and playing for each other and doing the right things and playing more consistent, shift in, shift out.”
B’s Head Coach Claude Julien said a number of adjustments have to be made for his team to get back to what made them so successful in Game 1.
“I think it’s pretty obvious the number of outnumbered situations that we gave them, we had some real bad pinches, real bad reads,” said Julien. “There’s a lot of little things, too; our line changes were poor [Saturday] night, we saw that quite a few times. That’s something that’s got to get better.
“I thought, overall, our game certainly wasn’t as sharp as it was in Game 1. I think the mental part of our game, and again, you’ve heard me say that often, just has to be a little bit sharper in decision making. We didn’t bring our A-game.”
While the Bruins are trying to turn things back around, they will have to battle the raucous atmosphere at Air Canada Centre, which will host its first postseason game since 2004. The playoff-starved Toronto crowd will, no doubt, be at its loudest on Monday night.
“I think we all thought of that as soon as we found out the matchup, how the atmosphere and how the city's going to be with them being in the playoffs for the first time in nine years,” said Lucic, of his feelings heading into a hostile environment. “They have good crowds in the regular season, obviously it gets ramped up in the playoffs.
“They're kind of the center of the hockey world, so there's definitely a lot to look forward to going into Toronto, playing in Game 3 and 4.”
Lucic suggested that, at times, a team can actually feed more off of their opposition’s crowd than their own, saying that it is always a good thing to quiet them down. Julien has noticed Lucic pick up his game in those kinds of situations and isn’t worried about his team shrinking under the pressure of opposing fans.
“I don’t think we’re a team that lets those things distract us,” said Julien. “We’ve been through that before and we’ve played Montreal so many times in the playoffs and that’s a pretty hostile environment, as well.
“If you look back at Milan, he’s played some of his best games in those kind of environments. He kind of likes it, he does thrive on it, so hopefully the rest of our guys do, too.”
For many of the Bruins, the Toronto area is where they grew up. Chris Kelly is one of them, and he is excited to embrace what are sure to be some fun surroundings.
“Being from that area, I was a Leaf fan growing up,” admitted Kelly. “You watch the games growing up, I think everyone that's from Canada, you watch CBC and Hockey Night in Canada. I know it's a big deal for that entire province [Ontario] that the Leafs are in the playoffs.”
“I know exactly how it's going to be: It's going to be loud,” added Kelly, when asked what Air Canada Centre would be like on Monday. “Just like it's loud here [at TD Garden]. It's the playoffs. Fans get excited, players get excited, it's the best time of the year.”
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