April 22, 2012

Bruins ready to fight for playoff lives in Game 6

By Jesse Connolly

BOSTON – For those fighting to squeeze optimism out of the Boston Bruins’ current playoff predicament, the good news is that they’ve been in this spot before and persevered.

The bad news, however, is quite obvious. Just six games into their quest to repeat, the Black and Gold are in danger of being abruptly bounced from the postseason by the Washington Capitals.

After falling 4-3 in Game 5, losing for the second time in three playoff home games, the B’s must now venture back to D.C. trailing their quarterfinal series with the Caps three games to two. Coach Claude Julien hopes last year’s experience – which included overcoming this same series deficit to defeat the Canucks and capture the Cup – will aid the Bruins in Game 6.

“Well there’s certainly lots of guys in that dressing room that have gone through that and there’s some others that are new to our hockey club that have to manage that as good as they can,” Julien said. “A guy like [Brian] Rolston, he’s got some experience so our guys that we’ve gotten are experienced guys so I don’t see that as an issue.

“We’re down 3-2 in the series and most people will tell you, until they win four games, that’s when the series is over. So we’ve got an opportunity (Sunday) to get back into this series and create a Game 7, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

Game 5 ended in wildly frustrating fashion for the Bruins, as an undeniably weak penalty call on Benoit Pouliot in the closing minutes led to Troy Brouwer’s game-winning goal on the power play with 1:27 left in regulation.

“It’s tough. We had a little bit of a collapse there and they capitalized,” winger Brad Marchand said after the loss. “In a situation like that, we have to be a little bit better. It’s definitely frustrating. I thought we had a really good game. We fought them back all night, and it’s a tough way to lose. But tomorrow’s another day. It’s do-or-die for us, so we have to make sure we’re prepared.”

After finally solving the Capitals ability to block an abundance of their and get traffic in front of rookie Braden Holtby in Game 3, the B’s reverted back to the way the played in Games 1 and 2 in the following tilt, a 2-1 loss in Game 4 down in Washington.

In Game 5, Boston played considerably better for most of the tilt. They hope to draw on those positives on Sunday afternoon.

“Yeah, we definitely did a great job battling back and winning battles, getting more traffic in front of the net,” said Marchand. “So we have to do the same thing (in Game 6).”

Much talk has been about Boston’s glaring offensive shortcomings. Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron have no goals and just one assist apiece. Tyler Seguin has failed to record a point. The three forwards were among the B’s top four scorers during the regular season, combining for 192 points.

While Julien won’t ignore the fact that he hasn’t got enough from his big guns, the B’s bench boss believes the reason this series is 3-2 in favor of the Capitals has just as much to do with the Bruins’ struggles as it does Washington’s ability to execute.

“Well it’s got to be a little bit of both,” said Julien. “I think you’ve got to give them credit; they’ve got a game plan that they’re sticking to and they’re making it hard for us to score some goals. At the same time, the reality is we’ve got some players that can still be better for our hockey club.

“We don’t have everybody going and that’s the part that we’re trying to do here [is] get some guys going. And some of those guys are important players for our hockey club and they’re not where they should be at this stage.”

Julien’s been singing the same tune for too long now in this series, and so have the Bruins’ key cogs that have yet to make those much-needed contributions.

The time for talk is officially over.

“It’s good to know that we’ve been in tough spots before and responded well,” goalie Tim Thomas said. “Having said that, we’ve got to do that. You got to bring it and do it. It’s not going to be for granted that we’re going to do it. It’s up to us in this room.”

Jesse Connolly can be reached at jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseNEHJ.