Players and coaches often come away from a game insisting that they have to build on the positives. Well, what if there aren’t any? That’s the predicament the Bruins face heading into Game 6 on Wednesday night in Philadelphia, two days after suffering a 4-0 defeat.
In a nutshell, Monday was disastrous for the Bruins.
It was like inviting some girls over to hang out with you and your less-attractive buddy. You figure you have it in the bag, and everything is going to go accordingly. Then, you start to realize your buddy is tearing it up and stealing the show with his witty jokes and timely comments. Before you know it, he’s heading back to his place with your girl, and you’re left sitting their stunned and wondering if you missed your opportunity.
In this case, your girl is a ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals and your buddy’s place is all the way in Philadelphia.
The Bruins have to be disappointed that they haven’t been more opportunistic the past two games. With Game 4 in overtime on Friday night, only one goal separated the Bruins and a date with either the Pittsburgh Penguins or the Montreal Canadiens. Opportunity missed. On Monday night, they had a chance to finish off the Flyers at home, only hours after the unveiling of a Bobby Orr statue outside the Garden had the crowd buzzing. Opportunity missed again.
Now, the Bruins not only have to solve their own problems, but they have to do so in enemy territory. Keep in mind that this isn’t just any enemy territory either. Watching the Bruins come out of the tunnel tonight should be like watching Rocky head down the aisle in Rocky IV, except with more hatred and don’t expect any change of heart throughout the game. In fact, the Philly fans may even be offended by the comparison between the Bruins and one of their own (Rocky).
In the most recent issue of Sports Illustrated, a poll of 272 NHL players found that Philadelphia was the fourth toughest place to play, behind San Jose, Montreal, and Chicago. Perhaps more revealing of their true identity though is a 2007 poll that revealed Philadelphia as the team with the most intimidating fans. 24% of the NHL players polled believed this to be true.
So what must the Bruins due to defy the odds and finish off the series tonight in Philadelphia?
First off all, the Bruins have to get on them early. This is something that could easily be said for any game in any sport, but tonight it is especially important for the Bruins to come out firing. They have not had any momentum or anything positive happen for them since scoring the game-tying goal in Game 4. If they don’t generate some offense and momentum early in the game, it may never happen. However, if they can silence the crowd early and rattle Michael Leighton, who is making his first career playoff start, then the Bruins could be on their way to their second road win of the series.
The Bruins also have to remain disciplined. The Bruins played down a man 10 times in Game 5 and spent over 14 minutes killing off penalties. Despite enjoying their normal penalty kill success (9 for 10), losing the special teams battle will eventually haunt you in a game of this magnitude.
The Bruins must also keep an eye on Flyers forward Simon Gagne, who has three goals in two games since returning from an injury, and Mike Richards, who has really been setting him up. Perhaps more importantly, they have to find a way to decipher Philadelphia’s defense. The Flyers played nearly a perfect defensive game on Monday night, with their defenseman limiting the Bruins opportunities, especially in front of the net where the black and gold have enjoyed so much success up until now. Matt Carle, in particular, has made his presence felt. He has 5 assists and is plus-7 in those two games.
Wednesday night is truly a test for the Bruins, and will go a long way in determining whether they are a Stanley Cup contender or pretender. Heading into Game 5, hardly anyone seemed worried outside the TD Garden. Now, skepticism and angst fill the air.
Bruins forward Shawn Thornton put forth perhaps the best indication that today is a new day, though, when asked about last game during today’s morning skate.
“What last game?” he said, according to John Bishop of the Bruins team website.
So while we could be witnessing a resurrection of the Broad Street Bullies and the potential for an amazing series comeback, the Big Bad Bruins still have one thing in mind: Knocking the bully out.