“A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always be closing, always be closing.”
— Alec Baldwin’s character, Blake, in Glengarry Glen Ross
One of the biggest criticisms of the Boston Bruins over the past two years is the apparent lack of a killer instinct. All through last season right up until the bitter end of the playoffs and right up until the end of the regular season, the Bruins seemed to lack the ability to close games (and series) out.
Tonight, they have the chance to change that perception.
This year’s Bruins have been a resilient bunch, fighting back from bad losses, series deficits, and poor performances to win the Northeast Division and reach the Eastern Conference semifinals, where they hold a 3-0 lead over the Philadelphia Flyers heading into tonight’s Game 4 at TD Garden.
What the Bruins have failed to show, at least until the other night, was the ability to step on the throat of an opponent – to close out a series they deserve to win.
Tonight’s Game 4 is the perfect opportunity to do that. The Flyers looked tired, lost, and defeated a minute into Game 3, never mind at the end f Game 3. After last year’s collapse, the Bruins can ill afford to allow Philly even one win in this series – even if this year’s Bruins appear to be very different than last year’s edition.
“We need to come out and play with a sense of urgency, with a sense of purpose,” Patrice Bergeron said. “Philadelphia is not going to quit, we know that. We need to come out and play the type of game we need to play to win this game.”
Translation: This isn’t some throwaway game against Florida in mid-November. This is the real thing, and it’s time to finish off the Flyers.
Philly wins Game 4 tonight? They get to play at home for Game 5 and should they win there, then Peter Laviolette’s words of the “pressure being on Boston” really start to ring true. They start thinking about last year, about blowing leads, about the Flyers showing the fight they did a year ago.
“It’s not exactly a Game 7, but we’re looking for our fourth win, and that’s the hardest game to win,” Johnny Boychuk said. “And you have to treat it like a Game 7.”
The Flyers are doing their best to plant seeds of doubt in the minds of the Bruins. First, Laviolette said the pressure was on Boston after winning the first two games on the road. Now, Claude Giroux is talking about what could happen should the Flyers win Game 4.
“I think just one win would give us a lot of confidence and make them think of what happened last year,” Giroux told Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald. “Just one win would put us back in the mix, and being able to play in front of our fans would no doubt be good.”
The Bruins appear to be confident, not cocky, that they will exorcise any demons that remain from last year by closing out the Flyers. At practice on Thursday, everyone appeared relaxed, energetic, and focused. Combined with the fight and resiliency the Bruins have shown this season and they have almost all the qualities of a Stanley Cup winner.
The only one missing? The ability to close.
That trait needs to be earned tonight.
1. Put the Flyers on their heels: Boston showed glimpses of a killer instinct on Wednesday, scoring twice in the opening 1:03. With Sergei Bobrovsky likely to get the call in goal for Philly, another fast start will have the Flyers’ reeling.
2. Put the Flyers on their butt: Boston, particularly Brad Marchand, Daniel Paille, and Boychuk, hammered the Flyers throughout Game 3. That helped beat the spirit out of Philadelphia.
3. Smart choices at the blue lines and in the neutral zone: In Game 2, Boston’s defense was jumping up when they shouldn’t, giving James van Riemsdyk and company an endless supply of odd-man rushes. That didn’t happen in Game 3, and cannot happen tonight if the Bruins want to close this out.
Philadelphia’s keys to victory …
1. Get the lead: Though the Flyers have shown to be a resilient team in the past, they have not shown that in this series. When Boston punches them in the mouth, they haven’t responded. Instead, the Bruins just punch them again and again. The Flyers need to throw the first punch tonight and get inside the minds of the Bruins.
2. Win one shift at a time: The Flyers cannot change what happened in the first three games, but they can control and change what happens from here on out. Play hard every shift and try to win every shift.
3. Play better defense: Fans can blame Brian Boucher all they want, but the fact is he didn’t have a chance on either of the first two goals in Game 4 (or the third and fourth goal either). The Flyers’ defense has been porous, and that’s why the Bruins are seemingly scoring at will.
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