You know, the Bruins have won four in a row before.
On Tuesday, the B’s can close the book on the Eastern Conference quarterfinals by beating the Canadiens in front of what will undoubtedly be a rowdy 21,273 folks at the Bell Centre. It won’t be easy, but they’re 2-for-2 thus far on the road this series and they should be confident enough to feel they can advance to the second round without making one last stop in Boston Wednesday.
There are a couple of different ways to view the somewhat surprising (given the way things looked a week ago) situation the Bruins find themselves in. When it comes to a scenario such as the ones the B’s will enter when they square off with the Habs Tuesday, Boston fans will generally ask for the bad news first. For that reason, within every Bruins fan is at least a small amount of fear based on the last time they saw their beloved black and gold win three straight games in the postseason. It was a matter of finishing the Flyers off a season ago, and given four chances to do so, they couldn’t get the job done. They’ve got two chances to do it in this one, and if they can’t close things out in Game 6 at the Bell Centre Tuesday night, they’ll get a second crack at it Wednesday in Boston.
Of course, the more optimistic Bostonians can look at it as though it’s the B’s who are the comeback kids. After all, they dropped the first two games of the series to the Canadiens before coming alive in Games 3, 4 and 5. And even though the B’s did fail to finish in the worst way last season against Philadelphia, it isn’t as though they have been incapable of getting that fourth win. B’s fans know better than anyone (“worse” may be a more fitting word) that the Bruins have won as many series the last two years as they’ve lost. Given that Boston can recall a pair of tough second-round exits, they know the B’s have been able to succeed in the first round, including a sweep of the Canadiens two years ago.
The way the Bruins should be viewing the next few days, of course, is that the Habs are determined to go back to Boston one more time, even if they have to crawl there. The Canadiens have likely spent the last two days letting the idea of an early offseason marinade in their minds, and it’s got to be the last thought they’d like to see become a reality.
If you thought the Habs came out flying in the last two games (both of which they would end up losing), they’ll be reaching deeper for even more Tuesday. With their season on the line against their most hated rival, nobody on Jacques Martin's squad is probably anticipating an off-night.
While Bruins fans might look at recent history to determine whether their team can pull it off, Habs supporters can do the same. After all, it was the Canadiens who came back from a 3-1 series deficit against the Capitals to chase the top-seeded team in the first round last year. If they can come back from a being down two games with their backs against the wall, they can certainly conquer the current task at hand. As a result, nobody should be worried about Montreal’s mindset going into Tuesday, even considering the back-to-back overtime losses.
The B’s know this, of course. Claude Julien said Sunday that he expected Game 6 to be the most difficult game of the series. If the B’s drop the contest, they can begin worrying about a new most difficult game of the series.
The point is that the B’s can’t merely brace themselves for everything the Habs should bring in their attempt to stay alive. Julien’s club needs to over-power whatever the Canadiens bring to the table, which will be a lot. At least until they lead, there likely won’t be much of the sitting back that the Habs have displayed at points of this series. They’ll be in attack mode, and if the B’s don’t have just as strong a start, they might not be as fortunate as they were in Game 4, when they were somehow in a 1-1 tie early in the second period despite being dominated.
“They're a dangerous team,” Gregory Campbell said Monday. “They've pushed us to the brink here. They're going to be at their best. It's an elimination game for them obviously, but I think that's our mindset as well. We can't rely on the fact that there's another game after tomorrow night. It's definitely been the team that's been the team that's been a little more desperate -- even if it's just that little bit -- it's been the team that's come out on top in every game.”
Then there’s the matter of what happens if the B’s were to lose Tuesday and come back to Boston. The Garden was good to the Bruins on Saturday, and when Nathan Horton put that rebound past Carey Price just over nine minutes into the second overtime, they finally got to celebrate a win at home in the playoffs. It was one of those classic playoff moments that makes die-hards scoff at the onlooking casual fans just turning in. It was the type of win that a team can reference when needing to access another gear. It was the ultimate way to win at home, and it just as easily could have gone the other way. For that (and a few other reasons), the B’s would hardly be able to consider themselves as being in the drivers seed should the bleu, blanc et rouge stop by Causeway Street Wednesday night.
After all, the Bruins have one hour, 29 minutes, and three seconds worth of proof that actually getting that win at home isn’t the easiest thing in the world. The location of these games has either been irrelevant or swung in the favor of the road teams, depending on which way you want to look at it. Perhaps it’s pure coincidence that teams are outperforming the opponent at home, but when looking around at the other series, it’s more than coincidence. Entering Monday night, the home team has gone just 8-13 so far in the Eastern quarterfinals. Three of the four series have yet to be completed, and half of those home wins for the home teams in the East came in one series (Capitals vs. Rangers).
The Habs will be fighting for their playoff lives Tuesday, and they have every intention of doing the same thing Wednesday in Boston. The only way for the B’s to cancel those travel plans will be to come prepared for what is sure to be the Habs’ most frantic attempt at victory all year.