TORONTO -- Can the Bruins take a 3-1 series lead against the Maple Leafs on Wednesday? In order to do it, they'll need to do something they haven't done in 12 games: win two in a row.
Consistency has been an issue for this Bruins team for much of the season, and now that the playoffs have come, it's a hurdle they'll need to overcome. No matter what your seed is, it's impossible to win the Stanley Cup without winning two consecutive games, so the Bruins would like to string together a couple of wins sooner rather than later.
"We're not looking at how we've played in the past," Brad Marchand said Tuesday. "It's more each game at a time right now. We've got to make sure we're prepared for the next game. It just seems like, especially in the playoffs, if you lose a game you want to bounce back quick. We did a really good job of that [after] Game 2. We've got to make sure that we're prepared for the next game and give it our all."
The Maple Leafs are hungry heading into Game 4 after taking a 5-2 loss in their first home playoff game in nine years. They bounced back from losing the opening game, and despite trailing in the series, 2-1, they feel it's been closer than the final scores -- all games decided by two or more goals -- would indicate.
"They've all been tight games," Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk said Tuesday. "They could go either way, and then you get to the end and the other team's kind of taking some more chances. That's what's happened in a couple of games."
That isn't just optimism from the Leafs, either. Claude Julien disagrees with plenty of what the Leafs are saying (notably regarding the faceoffs in the series), but he sees it just as close as van Riemsdyk does.
"Never mind the score. You look at how the game's been played, and there's some nights where mistakes are costing goals on both sides," Julien said. "I said it after Game 2 -- the outnumbered situations that we gave up in Game 2 were what cost us the game. There were some breakdowns for the Leafs last night that we took advantage of, but overall it's been a clean but physical series. … It's been well-played, and both teams have had their chances."
So what can the Bruins do in Game 4 to put the Leafs on the brink of elimination? If they get a performance like they did in Games 1 or 3, which saw lots of scoring opportunities from multiple lines, as well as strong defensive play, they’ll be really tough for the Leafs to beat. If they take the ice simply feeling proud of themselves because they won the last game by three goals, they might be in trouble.
The Bruins feel that they eased up after taking a 4-1 victory in Game 1 and underestimated the Leafs heading into the second game of the series. That, combined with the fact that the Bruins had new defensive pairings as a result of the Andrew Ference, allowed Toronto to tie the series.
This time around, the B's shouldn't have such a silly mindset. Considering they were upset in the first round a year ago, they should no better than anyone the consequences of assuming they have anything in the bag. The Bruins are deeper offensively, stronger defensively and have gotten better goaltending, but the Leafs are every bit capable of taking advantage of mistakes or sluggish play.
So if this Bruins team is going to show that they're done with their win-one, lose-one ways, coming out strong in Game 4 would be a good start. Any team can beat any team at any time, regardless of rosters or conditions. The B’s saw it when the Capitals eliminated the defending Cup champions in seven games a year ago, and they saw it when Toronto took Game 2 on Saturday.
"For sure, we were a little overconfident after Game 1. But they got all their nerves out in Game 1 and really came back and played hard the last two games," Marchand said. "We have to make sure we're prepared to battle even harder in the next one. It's going to be that much more of a difficult game, especially with the atmosphere here. It's tough, so we've got to make sure we're prepared and come out hard."