Once again, the Boston Bruins are in familiar territory.
After a thrilling come from behind overtime win over the Detroit Red Wings, the Black and Gold have a three games to one series lead and have a chance to move on to the next round with a win in Game 5 on Saturday.
Series clinchers, however, have been a problem under Claude Julien. During his seven-year tenure, the B’s are 5-9 in non-Game 7 clinching scenarios.
In the first round last year, the Bruins had a 3-1 series lead on the Maple Leafs before falling in Games 5 and 6. They also had a 3-0 series lead on the Rangers and Penguins. The Rangers came back in Game 4 before Julien’s squad put them away in Game 5 back at the TD Garden. The very next round, the B’s got the job done and swept the Penguins to move on to their second Stanley Cup Final in three years.
These are questions that the press is expected to ask the players and coaches when a team has trouble in clinching scenarios. Julien, however, was prepared for an answer.
“I knew you were going to ask a question like that,” Julien said jokingly to a member of the media. “It’s got to be something negative, right?”
The reporter responded back: “What positive lessons can you take from that?”
Julien’s answer after a few more chuckles: “We can learn a lot from last year.”
“You can look at it whichever way you want,” Julien continued. “It doesn’t mean that just because it happened before that it has to be the same thing. There’s different situations all the time.
“Right now, we have yet to lose respect from the team we’re playing against. They’ve added some good players into their lineup last game…There’s a respect factor that we want to win tomorrow to end the series, and if not we have to go back to their building, and that’s something we prefer not to do.”
This year, the Black and Gold will want to avoid giving a desperate Red Wings squad new life and finish the series. Even with Henrik Zetterberg and Todd Bertuzzi returning to the lineup in Game 4, the B’s have the Wings right where they want them. They’ll even get to face backup Jonas Gustavsson, filling in for an injured Jimmy Howard, again in Game 5.
All the “on paper” talk, however, will go to waste if the B’s can’t get the job done.
“There’s still one more game left to win and we have to focus on that,” defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. “We’ve been in that situation many times where it came to bite us back, and we have to make sure to be ready and do the job.”
The fourth win is always the toughest to get. But the Black and Gold’s motivation is in the right place heading into Saturday.
“It’s more of a mental challenge than a physical challenge obviously,” said Vezina Trophy finalist Tuukka Rask. “You get these opportunities and you start thinking about the final score of the game before the game even starts, and you kind of feel and hope that you get to do that. But I feel that over the years that [the mindset] doesn’t help us. We just have to focus on our job and the game itself, and the results will take care of itself.”