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  • Bruins look for killer instinct in Game 5 following last year’s collapse

    Tim Rosenthal April 29, 2024

    Fresh off two impressive outings in Toronto, the Boston Bruins will enter familiar territory Tuesday night.

    In some instances, their path to a 3-1 series lead over the Maple Leafs felt similar to last year’s scenario with the Florida Panthers. The Bruins earned a solid win in Game 1 at TD Garden, dropped off a bit in Game 2 and earned convincing road victories in Games 3 and 4.

    But that elusive fourth win, the toughest to get in any series, evaded them a year ago. Now, they hope to avoid a similar outcome against a different Atlantic Division rival.

    “You always talk about how hard it is,” head coach Jim Montgomery said of the challenges that the fourth win of a series presents. “We got to match their desperation. It’s something we can talk about.”

    Internally, the Bruins didn’t revisit specifics from last year’s meltdown against Florida. But they know full well the challenges that await ahead of Tuesday’s Game 5 against Toronto.

    Unlike the scrappy Panthers of 2022-23, the Leafs faced significant scrutiny from a hockey-obsessed fanbase and media. Sheldon Keefe and an embattled core tried going into damage control mode following their brutal Game 4 effort. But the quotes and soundbites gathered only made things worse. They hardly mitigated tensions from their fanbase following a heated exchange on their bench involving Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander.

    The Leafs enter Tuesday one game away from their eighth first-round exit in nine years. Matthews, the headliner of an offensively talented core that also includes John Tavares and Morgan Rielly, didn’t practice Monday because of illness. They’re still prone to below-average defensive and goaltending from previous playoff failures.

    Yet, a Game 5 win would provide the Leafs some life. 

    Maybe Joseph Woll provides stability in net for a shaky Ilya Samsonov. Perhaps Nylander will regain his footing in his second game of the postseason. Or maybe Matthews recovers in time to put forth a similar outing from his three-point performance in Game 2.

    Either way, the Bruins aren’t taking the Leafs lightly.

    Not after they had multiple chances to secure a series win over the Panthers in the third period. Heck, they would’ve encountered another playoff date with the Leafs had Brad Marchand converted on a breakaway in the closing seconds of Game 5 or if they closed out Games 6 or 7 after taking a third-period lead.

    Instead, they’re facing this year’s scenario with their own questions. They’ve encountered similar instances against the Leafs in 2013 and 2018, where they failed to close their first-round series in five or six before recovering in Game 7.

    Now, they hope to put the lessons learned from the previous 3-1 series leads into fruition.

    “We’re playing Toronto right now. That’s our mindset. That’s our focus,” goalie Linus Ullmark said. “We don’t care about whatever happened. We stay in the moment.” 

    Come Tuesday, the Bruins hope to field questions about their series win and share some early thoughts about a potential rematch with the Panthers. In the process, they’ll aim to give the Leafs a head start on important off-season decisions involving Keeke and a talented, but flawed core with only one series win to their credit.

    Until then, Montgomery will follow the playbook of one of his former peers in the Boston coaching fraternity.

    “To steal a line from Bill Belichick,” the second-year Bruins bench boss said, “the most important thing is we eliminate outside noise, and we just focus on Toronto and we focus on what’s at hand Tuesday.”

    On to Game 5, indeed.

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    Tim Rosenthal

    Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.


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