WILMINGTON, Mass. – As they head into tomorrow’s Game 2 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal playoff series with Montreal, the Bruins need to summon the spirit of one of their stars of the past.
I’m not talking about Bobby Orr, Dit Clapper, Phil Esposito or even Andy Brickley.
The Bruins need to do something Vladimir Sobotka would do when they take the TD Garden ice down 1-0 in the best-of-seven series.
Let me set the scene again. It was one year ago, the Bruins were down 1-0 in their first-round series with Buffalo. Eventual Vezina Trophy winner Ryan Miller beat Boston, 2-1, in Game 1 despite a 24-8 shots edge by the Bruins in the second period.
The talk afterward in the Bruins’ dressing room was not enough traffic in front of the goal. It took just six minutes, 56 seconds of action in Game 2 for Sobotka to make something happen. He never revealed whether he meant to take a penalty, but he went hard to the net and crashed into Ryan Miller. The goalie interference penalty put them shorthanded. But the Bruins killed off the penalty and were in Miller’s face almost the entire rest of the series. They won that game 5-2 and the series 4-2.
All it took was a little Sobotka spark.
“Vladi did what he thought would be best for the team. There’s other ways too, but we’ll see what’s going to happen,” said center David Krejci, Sobotka’s good friend.
So now the comments are all the same, except in the aftermath of their Game 1 loss to Montreal Thursday night the Bruins are inserting Carey Price’s name where Miller’s once was. Let’s face it, there were hardly any shots that Price didn’t see en route to his 31-save shutout (shots were 18-6 Boston in the second period this time). Practice today stressed battling in the corners and in front of the goal, even though head coach Claude Julien called net-front more of a “mindset.” That mindset can include not worrying too much about sensitive officiating.
“You’re allowed to be in front as much as you want, as long as you’re not in the crease and you’re not interfering with the goaltender,” said the coach. “That’s something you see every year in the playoffs. All teams do that. I don’t think we’re looking to do anything different than any other team, but we need to do it better.”
Sobotka is now property of the non-playoff St. Louis Blues, but it might take a Sobotka-like action to get everyone’s juices flowing in Boston Saturday.
“That’s a really hard question. I’m not going to say that we’re trying to run the goalie,” said Krejci. “I hope we don’t have to go to the point that we have to do stuff like that. We have a strong enough team and it’s going to be hard to keep us off the score sheet in the two games.”
Obviously it doesn’t have to be a goaltender interference call that turns the tide of this season. However, the act could be something requiring just as much physicality and determination.
Is there a man among them with the guts to get in Price’s face? Or maybe there’s someone to just make a similarly heroic play?
Daniel Paille doesn’t necessarily think a Bruins player has to get up in Price’s grill to inspire the team and he believes that inspiration could come from anywhere in the lineup.
“You’ve got a guy like Vladi, he sparked us up. It could be anybody here,” said the fourth-line winger. “I know each one of us wants to step up and we have to show it tomorrow. Who does it? Who knows? But everyone wants to.”
“Whether it’s a big hit or a big block,” he continued, “or a huge goal, or something like that, it’s definitely something that we want to generate to give us that spark.”
A wise songwriter once wrote that you can’t start a fire without a spark. A courageous Czech center once risked his health to make life miserable for an Olympic goaltender. If the Bruins are going to burn Montreal in Game 2, one or more black-and-gold-wearing individuals are going to have to go that extra mile to make a valiant, maybe even risky, play.
Who will be this year’s Vladimir Sobotka?