BOSTON — The Bruins took what amounted to a mental-health day today before traveling up to Montreal.
After all, there wasn’t much else they could do. They haven’t had a day off in a week, and pretty much everything they practice they don’t do in games anyway.
They’re down 0-2 in a best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal series to Montreal heading to Game 3 and 4 at the Bell Centre Monday and Thursday.
Despite their efforts to win the Northeast Division and finish third in the Eastern Conference during the regular season, they are now for all intents and purposes the underdogs in this series.
“Yeah, I think we do have that desperation. We’re going to have to go into every minute of the next game having that desperation, playing as hard as we can,” said forward Rich Peverley, who was one of a handful of Bruins players made available to the media inside the TD Garden dressing room. “Whatever it takes to win and every guy in this locker room is going to be counted on and we’re going to need the best from everybody.”
The Bruins have done well with that underdog role in the past in the Claude Julien era. They pushed Montreal to seven games as an eighth seed in ’08 after being down 3-1. Last season the Bruins upset Buffalo as a sixth seed.
It’s being the favorite that they haven’t handled very well, as evidenced by the Carolina series (although they pushed it to the limit after being down 3-1) and last year’s Philadelphia 3-0 flop.
“Yeah, definitely [we're underdogs]. I mean especially going into Montreal. We haven’t won there this year,” said forward Milan Lucic. “It’s the only building we haven’t won in. We have been a really good road team this year, but we’re definitely the underdogs for the rest of the series. But we just, we’re not thinking about that at all. We’re just thinking about what we need to do to get ourselves back in the series.”
The list of things that have to improve for the Bruins to get at least one win, if not two, could fill a list longer than your arm. The main focus, however, has to be on the transition game, discipline and cashing in. Head coach Claude Julien didn’t want to concede that Montreal’s forecheck has destroyed the Bruins’ ability to get things done the way they did — albeit sometimes not that effectively — in the regular season.
“I don’t think our Ds are out of their comfort zone at all. I think it’s more the type of mistakes that we’ve made that have been costly,” said Julien, whose team has committed a giveaway immediately before all five of Montreal’s goals in this series. “And that has nothing to do with the comfort zone that they’re out of more than it’s about making the right decisions.
“I think we executed better [in the 7-0 win over Montreal last month] than we have so far [in this series]. But at the same time, they’ve also elevated their game. When you’re down, 2-0, you take the responsibility that comes with your team. But you don’t ignore that the other team is doing good things. The amount of shots we’ve had, the amount of time we’ve had in their zone, but the inability to score is something that we have to correct.”
There’s been a lot of talk about the Bruins getting the lead in order to throw off Montreal’s game plan. That would be a great idea, just like it’s a great idea every night a team takes the ice. I’m not sure if any team, in any sport, has ever started a game with the intention to fall behind on the scoreboard. The point is, it shouldn’t matter which team scores first. The game is 60 minutes. If the Bruins put forth a 100-percent effort to execute the plan that plays to their strengths for the entirety of a contest, they’d probably get the lead. If they fell behind, the right amount execution would get them right back to even.
This is a problem that crept up so many times in the regular season, you can’t go back and count. For whatever reason, it takes adversity and extra preparation for this Bruins team — led by the coaching staff and the leadership core — to both execute the system and play it with unbridled — but disciplined — passion. This has been a four-year problem, not just a this-season problem.
So here’s their adversity. As far as preparation, Julien sounds like a coach that has a plan that will work to get this series back even. The players seem to believe in it. Now we’ll see what the Bruins do with it all. Is the coach’s plan the right one and can he convey it properly to the players? Can the players prove their regular season wasn’t just a fluke?
Monday night we’ll find out if the Bruins will soar like the classic superhero Underdog or stumble around the neighborhood like abandoned mutts.