BOSTON – The horror show happening in the Western Conference has its share of interested observers in the Bruins’ dressing room.
While the Bruins are getting ready to go for the kill in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series tomorrow night in Montreal, the story of the Stanley Cup playoffs involves Vancouver and Chicago.
The Presidents’ Trophy-winning Canucks were up three games to none on the defending-Cup-champion Blackhawks. Chicago has rallied to force Game 7 tomorrow night in Vancouver.
“I think it’s tough for them, obviously,” Bruins forward Daniel Paille, a member of last year’s Boston club that made history by losing a 3-0 lead to Philadelphia, said today after practice at the TD Garden. “I’m sure they didn’t expect losing three in a row when they were up 3-0, just like us last year. Especially in Canada, it’s going to be a tough situation. But they are at home, and hopefully they have the advantage. But Chicago, they didn’t give up.”
Players that went through what the Bruins went through in dropping their conference semifinal series to the Flyers – becoming the third team ever to drop a 3-0 series lead and the first since 1975 — don’t wish that on anyone, not even a team playing in the other conference all the way across the continent. The Bruins, to their credit, haven’t shied away from talking about last year’s collapse since they arrived for training camp this season.
While Game 7 didn’t go as planned for Boston last spring, they had the right mentality at the start, as proven by the 3-0 lead they grabbed in the game.
“It’s like ‘OK, it’s best of one,” recalled defenseman Johnny Boychuk. “We can’t think about anything else but this game.’ It’s more or less for your whole season.”
“For us last year, we just realized that we had one game left and we came out firing,” said Paille. “So I think Vancouver’s going to have that mentality, where you have to win or you get beat. I think both teams will come out with a lot of energy.”
Maybe no one took more grief for last year’s defeat than head coach Claude Julien. With few weapons at his disposal, Julien wasn’t able to even consider adjustments to his lineup or a goaltender change. Vancouver’s Alain Vigneault went with a goaltender change before Game 6, but an injury to Cory Schneider then pressed Roberto Luongo back into action before the Blackhawks won in overtime to keep the series alive.
Regardless of the outcome in Game 7, Julien, like many observers, thinks we’re watching what a 30-team league has created in terms of equality among teams.
“I think I understand what they’re going through. And we lived through it,” said the coach. “You watch those games and you see how another team can grab momentum pretty quick, and confidence and belief. And it’s there again this year and there’s an opportunity again to create what happened last year to our team for another team. And whether that’s a trend that’s going that way now, I don’t know. But it certainly shows that there’s parity in this league and nothing is over until it’s over.”
The Bruins learned that last season and they take that knowledge with them to Montreal. The Canucks have to hope that hasn’t sunk in for them too late.