It’s safe to say this is the point at which things start to get very squirrely indeed.
The Boston Bruins, down 2-1 to the Montreal Canadiens, do not want to find themselves in a 1-3 hole heading back to Massachusetts on Saturday; now they need to do something about it in game four (7:30 p.m., CBC, RDS).
Though Boston was the best team in the NHL in the regular season, they have led for only for 13 minutes and change through the first three games of the series with their eternal rivals.
People of lesser constitution would get nervous about that.
Not these guys.
The Bruins have played 62 playoff games since April of 2011, and the bulk of the squad has been there for all of them.
“We’ve been through a lot as a team . . . you learn a lot over the years, we just know it’s not over til it’s over, and as long as you stay calm and focused and you believe in your team, anything’s possible,” said Brad Marchand, who practiced alongside nominal fourth-line centre Gregory Campbell at the team’s morning skate. “When you play this many playoff games together, you learn a lot, you build a lot of confidence together.”
If Montreal coach Michel Therrien has exhorted his players to whistle why they work and enjoy the moment, his opposite number Claude Julien has likewise encouraged his club to embrace the challenge the Bell Centre poses.
“Keeping things simple (is important) in life, guys,” said Julien. “Last time I looked I think it was 2-1 in the series and there’s hockey to be played here. We’re not overconfident, we’re just saying we’re in a good series here – we’re in a big series – and we do things our way that we feel is right for our team.”
The Habs are expected to ice the same lineup as in game three, meaning plodding defenceman Douglas Murray should once again feature; it’s probably also a reasonable expectation that Thomas Vanek will again play on the second line with Tomas Plekanec and Michael Bournival, while Brendan Gallagher slots in next to David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty.
“We know it’s a big game. They’re going to come back hard and give a push. They’re a team that’s tough to beat, but we need to stick to our game plan. We’ve executed well up until now,” said Desharnais, adding “We’ve believed we could win from the start, so that hasn’t changed in our heads. If we’re the underdogs or whatever people think, it doesn’t matter. We know we’re a good group of players and we can go far with this group. That’s all that counts.”
Therrien threw a few last-minute wrinkles into his game three game-plan, Julien may have a few surprises in store; injured defenceman Dennis Seidenberg was at the morning skate wearing a regular jersey, and though he didn’t play with any particular partner might feature at some point.
Boston also called up forward Matt Fraser in place of the scratched Justin Florek.
Tuukka Rask will of course start for the Bruins, Carey Price is in the Montreal net.