Boston coach Claude Julien isn’t worried because the Bruins have been here before.
Even after a triple-overtime loss to Chicago in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final that would demoralize the most veteran of groups, the Bruins are calm and confident.
“We’ve been through a lot,” Julien said. “You can chalk that down to experience of having been through a lot, the ups and downs. So we don’t get rattled anymore. We know what we can do.”
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Julien recalled trailing the Vancouver Canucks 2-1 in the 2011 final before coming back to win in seven. He also pointed out that the Bruins lost the first two games to the Montreal Canadiens at home in the first round two years ago.
“I think you’ve had experience in the past when we’ve been down two games and bounced back,” centre Chris Kelly said. “Being here before and knowing what to expect is definitely beneficial.”
So climbing out of a hole is nothing new for Boston, which still has most of its team intact but might have to play Game 2 on Saturday without right-winger Nathan Horton, who left Wednesday night with an apparent upper-body injury.
With or without Horton, the Bruins have plenty of leaders who know the drill.
“Vancouver it was everybody’s kind first time around, right?” defenceman Andrew Ference said. “So you lose those couple games (it’s) maybe a heavier feeling than it is this morning amongst the group because guys are probably a little bit better at turning the page.”
The challenge in turning the page this time comes from the way the Bruins lost Game 1 — in triple overtime on a double deflection that goaltender Tuukka Rask could do little to stop. Julien brushed that off along with several bounces that could have won the game, calling them “hockey breaks.”
The Blackhawks made their breaks in Game 1 and present a formidable challenge for the Bruins to come back from. A day off for the teams Thursday should help players physically, but bouncing back mentally could be a tougher task for Boston.
That started with just how long a night Wednesday was as one period bled into the next and the minutes piled up.
“You’re creeping up on almost playing two full games there,” defenceman Adam McQuaid said. “No question that physically and mentally it was draining.”
Even taking away surrendering a two-goal lead in the third, the Bruins had ample chances to win Game 1 in overtime. Ference noticed frustration from teammates who couldn’t finish on some golden opportunities.
But there’s two ways of looking at that. Either the Bruins gave away a victory or they hung with the Blackhawks on the road. It’s an easy approach for Julien, whose Cup-winning experience contributes to his calm demeanour and that of his team.
“This is a game we all know, hope we should all know, that could have gone either way,” he said. “Both teams had great chances. We could be sitting here today up 1-0 as much as we are down 1-0.”
The Blackhawks took the important first game of the series thanks to a late comeback and then Andrew Shaw’s game-winning goal 12:08 into the third overtime. Getting the positive result drastically altered the mood for Chicago.
“It’s one of those games being down 3-1, you come back to tie it 3-3, you feel like something was left on the table if you didn’t come back and win it,” right-winger Patrick Kane said. “The game went a long time. It’s definitely a good feeling winning in the third overtime when it does go that long.”
It could be a crushing feeling to lose a game that went on that long, but it didn’t take long afterward for the Bruins to appreciate the kind of epic hockey showcase they were a part of in the fifth-longest Stanley Cup final game in history.
“When you watch the video afterwards, you see the excitement, the chances, everything else,” Julien said. “I don’t think there should be any disappointment in what happened last night except for us not getting the win that we wanted.”
But that can be a substantial mental hurdle to overcome. Instead, with an extra day to rest, Boston’s players aren’t stressing it. Kelly, for one, had no trouble sleeping after the triple-overtime loss.
“It’s one game,” he said. “You play lots of hockey games. It’s easy to park it and think ahead to the next one.”
That kind of poise is rare. But it also has not been common lately to have a recent Stanley Cup champion back in the final, and this is the time for the Bruins to cash in on their wealth of experience.
“I think we’ve built some character and some resilience over the past few years with what we’ve been through,” centre Patrice Bergeron said. “It’s something that brought us here, so we’ve got to keep that going and make sure we’re ready for Game 2.”Report Typo/Error