Claude Julien called for calm, so why not go with that thought for a moment? On Saturday night, Julien's Boston Bruins had finally broken through to score a couple of goals against the Vancouver Canucks, ending a lengthy shutout streak by Roberto Luongo and his stalwart band of defenders. Julien's Bruins had pushed the NHL's regular-season champions to the absolute limit in each of the first two games of the Stanley Cup final, games that seesawed back and forth, that could have absolutely gone either way.
That the Bruins lost one game with 19 seconds to go in regulation and the other 11 seconds into overtime?
Julien would not dwell on the heart-breaking nature of the defeats - and the psychological repercussions of being so near and yet so far away. It didn't matter in the slightest, not to a team that has taken resilience to a new level in these playoffs.
It was just the sort of galvanizing, hard-edged, anger-tinged message that you'd expect from a veteran coach who can see the end in sight and knew at this stage of the proceedings, down 2-0 in the best-of-seven series, it was time to go all Knute Rockne.
To Julien, after a long day of travel to prepare for Monday's pivotal third game, this was not the time for the Bruins to feel sorry for themselves, no time to ponder what might have been and especially no time to start second-guessing the players that got them to this stage of the playoffs in the first place.
So what if Zdeno Chara wasn't at his best? Or that Tim Thomas - who has spent his whole career making the most of an unorthodox playing style - was burned so badly on Saturday's overtime winner. Thomas was so down and out on the play that the Canucks' Alex Burrows had enough time, even sliding along the ice, to score the decisive goal on a wraparound.
"It's not the end of the world here, guys," Julien lectured. "We lost the game, but we're a better team than that, and we're a team that's bounced back all through the season. I don't see an issue here."
While it might not be the end of the world, you could see it from where the Bruins found themselves, perched two games away from elimination. History will tell you that only twice before in Stanley Cup history has a visiting team lost the first two games on the road and then come back to win. It happened to the 1971 Montreal Canadiens and to the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins. That's it. But that was enough for the Bruins right now, given that the alternative would be to meekly raise a white flag of surrender.
Rightly or wrongly, Julien believes the Bruins lost because they beat themselves - and the mistakes they made are correctable. Possibly. But the one discernible edge the Canucks had in both games was that, with the games on the line as the third periods advance, they took over the play both times. Not good, if you're a team such as Boston that prides itself in wearing down an opponent because of a relentless and physical fore-check.
"As far as I'm concerned, we're taking responsibilities for this loss," Julien said. "It's our own fault. We beat ourselves with some bad decision-making and some poor puck management. You take responsibility and you make the corrections that you have to do and you move on. I think our game this year has been good when we've been at our best and executing properly. And we didn't to that here."
Boston was behind in two of three series in these playoffs and the deficit in the opening round against the Montreal Canadiens seemed even more daunting because they lost the first two games at home.
Now, Julien was also honest enough to point out that Montreal isn't Vancouver, and the Canucks were the runaway regular-season champions for good reason this year. Balanced scoring, lots of unlikely heroes. A perfect case in point: the Sedins, who weren't very good in the first two periods, were very good in the third plus the one deciding overtime shift. That's how championships are generally won - with teams that stick with it, even if things aren't falling your way, knowing that perseverance can change matters in a hurry.
So here we are at Game 3 and as the Canucks' Daniel Sedin peered into his crystal ball, he predicted that not much was going to change, at least not in terms of the low-scoring defensive style that characterized the two games in Vancouver.
"Expect the same," Sedin predicted. "It's not going to be a lot of scoring chances. I think we're confident playing in games like this. They are, too. But I think if all our lines play like we can, we're a tough team to beat."
Sadly for the Bruins, to win the Stanley Cup now, they'll need to beat that tough Vancouver team four times in the next five games. The way things are clicking so efficiently into place for the Canucks, it is hard to imagine them letting that happen right now.Report Typo/Error