Elimination-game experience: Advantage B's

Elimination-game experience: Advantage B's
May 10, 2013, 5:00 pm
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BOSTON — The Bruins took some amusement from a line of questioning wondering about their 3-6 record in non-Game 7 elimination games under the watchful guidance of B’s coach Claude Julien.

“I’m trying to make it 4-6 tonight,” said Claude Julien. “How is that?”

Perhaps an even more relevant statistic is the number of elimination games that the Toronto Maple Leafs have played in while the Boston Bruins were getting all of that winning and losing experiences.

Because that magic number for the Leafs is a big, fat, honking zero.

With 13 players making their Stanley Cup playoff debuts in this series for the Maple Leafs, playing for postseason life or death is an absolutely brand new thing for nearly all of the players dotting the Toronto roster aside from the admittedly important Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, Dion Phaneuf and James van Riemsdyk. Exactly half of Boston’s six non-Game 7 elimination losses arrived in one series against the Philadelphia Flyers that the Bruins now know as the biggest hockey teaching moment of the last six years, so it would be misleading to put too much stock in that record.

“When we won the Stanley Cup, we pointed to that playoff series loss to the Philadelphia Flyers as one of the big lessons we learned along the way,” said Milan Lucic. “We don’t want to make the same mistake here, and we don’t want to give that team any momentum.

“I’m sure they want to extend the series tonight, and force us to go back to Toronto. For us we want to do everything in our power to play well and close things out tonight.”

There is no guarantee, of course, that the Bruins will cause The Leafs to fold up like a lounge chair on the Titanic. The Leafs are hungry and their offensive speed has been a problem for a Bruins defense that’s more hard-hitting than “hurry up”, but they also have a sloppy defensemen corps full of holes.

The top four leads in the giveaways category are all members of the Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman corps, and it’s no surprise that Phaneuf and Cody Franson (11) are the leaders in the clubhouse in a very unwanted category. The carelessness with the puck and willingness to make poor choices have opened things up for David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton to dominate the series thus far, and there’s no reason to think any of that is going to change.

This humble hockey writer’s opinion?

The only way the Maple Leafs can pull this series out is if James Reimer has an out-of-body experience, and plays like he did down the stretch for a Toronto team that needed him to be perfect. Otherwise, Game 4 appears to be a battle of the wills between two teams and the Bruins finally broke Toronto’s spirit by taking their lunch money in overtime after their captain completely butchered a play.

It’s difficult to come back from that, and Toronto has shown exactly zero past history that they’ll be ready to get off the mat while down 3-1 and facing the Bruins in an ornery TD Garden.