BOSTON -- If the Bruins have proven anything over the years, it’s that they play their best hockey when desperation is in the air.
There is the capability for great things from within the B’s dressing room, but they often need to be pushed to the brink in order for that vast hockey potential to be unleashed. That will be the case on Monday night at a raucous TD Garden, as the Bruins and Blackhawks tangle for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, with Lord Stanley’s Cup in the building for the first time in the series.
The Black and Gold are on the brink of elimination after dropping a 3-1 decision in Game 5 at the United Center in Chicago, a nasty piece of hockey business that saw both Patrice Bergeron and Jonathan Toews go down with injuries, meaning that both teams are banged up and battling exhaustion at the end of a long playoff journey this spring.
But that’s the exact time for a hockey gut check where the Bruins will need to play as closely to a perfect hockey game as they’ve achieved all season.
“We’ve played some good hockey at times,” Tuukka Rask said. “We haven’t really played 60 minutes of great hockey. [Game 6] has to be the day.
“You always have life until it’s over. This is a new season. Obviously, we know what we did in the past but it’s not going to help us on the ice [for Game 6]. We still have to go out there and make it happen.”
The Bruins have been down this road in the Cup Final before, of course.
Boston was shut out in Game 5 against the Vancouver Canucks two years ago before winning both Game 6 and Game 7 en route to their first Cup in 39 years, and four of the last six Cup winners have lost Game 5 before rebounding to win the final two games of the series. This current edition of the Bruins stared their own hockey mortality directly in the face during Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and simply decided they weren’t ready to check out for the spring.
The Bruins didn’t surrender when they were down by a 4-1 score in the third period of that memorable Game 7 against the Leafs, and they’re certainly not going to do it in an elimination Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.
So it’s not unprecedented for the Bruins to turn it around, but the players know they’ll need to earn it against a Blackhawks team that’s looked every bit worthy of being a Cup champion this spring.
“It’s a different team, different situation but we’ve been here before. I think we have a bit of confidence but at the same time they’re a very resilient team,” Brad Marchand said. “They’ve played great so far. They played good last time they were in our building, so we’ve got to make sure we realize that and we don’t take it for granted.”
It won’t be easy, of course. A source close to Patrice Bergeron indicated to CSNNE.com that the Bruins two-way center isn’t dealing with a ruptured spleen, but every indication is that he’s trying to play through an extremely painful injury nonetheless. It’s expected No. 37 is going to give it a shot un Game 6 as any hockey warrior would, but nobody would expect anything different from the player that struggled through a difficult Game 5 experience.
“I think the big picture is just to win two games. We concentrate on one at a time. Like everyone says, we are at home,” said Nathan Horton. “It’s obviously a must-win, and we all know that the fourth game is the hardest to get. We are going to make it as hard as we can.
“We are not done yet. Like I said, only two more games. We’ve got to win two games. That’s what we are looking at.”
In Claude Julien’s six years behind the Bruins bench, eight of Boston’s 13 playoff series have been extended to seven games. (The only series that didn’t go the distance were three series sweeps of the Canadiens, Flyers and Penguins, a five-game series win over the Rangers and a six-game first-round triumph over the Buffalo Sabres.) They're hoping to have another.
“You play for the guy next to you in your room. You don’t want to let them down. When your backs are against the wall, that’s the time to step it up,” Horton said. “Everybody knows that our backs are against the wall in the room, and that’s what we do for each other. We compete and we want to play and we want to win for each other.
“It just kind of happens that way. Obviously, we would have wanted to win [in Game 5]. That’s the kind of character we have in our room. When our backs are against the wall, we show up. We play for the guy next to you, and we all know what we have to do now. We can’t lose and we’ve got to come to play.”
There’s a nagging suspicion that there won’t be a gaggle of Blackhawks players hooting, hollering and hoisting the Cup on the TD Garden ice when Game 6 has concluded. The Bruins aren't ready for their season to end.
But the B's will need much more out of key players like Dennis Seidenberg, Horton, Marchand, Tyler Seguin, David Krejci and Jaromir Jagr among others if they hope to overcome the Stanley Cup Finals walls closing in around them.
It certainly won’t be easy for a group of grizzled Bruins players, but they wouldn’t have it any other way.