NEW YORK -- Already up in their best-of-seven playoff series against the New York Rangers, the Bruins team bus pulled through congested Times Square prior to Game 3 and sped right on past a slew of billboards for the musical “Jekyll and Hyde,” now playing on Broadway.
It was, of course, an instant reminder of Bruins coach Claude Julien scolding his hockey club for their “Jekyll and Hyde” play following their first-round Game 6 loss to the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Julien said he never knew “which team was going to show up” at that point in the playoffs, and the inconsistency had been dogging his team for most of the season.
The inevitable jokes and catcalls arrived from the Bruins players all sitting in the back of the bus when they saw the musical's billboards, and a smiling Julien responded, “Yeah, it’s starring the Boston Bruins.”
The punch lines are permissible now because the B’s seem to have finally left their inconsistencies behind them and started playing consistent, focused, hard playoff hockey that has put them up by a 3-0 lead over the New York Rangers heading into Thursday night’s Game 4 at Madison Square Garden.
The Bruins know they didn’t have the killer instinct in the first round against Toronto when they went up 3-1 in that series and were subsequently pushed to a Game 7.
“Hopefully we’ve learned our lesson. That fourth game is going to be the toughest one,” said Johnny Boychuk. “Out of any team in the NHL, we should probably know that the best.”
Those lessons are not only from the first round this year, but, of course, from the playoff collapse against the Philadelphia Flyers three years ago that involved so many players on this current Bruins group.
It’s been a remarkable turnaround in the second round: Tuukka Rask has quietly and efficiently outplayed Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist; the Patrice Bergeron/Brad Marchand duo have finally busted out offensively; Johnny Boychuk has matured into a shot-blocking and goal-scoring machine from the blue line; and the “Three Baby Bears” -- Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton and Matt Bartkowski -- have captured everybody’s imagination and sparked the Boston transition game.
All of those things, along with the continued excellence of David Krejci, Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic and the Merlot Line have simply been too much for a sputtering Rangers hockey team.
Some of Boston's resurgence is clearly tied to their recovering from grueling months of March and April that took their roll on the B's skating legs, but they've found their game like they never could during the shortened 48-game regular season.
Now Rangers coach John Tortorella and his players are the team answering (and at times dodging) all of the tough questions before the seemingly insurmountable deficit, and the Bruins are simply strengthening their game while readying for a potential sweep.
“[A sweep] would be nice, but we know that the last win is always the hardest in past years, and even in the last year,” said David Krejci. “So we just need to get ready for [Game 4], and play just like it’s the first game.
“They’ve lost three games, so they’re going to try and change some things up. We expect that, and all we can do is focus on ourselves and our game. We can’t worry too much about what they’re going to bring.”
Fast forward to the present, and both the Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins sit one win away from an Eastern Conference Finals showdown that most hockey fans have been waiting for over the last couple of years. But the Black and Gold can’t afford to stare off into the horizon thinking about future playoff games when they’ve got a Rangers team on the ropes softened up for the kill shot.
Instead, Julien wants his hockey club to focus on the Game 4 task before moving on to a potentially explosive Pittsburgh project.
“I think you live in the moment. You learn from the past, but you live in the moment,” Julien said. “You don’t live in the past. Right now we’re living in the moment, and I like where our team is right now. The attitude and the approach, we’re certainly not looking at it the way some people are where we’re trying to give New York some reasons for hope.
“We’re looking at the present right now, and the present is that we’re looking to play a really good game in [Game 4] just like we did in [Game 3].”
If they can keep it up, the short run for the way off-Broadway Bruins production of “Jekyll and Hyde” will be officially closed for the rest of the Stanley Cup playoffs.