Haggerty: Bruins not looking to repeat history

Haggerty: Bruins not looking to repeat history
May 25, 2013, 11:15 am
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BOSTON – Confident words and defiant attitudes are the standard tones from every hockey dressing room during the Stanley Cup playoffs, but Game 5 between the Bruins and the New York Rangers will be pretty instructional as to where the actual Black and Gold psyche resides these days.

All it took was a Tuukka Rask butt stumble, one play where Zdeno Chara was caught napping, a too many men on the ice penalty and a play in overtime where Dougie Hamilton wasn’t quite strong enough to finally take the B’s down at Madison Square Garden. The succession of gaffes gave life to a New York Rangers team that’s down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, and leaves Boston with a split of road games headed back to Boston.

The Bruins hold a still-commanding lead in the series, but there are also some nagging similarities to a playoff series in recent Bruins history that can’t be ignored.  

The Bruins were also up 3-0 on the Philadelphia Flyers in a memorably awful playoff series in 2010, dropped a very winnable Game 4 in overtime and then didn’t even compete in a 4-0 loss on home ice in Game 5. For many of the B’s players still around from that season’s roster, the shutout loss to the Flyers was when the series truly spiraled out of control.

"That year in 2010 was almost like a snowball effect,” admitted Milan Lucic. "They won in overtime, and then they came in here and won 4-0. It just kept getting bigger and bigger, and we couldn't stop it.

But there’s a big difference between this particular group of Bruins players, and the ones that collapsed under the pressure three years ago and succumbed to one of the worst playoff choke jobs in professional sports history. Some, well pretty much Mike Felger, question why anybody should have confidence in the Bruins facing this current situation, and it’s a pretty simple formula.

First of all David Krejci is healthy this time around, and that can’t be overstated. The playmaking center’s exit from the series with a dislocated wrist in Game 3 helped pave the way for everything that happened afterward against the Flyers. Krejci is leading all Stanley Cup players with 17 points, and is once again one of the most important playoff performers for the Black and Gold this season.

Secondly, this is a team that vanquished those 2010 demons when they won the Stanley Cup the following season, and doesn’t have the same kind of self-doubt or self-fulfilling prophecies hanging over them anymore.

That much is pretty watching them on a day-to-day basis. If anything it’s overconfidence and a tendency to start playing a little casually cute that dog the Bruins when things are going a bit too well for them, and complacency is the thing that they have to guard against vigilantly.

Nobody is accusing the Bruins of looking complacent in outshooting the Rangers by a 40-32 margin in Game 4, and losing in overtime on a series of correctable mistakes.

“I don’t think we got outplayed, I don’t think we got outworked; it was just one of those games where a couple of good bounce went their way and that was the difference in the game,” said Claude Julien. “For us right now, and I said it when I was in New York, we’re living in the present, yesterday’s the past. Right now, we’re looking to get ourselves ready to play a real good game [in Game 5] and play to win ourselves a hockey game.”

The words are confident, clear and concise from the coach. The sentiments come from a Bruins hockey club that’s proven they know how to win, and did that again under historic circumstances while staging the greatest Game 7 comeback in NHL history against the Maple Leafs.

"It's a part of the learning process as a player, as a person and as a team. Not take anything for granted and once again you look at the situation yesterday and it's almost like we did take it for granted,” said Lucic. “But thankfully we're still up in the series, and you go back to how we played in the year after against Philadelphia and how we had that opportunity to close them out and we made no mistakes again and closed them out.”

Bruins fans, media, management, coaching staff and even the players themselves will know a lot more about this Boston hockey club following their Game 5 effort, and it will be much more insightful than any pile of playoff sound bytes. If the Bruins fall on their collective faces on home ice as they did in Game 5 against the Flyers in a 4-0 loss back in 2010, then the team is absolutely in T-R-O-U-B-L-E.

But it’s been pretty clear in this second round series the Bruins are a much better team than the troubled New York Rangers. The expectation was, is and will continue to be that the Black and Gold should have little real difficulty dispatching the Rags, and advancing to the conference finals for the second time in the last three years.  

If the B’s come out focused and ready then the series will be over, and the preparation for a Pittsburgh Penguins juggernaut will begin immediately with a likely Tuesday night start for the Eastern Conference Finals.

It wouldn’t be the end of the world if the Bruins lost Game 5 in a competitive effort like the one they featured in the first three games of the series, and instead had to head back to New York City one more time to finish things off. Mistakes do happen, and there’s every chance Henrik Lundqvist could steal a game or two in this playoff series like hasn’t happened thus far in the first four games.

But the key for the Bruins is showing up for Game 5, and putting themselves in a position to win just like they didn’t back in 2010 against the Flyers. Failing to do so would invite another spectacular failure, and court the kind of hockey history Boston doesn’t want to repeat.