WASHINGTON -- Pardon the Bruins if theyre feeling something akin to dj vu as they travel to the nations capital for a pair of road playoff games.
With their series against the Capitals tied 1-1, and facing two games in Washington D.C., the Bs find themselves in a remarkably similar situation to last years first round against the Montreal Canadiens. Granted, Boston was down 0-2 to the hated Habs a year ago and there will be no two-day retreat to Lake Placid like last spring. But many of the same phrases and ideas are being put forth by the Bruins now as a year ago.
Back then, the Bruins were lamenting the lack of quality scoring chances generated by their top forwards, were showing hints of frustration about their substandard offense, and were grudgingly paying homage to the opposing goaltender in that case it was Carey Price -- while knowing in their hearts they hadnt challenged him enough. Their third line was the heartbeat of the offense last year, and the more heralded front-end players were saying they had to start getting in gear.
I think it is similar. We let Carey Price see a lot of pucks last year and maybe thats our focus is to get in front of Caps goalie Braden Holtbys face a little bit more, said Rich Peverley, who has three points in 10 games since coming back from a sprained knee. But last year was last year, and maybe we can take from that experience. But nothing stays the same and we need to find a way this year.
I think we definitely need to create more Grade A scoring opportunities. Holtby's definitely played unbelievably, but I think we can challenge him a little bit more. I think we can hold onto the puck a little more and be a little more creative than weve been. Weve got the skill players.
Exchange Price and the Habs for Holtby and the Capitals, and it could be 2011. The Caps have blocked 42 shots and done a magnificent job of clogging up the slot area, which has helped hold the Bruins to two goals in the first two games.
Hal Gill and P.K. Subban are gone, and in their place have come John Carlson and Karl Azner blocking shots for Washington. (Perhaps its the influence of Roman Hamrlik, who was on both squads, but somehow we think not.)
Milan Lucic remembers struggling mightily during those first two games against the Habs last year, and once again hes scoreless after two playoff games this season.He said the reigning Cup champs need to gear it up and find a way to cut through Washingtons packed-in 1-4 neutral zone trap defense.
It feels a little bit like last season for myself, said Lucic. Looking back at that series, I wasnt really able to get anything going in the first two games and I feel like I havent really gotten anything going here in the first two games. Its not like I'm trying not to do anything, but in saying that youve got to put pressure on yourself to want to be better. I want to be better and Im going to do everything I can to help this team win.
While the Bruins are clearly perplexed by their inability to gain the offensive zone with speed or get bodies to the front of the net, theres one big difference between last year and this year.
The Bruins go to enemy territory with the best-of-seven series even, and only need one win to regain their home -ce advantage. Both games have been gone into overtime, so the Bruins know theyre not that far off the winning offensive formula.
They just need a little spark emotionally and offensively to get some of their big name forwards like Lucic, Peverley, Tyler Seguin and David Krejci back spinning in the right direction.
Take a look at the hate thats flowing in the PenguinsFlyers and SenatorsRangers series thus far, and its bringing the best out of three of those four teams (sorry Pittsburgh!). Its been a veritable game of croquet on grandmas front lawn for the Capitals and Bruins aside from Alex Ovechkin cross-checking Dennis Seidenberg in the face without any repercussions.
The Bruins need to be the aggressors and start making things nasty to loosen everything up, and the sooner they do it the better. Players like Lucic and Brad Marchand know thats when the Bruins are at their best, and they need to start finding the hate in their hearts.
There is no doubt I think our battle can be better," said coach Claude Julien. "When you look at this series, I think both teams are pretty even in determination thats why its tied at 1-1 and thats why both games have gone into overtime. Somewhere along the way youve got to find a way to get a little bit more of that edge than the other team.
Theyre probably hoping to do the same thing. But theres also some tactical things that I think we have to be better at and we can adjust to what were trying to do.
Clearly the Bruins could generate more speed coming into the offensive zone and execute more precise dump-and-chase entries against the Capitals' 1-4 trap defense.
But its about winning the one-on-one battles as much as anything else for the Bruins. Its about finding the air of intimidation that goes along with being the Stanley Cup champs, and finding a pathway through a Washington defense thats more playing-over-its-heads mirage than grinding reality.
As with any playoff series, those are the areas that will separate the winner from the loser no matter how eerily similar this series is to last seasons tilt with the Canadiens. The Bruins have been here before, and they know exactly what must be done if they want to prevail.