BOSTON -- Milan Lucic understands the mentality the Maple Leafs will have headed into Saturday night’s revenge tilt at TD Garden, which marks the first time Toronto comes back to Boston since the Eastern Conference quarterfinal Game 7 third-period Bruins comeback that proved to be a big turning point for both teams.
The win helped propel a scuffling Bruins team all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, and within two wins of lifting the Cup again for the second time in three years. The loss sent the Leafs into an offseason maelstrom where their mental and emotional faculties were questioned, and the heart of their players was put into the crosshairs.
It’s the same exact feeling Milan Lucic and a host of Bruins players experienced after blowing a 3-0 best-of-seven playoff series lead to the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010, wasting a 3-0 lead in Game 7 of that series in Boston. They were questioned and challenged all summer, and that pressure turned the Black and Gold into Stanley Cup champions the following spring.
“It propelled us, and made us better, stronger," Lucic said. "We used it as motivation. I remember the [first] game we won 3-0 [against the Flyers the next year], and obviously that was a game we circled on the calendar that we really wanted to win and play well. "You always remember something like that if you’re on the losing end . . . and even on the winning end obviously too.
“When you’re on the losing end it obviously hurts a lot more, and it’s the way you come out of it. The way we came out of it obviously propelled us to be Stanley Cup champions. With the way Toronto started the season and the way that they’ve got things going in the right direction, you know they’ll be motivated for this game. We’ll see where this takes them as far as all this goes.”
The Bruins will be catching Toronto on the second end of back-to-back games after old friend Phil Kessel’s one-man rush up the ice helped the Leafs collect a shootout win over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night. But that shouldn’t matter given the emotion and energy involved from Toronto’s end, and given the importance of divisional games to the B’s as they trail the Leafs in the standings.
As enjoyable as the Game 7 comeback win against Toronto was last season, it didn’t result in the Black and Gold achieving their ultimate goal.
“Even though we won that Game 7 against the Leafs last year propelled us to the Cup Final, we still lost last year. We ended up with the same amount of trophies as the Leafs did last year,” said Lucic. “There’s motivation for us. We didn’t accomplish what the ultimate goal was. The fire inside to become a champion again is still there because we were so close.”
Neither side should be lacking for much motivation on Saturday night, and that should make some pretty good hockey theater as the third game of “reunion week” concludes after visits from Tyler Seguin and Tim Thomas earlier this week.