Bruins know Leafs will bring it in Game 5

Bruins know Leafs will bring it in Game 5
May 9, 2013, 2:00 pm
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TORONTO – The Bruins know that all of the playoff clichés are true.

It’s always about getting out of your “comfort zone”, the hot goaltender can always make the difference in a playoff series and the team that “wants it” is always going to win in the end. But no tried and true Stanley Cup playoff staple holds more truth than this one: the most difficult playoff win to attain in a postseason series is the fourth and final one.

The Bruins know it because they’ve been closing out opponents for the past five seasons of their playoff history, and two years ago they dispatched four playoff teams by getting the elusive fourth win in the best-of-seven series. It took three Game 7’s to make that all happen, and they’re hoping it doesn’t get to that this time around after taking a 3-1 lead in the series following their 4-3 overtime win against the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday night.

The Bruins are 15-2 all-time in their organizational playoff history when they take a 3-1 lead in the series, so they clearly should be feeling pretty good about themselves. Given how much blood spilled on the Toronto ice to get the OT victory in Game 4, Boston knows they’ll need to pay a price to close Toronto out.

“It was playoff hockey. It was everything you would expect in playoff hockey. There were a lot of hard playoff battles. I think today was the most you’ve seen guys go to the net, crash the net and create that presence that they needed to do better,” said Milan Lucic. “We’re looking forward to them bringing it again [in Game 5] . . . and we’ll bring it again too.”

This is where the playoff experience should begin to make a difference for both sides as the games ascend in importance and meaning within the series. The Bruins have been through up-and-down overtimes with everything on the line, and they’ve seen everything possible in playoff hockey during some of their hate-filled skirmishes with Montreal and Vancouver.

The Bruins know a miscalculation like that made by Dion Phaneuf in overtime to go for the knockout hit against Nathan Horton can wildly backfire, as it did when David Krejci rushed down the other end of the ice for the Game 4 game-winner. Toronto seems to be willing to pay the price physically, and that will certainly make it tough on the Black and Gold.

“We had a lot of players doing things [in Game 4] that they don’t really want to, but that’s part of winning,” said Johnny Boychuk, who was ready to take a puck off the face for a win after his right leg gave out during one second period shift. “[Being up 3-1] is a good position, but we need to remind ourselves of what happened a couple of years ago [against the Flyers]. We have to take it one game at a time.

“This next game is a big game for us to try and close them out, and that’s what we want to do.”

A group of four Maple Leafs defensemen (Dion Phaneuf, Cody Franson, Jake Gardiner and Mark Fraser) have the four highest giveaway totals for individual players among the Stanley Cup playoff field. That’s working harder instead of smarter, and that’s a sign of a team that’s still trying to figure out the whole playoff thing while also being challenged against a deeper, stronger opponent.

The Leafs seemed like they gave everything they possibly had to win Game 4 in their own raucous barn with thousands of people just outside at Maple Leafs Square waiting to celebrate a Toronto playoff win. But they came up short in allowing the Bruins to build a commanding 3-1 lead in the series, and it’s going to take even more for the Leafs to stay alive with Boston’s chance to close it out at home.

It remains to be seen if the Leafs have that kind of reserve strength within them, or if this first round is going to ultimately be their playoff learning experience on the way to bigger and better things for a young, talented group of hockey players.