Haggerty: B's shouldn't get cocky in Game 2

Haggerty: B's shouldn't get cocky in Game 2
May 4, 2013, 1:30 pm
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What’s the difference between a Toronto hockey team that entered this playoff series with slightly more than 200 games of playoff experience, and a Boston team that entered with more than 1,200 games of playoff experience?

Well, a lot actually when you realize that Jaromir Jagr (181 games) had nearly as much playoff experience as the entire Leafs roster (206 games).  

Still, it comes down to recognizing situations, and knowing how to react at certain points within a playoff series full of highs and lows. Game 2 Saturday night between the Bruins and Maple Leafs is a classic example: the Bruins hammered the weak-kneed Leafs in the first game of the series, but have to react in the exact proper way.

The Black and Gold have to be feeling confidence coursing through them going into Saturday night after accomplishing things they hadn’t really done all season.

They wrapped their considerable emotional energy into a strong, focused effort that clearly intimidated Toronto skill players such as Phil Kessel, Nazem Kadri and Joffrey Lupul, and turned rookie netminder James Reimer into a quivering pile of goaltender goo after peppering him with 40 shots in a 4-1 victory in Game 1.

One of the byproducts of Boston’s frothing-at-the-mouth effort was a one-game suspension for Andrew Ference, but that’s the cost of doing business when the Big Bad Bruins have finally entered the building.

Despite all of this there is a cautionary tale to be learned for the Black and Gold.

This is the same Bruins team that jumped out to a 1-0 series lead against the Washington Capitals last season, and then watched overconfidence transform them into an emotionless shell of themselves. It also turned the B’s into a first-round victim forced to watch the rest of the Stanley Cup playoffs from the sidelines as a Cinderella New Jersey Devils team somehow made it to the Stanley Cup Finals.

So the experienced, grizzled Bruins know what’s at stake if they start reading their own press clipping about how stellar they were in a Game 1 domination of the Leafs.

“Everyone is so competitive in this league that the days of winning series 4-0 are long gone. We need to raise our game because we know they’re going to. We need to have a short memory, regardless of whether you win or lose in the postseason,” said Chris Kelly. “I thought we played well [in Game 1], but that’s in the past. We need to have another good outing.

“We were in the exact same situation last year, and feeling really good after Game 1. The road team is looking to get a win in the other building. If they can get two then it’s a bonus. But I know as a player that’s started series on the road that you’re looking to get a split. Last year’s that what Washington did, so hopefully we’ve learned from the past and bring it to this game.”

It’s easy to look at Zdeno Chara’s perpetual schoolyard bully act on Phil Kessel through the years, and think that will simply continue as it has in the four years since No. 81 left Boston. It’s also simple to postulate that the Bruins high end forwards will continue to torch a Maple Leafs defensive corps that’s allowed them to score 50 goals in 11 games against Toronto the past two seasons.

There’s no reason to think Reimer is suddenly going to become a brick wall after looking very vulnerable to any manner of shots lifted toward his glove hand in a soft Game 1 performance. The Wade Redden shot that broke through Reimer’s equipment in the first period really gave Boston the opening they needed to start caving things in on Randy Carlyle’s crew.

But coach Claude Julien cautioned everyone not to be too “cocky” going into Saturday night knowing the Maple Leafs were humbled and embarrassed in the Stanley Cup playoff debuts for 10 of Toronto's roster players.  

“No matter what, you shouldn’t [relax]. It’s as simple as that,” said Julien. “You just have to look around the league and see what’s going on, a lot of series are tied 1-1. There’s nothing to get cocky about, or confident about. You’ve just got to play every team the way you thought you would play the first one.

“We know they’re going to be a better team tonight. This is not a secret to anybody. But we have to be better ourselves.”

That means the same level of brutal physicality and merciless, suffocating forecheck, and it should mean the same kind of offensive pressure that allowed the Bruins to double up Toronto’s shots on goal. Perhaps the Bruins will need even more in each of those areas to make certain the Leafs defensemen remain pinned down in their own end on breakouts, a key piece of Boston’s dominant showing.

There should be a bit more offensive pressure from Boston with the speedy Rich Peverley and skilled Dougie Hamilton expected to be in the lineup for Boston. It would be a shame, however, if the NHL Department of Player Safety dulled any of the Bruins bruising style of play with a suspension that is simply the price to play for being a member of the Big Bad Bruins in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

They need to maintain their snarl and surly attitude through the playoffs, and backing off that will open the door their opponents.

As if there wouldn’t be a sky high emotion on Causeway Street to begin with, Marathon bombing victim Jeff Bauman, who lost both legs and from his hospital bed helped FBI officials identify Tamerlan Tsarnaev, will be making his first public appearance since the tragedy. He's expected to wave a flag from a TD Garden luxury box prior to Game 2.

So there is simply no reason for the Bruins to be emotionally flat or gluttonously arrogant after one good playoff effort at the beginning of the series.

If the Black and Gold can bring the same emotion and execution for another full 60 minutes on Saturday night, then they will crush the fragile spirit of the Maple Leafs players and send the series back to Toronto with a 2-0 lead. If that happens it’s not too difficult to foresee the Air Canada Centre home crowd suddenly turning on the Leafs at the faintest signs of weakness.

Toronto is much like a pre-2004 city of Boston, where the fans simply wait for something bad to happen and have become conditioned to be disappointed by their hapless Maple Leafs.

One city has become accustomed to winning in the playoffs and another has become used to being the punching bag for a collection of powerhouse East Coast teams in the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball. There’s no reason to think that will change now.

It’s up to the Bruins to show they’ve learned their lessons well, and will show up for Game 2.

That will make certain that hope doesn’t become a dangerous thing for the Leafs to rally around as Boston is beginning to find its playoff legs.