BOSTON — One trait of a winning team is the ability to win games when it’s not playing its best. That’s certainly been the case for the Bruins through four games of their second-round Stanley Cup playoffs series with the Montreal Canadiens.
The Bruins were able to escape Montreal with a split after tying the series 2-2 on Matt Fraser’s overtime goal in Game 4 on Thursday night. That despite the Bruins’ play being uneven, to say the least.
“We’ve been better, I think there’s no doubt,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said Friday, after the team returned home. “I don’t think our team is playing badly at all. I know that our team is capable of playing a little better than we have and have shown so far. That’s not even close to saying we’re not playing well. We are playing well, but I think there’s some potential in our team to be even better.”
The Bruins could greatly improve in some areas. First and foremost almost certainly would be the play of the first line. The combination of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Jarome Iginla has struggled to generate much of anything in this series. In fact, their slump started in the first round, where the Detroit Red Wings quieted Boston’s top line. They’ve combined for just two goals in this series, with one of those an empty-netter. Krejci, a playoff hero in past years, has only one assist in the series, and that came on the empty-netter.
The Bruins also need the first line to come around o help jump-start the power play. The Bruins are 0-for-8 on the man-advantage in the series after scoring six power-play goals in their first-round series win over the Red Wings. The B’s haven’t scored a power-play goal in the playoffs against the Canadiens since 2009, a streak that was extended to 37 failed power plays Thursday night.
Expect the Bruins to try to get more traffic in front of Canadiens goalie Carey Price, who has been a big reason Boston’s offense and power play have yet to get going. The B’s made net-front work a focal point at an optional practice Friday, and they continue to preach the importance of creating some Pike-like traffic in front of Price.
“They’re defending well, but we’ve got to be better,” B’s forward Patrice Bergeron said. “We’ve got to do a better job of taking what’s there and shooting the puck and creating some havoc in front of (Carey) Price’s net. But also finding the shooting lanes and making sure they don’t block.”
So the fact that the Bruins are tied in the series despite not playing their best hockey is encouraging, especially as the series comes back to Boston for a pivotal Game 5 on Saturday night.
“It’s relief at some level. It’s a lot better to be tied 2-2 than be down 3-1,” Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask admitted. “We’re relieved that it is what it is, but we know that still, as a team, we can be a lot better on the ice. We know in order to get more wins we have to play better and stay focused on doing our job.”