BOSTON — The Bruins are coming off of a Game 5 win at home, and they now have a chance to close out their series against the Montreal Canadiens on the road in Game 6. Doesn’t that sound familiar?
The B’s will attempt to end their hated rival’s season on Monday night when they invade the Bell Centre looking to win their second-round Stanley Cup playoffs series and earn a bid in the Eastern Conference finals for the third time in four years. It’s the same exact position the Bruins were in just three years ago, and they’re hoping for a different outcome this around.
Boston and Montreal met in the first round in 2011, and the Bruins won a double-overtime thriller in Game 5 at TD Garden. The series shifted back to Montreal where the B’s had a chance to win the series. Instead, the Habs held on for a 2-1 win. The Bruins would eventually win Game 7, but they had to do so in overtime after blowing a late lead in the third.
Most teams would prefer to avoid a Game 7, even with home-ice advantage, and the Bruins are no different.
“It’s going to be a tough one,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said Sunday. “I think, again, you have to rely on our experience and knowing that we haven’t won this series yet. We have to bring our best game next game because they will. They will bring their best game, and if we don’t bring ours we’re looking at a Game 7. So we can’t take those chances, we have to come out and play the best hockey we can.”
The Bruins don’t even need to go all the way back to 2011 for a reminder as to how important it is to close out the series. The Bruins took a 3-2 series lead to Toronto in last season’s first round. Not only could the B’s not finish the series in Game 5 with a 3-1 series lead, they fell flat in Game 6 at the Air Canada Centre. They didn’t come back to life until the third period of Game 7 when a miracle comeback against helped them narrowly escape the first round.
There are lessons to be learned from past seasons, but the Bruins also know they can’t dwell on previous seasons, either.
“It’s a fine line of learning from those experiences and also turning the page,” Bruins center Gregory Campbell said Sunday. “It’s a new year. We were in a situation last round where we were up 3-1 and there are comparisons to the Toronto series. It’s something we have to take as new opportunity and be prepared as a team. Everybody always says that the fourth game is the toughest to win, but it’s a game where we want to play our best.”
The good news for the Bruins is that they seem to have turned the corner. After an uneven start to the series, Boston erased a 2-1 series deficit with a tightly checked 1-0 overtime win in Game 4 at the Bell Centre, which is one of the most difficult places to win in the entire NHL. They took care of business Saturday night with their best game of the series so far in a 4-2 win at the Garden. However, they’re going to have to find yet another level if they’re going to end Montreal’s season on Monday.