The Flyers forced a Game 6 back in Philadelphia on Wednesday (8 p.m., NESN) with a 4-0 shutout of the Bruins in Game 5 at TD Garden Monday night.
To listen to the Bruins after the embarrassing performance put forth with the legendary Bobby Orr in the house on the 40th anniversary of his Stanley Cup-clinching goal, one has to wonder if it’s the Bruins that should play like they have their backs against the wall and are facing elimination? Whenever the Bruins take that mindset they seem to play more inspired hockey. But in Game 5, they played nervous hockey — almost as though they were trying not to lose rather than trying to win.
“I don’t know if we were maybe a little nervous,” captain Zdeno Chara bluntly said after Game 5. “It’s hard to explain and really find words for it, so for sure we didn’t play with the composure we were playing with. Obviously we took way too many unnecessary penalties and spent a lot of time in the box and killing penalties.”
It’s not a good sign when the captain says the team is a little nervous. Not for a team that prides itself on staying balanced despite the conditions. This is a team that showed the poise to close out a series in the first round when they clinched on home ice beating the Sabres 4-2 in Game 6. That’s probably why Chara quickly back-pedaled.
“Maybe it wasn’t nervous, it was just … we couldn’t make those plays we normally do, strong plays with the puck, plays that we are normally doing and all of the sudden it was tough for us to make those plays,” Chara quipped. “Sometimes you want to win a series so bad and it doesn’t work for you.”
Nothing seemed to work for the Bruins on Monday night and staying out of the sin-bin was one of those things.
The Bruins were shorthanded an astonishing ten times (one a double-minor for high-sticking by Vladimir Sobotka) and were killing penalties for 14:20 of the game. While one would naturally expect some open suspicion of the calls being one-sided in favor of the Flyers, the Bruins didn’t blame the men in stripes, instead acknowledging frustration creating the path to the penalty box.
“When you’re being outworked, you get frustrated and you take penalties like you saw us do tonight,” head coach Claude Julien said.
One penalty in question after the game was the high-sticking call that Marc Savard took with 5:26 remaining in regulation. Savard took a borderline hit from Mike Richards and the B’s center felt Richards has been laying such hits all series-long and admitted frustration got the best of him.
“Well, I just got fired up,” he said. “Like I got hit the other night, in Philly, from behind and then I was facing the glass again in the same situation tonight. And I look back at David Krejci and enough is enough. So I don’t know, that’s all. I don’t know. That’s the way he plays, it’s part of his demeanor, and he’ll never change. So I don’t know.”
The Bruins failed to send that message back to Richards and the high-flying Flyers, who dominated play from the opening faceoff on with strong physical play and emotion. Taking bad penalties doesn’t have to happen if the opponent knows they won’t get away with it.
“They wanted it more than we did and it showed,” forward Mark Recchi pointed out. “You know, we’ll have to play — we’ll have to go there and be desperate now. It’s starting to get crunch time and we’ve let them back in the series and now we have to get desperate. Now it’s our turn.”
Milan Lucic echoed the veteran leader.
“We can’t put ourselves in a position to be nervous, frustrated and lose composure,” he said. “We need to play like the team with their backs against the wall because now they are.”
If the Bruins don’t do that in Game 6, “nervous” will be an understatement.
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