Under Claude Julien’s watch, the Bruins have always been a team that has persevered with its back against the wall in do-or-die situations. Yes, they have closed out two series when they were the team to win three games first, beating the Sabres in six in the first round last month and sweeping the Canadiens in the first round last spring.
But twice under Julien’s reign, this team has played some of its best hockey clawing back from a 3-1 deficit to tie a series. The B's accomplished the feat against the Canadiens in the first round of the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs and then against the Hurricanes in 2009. They were unable to complete the comeback both times, but they proved that when there was no tomorrow, this Bruins are on top of their game playing with passion and desire.
Right now, it’s their opponent that is playing for another day, showing the desperation needed to win in the playoffs. But if Boston loses in Game 6 on Wednesday night in Philadelphia, both teams will be in the same position — do or die — and the Flyers riding the momentum of a three-game win streak.
Following a 4-0 stinker in Game 5, Bruins forward Milan Lucic figured maybe it’s time the Bruins pretend to be the trailing team trying to come back in the series, because they must learn to play with the hunger and desperation that comes along with that mentality.
"We can’t put ourselves in a position to be nervous, frustrated and lose composure," Lucic said. "We need to play like the team with their backs against the wall because now [the Flyers] are."
Defenseman Dennis Wideman agreed, alluding to the Bruins' experience with being in the Flyers’ position. The Flyers are playing like there is no tomorrow, and it shows on the ice. That’s why the Bruins are now 0-for-2 as they try to close out this series, and they need to remember what it was like the last two seasons.
"It’s always the toughest game to win," Wideman said of the series clincher. "[The Flyers] always seem to find another level, and there’s always another level of desperation you have when it could be your last game of the year. The last two years, we’ve come back from 3-1 [deficits], so we know what it’s about and it’s always the toughest one to get."
Over the course of the series, the Flyers have played a very physical game, but in the last two games, they have become even more difficult to play against — and the man leading the way in that department has been their captain, Mike Richards. Richards, as seen by his borderline dirty hit on Marc Savard with 5:26 left in Game 4, walks a fine line. But more often than not, he does it successfully, and in doing so, he drives the other team nuts.
"He plays hard, he plays with an edge and those are the guys that are hard to play against," said Shawn Thornton, who deemed Richards’ hit on David Krejci, which put the Czech center out of commission for the playoffs with a broken wrist, a clean hit. "Those are the guys that you hate to play against but you’d love to have them on your team. So I think he’s doing what he needs to do to help his team."
Thornton also indicated that the Bruins can bring more of a physical element to their game.
"I don’t think it’s one person in particular, and from last game — not the whole series — we know we can be better and we’re aware of it," he said. "We’ve moved past it, though, and Wednesday is a new game."
That aspect of the game is usually generated from teams that feel cornered, or when media and fans write off the season, like plenty did in Philadelphia after Game 3. Thornton, just like Wideman and Lucic, believes it’s time to act like it’s do or die, because if the Bruins don’t do that now, they will have no choice but to do so on Friday in Game 7.
"You have to get that mentality of desperation," Thornton said. "It’s not easy to do, but good teams do it, so we’re going to have to find a way here on Wednesday. It’s the same way a guy defends his title as opposed to the guy going for it. It’s a lot easier to be hungry when you’re going for it.
"We have to find a way to go for it and take it and not just defend it. Our backs are a little bit closer now than they were before, so it should be a little bit easier now to have that anger, too, after that last game, and we just have to go out there and take it.”