The Bruins have been down this road before.
Some times, they’ve succeeded. Other times, they’ve failed.
But Boston’s veteran-laden core nevertheless has faced many situations involving immense pressure in the past. As such, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy expects his team to put its best foot forward Monday night in Game 5 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Bruins enter the contest trailing the Lightning 3-1 in their best-of-seven Stanley Cup Playoffs series and therefore must win to remain inside the Toronto bubble.
“We were in this building last year, in the same dressing room we were in tonight, facing a Game 6 against the (Maple) Leafs that we had to win or we were done,” Cassidy told reporters Monday during a pregame video conference, reflecting on Boston’s first-round series win over Toronto last postseason. “I think our guys overcame an early deficit and played really well. They’ve been through it. They know what it takes.
“Are they capable of delivering tonight? It’s going to take everybody. But yes, to answer your question, our guys have been there and have overcome in the past. Every year is a different year, different animal, different group of people in the room, different circumstances and clearly this year is no different. To answer your question, I don’t think our guys are afraid of the moment at all tonight. The question becomes: Are we going to execute well enough, better than Tampa? Have more will than Tampa and do enough to win?”
The Bruins ultimately suffered the agony of defeat in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last season, losing to the St. Louis Blues in a winner-take-all showdown at TD Garden.
Monday’s Game 5 doesn’t quite match that game in terms of magnitude, but the Bruins are well aware they now need to win three straight after losing three straight to the Lightning. If not, they’ll head home for the offseason, wondering what could have been and what next season’s roster will look like.
“Obviously, this game is not as big of stakes as that one (against the Blues). But in other ways, it is comparable because if we lose, we don’t get a chance at the Cup,” Cassidy said before Game 5. “We’re a long way from that. So, our mindset is a little more has to be, ‘Let’s just play for one another, the group that’s in there.’ And worry about kind of where you are going down the road. So, enjoy each other’s company tonight. Be grateful for having great teammates and keep the teammates together for an opportunity for a Game 6.”
The winner of the Bruins-Lightning series will face the winner of the Philadelphia Flyers-New York Islanders series for the chance to play in this year’s Stanley Cup Final.
The Bruins certainly have their work cut out for them — as do the Flyers, who trail their series 3-1 — but don’t expect Boston to just roll over for Tampa Bay.