With their third straight loss in the Round 1 playoffs against the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night, the Boston Bruins find themselves as up against the wall as can be possible. To continue in the playoffs, they must now win every remaining game of this round. If you’re a betting person, you know the odds are not in their favor. However, there have been many times when the Bruins have come from behind—it’s almost as though it is part of their DNA, or more precisely the DNA of the city they represent.
“Get ready and it’s not over until it’s obviously over,” captain Zdeno Chara shared. “We know it’s still playable, it’s 3-1, it’s not an ideal position but we know that we can play the same way, even better and get better results.”
The Senators are outstanding and the chemistry currently surging between Erik Karlsson and Bobby Ryan has certainly caused pain for the Bruins in the matter of goals the two have achieved together in this series. Ryan scored the only goal in Wednesday night’s game, with an assist from Karlsson. Ryan now has points in every game in the series, but more importantly he has scored the game-winning goal in the last two games played in Boston—Monday night’s in overtime and Wednesday night in regulation as the Senators goalie Craig Anderson fed the Bruins a shutout on their own ice. Karlsson has five assists in the series, showing his talent for seeing teammates on the ice who can make something happen.
Heading back to Ottawa, the Bruins are now down 3-1 in the series and must focus on winning Friday night if they want another opportunity to play in front of their home crowd in a game six on Sunday. Of course, they aren’t thinking as far ahead as Sunday, they are dialed in to the task before them on Friday evening.
“Scoring first is a beautiful thing in this game and when you’re able to do it, you’re able to play with that lead and, you know, really counterpunch well. And unfortunately they’ve had that a little more than we’ve had and their system clogging up the neutral zone’s been effective against us at times,” forward David Backes offered. “Other times we’re able to solve that, get into their zone and, you know, work some offensive zone plays which has been effective for us. And we need to make sure we’re tilting the scales in our favor every way we can.”
With the number of badly timed injuries the team faces—Brandon Carlo, Torey Krug, and Adam McQuaid still sidelined—the number of defensemen who are playing in their first ever NHL playoff situation is increased. Of course with the changes the team has undergone over the last few years and their missing the playoffs the previous two seasons, there are also a number of forwards who are seeing playoff action for the first time.
Playoff hockey is nothing like the regular season, and it isn’t something that can really be explained. However, the veterans on the team are doing their best to prepare the younger players for each game.
“Yeah, it’s the same way we’ve been the whole series where it’s matter of fact, it’s, you know, try to let them know, try to give them a little … They’re going to be baptized by fire while it happens, but give them a little heads up of every play matters, every play’s magnified, you know, every hit you take to make a play, every hit you land on them is an investment,” said Backes. “I expect Game 5 to be much like it was [Wednesday night], where teams are playing hard, every little play, you’ve got to work for every inch of ice. And in the end the team that is able to push through is going to have the advantage.”
One player who doesn’t seem to be phased by the tempo of playoff hockey is rookie Charlie McAvoy, who continues to bring his game. His inexperience at the NHL level and with the Bruins’ system may be hindering him a little bit but his skills and hunger show what he will be bringing to the Black and Gold in the coming years.
“Well, he’s a heck of a talent. He wants the puck. He wants to be out there in big moments. I think the Boston Bruins fans are seeing something right now that they’re going to truly appreciate for years,” shared Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy after Wednesday’s game. “Just his composure and ability to play in three zones. Even on the goal, he’s battling right to the end against a big-bodied guy. We can’t ask for much more from him. He’s come in and moved the puck and like I said, even when we got behind there, he’s pushing the pace and trying to make things happen, and those are special talents when, in situations like this, they want to be a difference maker. They can’t teach that. We can teach him some things system wise that he’ll pick up in a hurry. But, the stuff that he has—natural talents and abilities that you’re seeing—I think they’re getting a little bit better every time we see them.”
For the Bruins Friday night is as an important a game as they have experienced this season. It’s a must win. If they don’t their season will end and then will head off for vacations. The heart is there, but now it must be focused and fused with the skill and the brawn to bend the Senators to their will.