April 27, 2011

Confident Bruins ready to put Game 7 struggles behind them

by Jesse Connolly

Bruins winger Shawn Thornton. (Getty)

BOSTON -- Throughout coach Claude Julien's tenure behind the bench, securing Game 7 victories has been about as easy as leaping over a mile-high hurdle for the Boston Bruins.

In three-straight postseasons, Julien and company have found themselves on the losing side of winner-take-all tilts, starting in 2008 in Montreal, 2009 at home against the Hurricanes and last spring to put the finishing touches on their historic collapse against the Flyers.

So will this band of Bruins' fourth time around be the charm?

"I think we're well aware of what has to be done here," winger Shawn Thornton said. "Unfortunately in the last few years it hasn't worked out the way we wanted to, but we feel pretty good."

Thornton believes the B's have evolved dramatically since their first exposure to a Game 7 atmosphere under Julien, one in which they were visibly rattled at the Bell Centre after rallying from a 3-1 deficit
against the Canadiens to force the decisive game.

"I think the first one, it was the same situation in the first round against Montreal," Thornton said. "For a lot of us, it was our first Game 7. It was a very intense atmosphere. I don't think we're relaxed, but we're a little more composed going into this one than in years before."

No one expected the Bruins to breeze into the second round, but this series has been considerably tighter than most of the ones these two historic rivals have taken part in before.

"The thing that sticks out in this series is how close every game has been," defenseman Andrew Ference said. "I think some of the Canadiens players touched on it here after our overtime game here,
just how it's all been a matter of bounces.

"I think the first time we played them we were the underdog, as we hadn't been in the playoffs in a long time. The second time around we had a killer year and did really well. This year, it feels the most even of all of them. It's been really, really tight and good playoff hockey."

While many suspect that the grueling task of playing two intense contests on back-to-back nights might pose a problem for each squad, Thornton dismissed the notion.

"Honestly, I can't speak for anyone but myself, but we got in early enough last night and I got the same amount of sleep as I normally would," he said. "I'll drink the same amount of coffee and warm up the same way. Back-to-back games aren't a big deal, we do them all the time as far as I'm concerned."

Thornton also isn't the least bit worried about the officiating aspect of the big game, as many believed the Bruins got the short end of the stick in Game 6 up in Montreal.

"I suppose it depends on the refs," Thornton replied when asked how he thinks the game will be called. "I have no idea who we have tonight. I'm sure they'll call it as they see fit. But worrying about what is going to be called and what isn't is a waste of time. We're focused on just playing."

Trying to put a finger on which club is more confident coming in is nearly impossible. The Bruins suffered a setback less than 24 hours ago, leading many to believe the Canadiens will come in with momentum. But, one can't forget the previous three games of the series, all wins for Boston -- a team left for dead after falling into an 0-2 hole.

"I think it's probably even in both rooms," Ference said of the collective confidence. "We both have confidence in our goaltenders and our systems as well, and the lack of offense has kind of shown that. It's just been a well-played series. I don't think one side or the other has a whole lot more. I think the guys are confident on our side and hopefully we'll get some bounces and have good luck."

For a team that hasn't had much in the way of luck throughout the last few decades, a change of pace would be welcomed with open arms by the Hub of Hockey.