The Bruins reported to TD Garden Saturday morning for an 11 o’clock practice, returning to the crime scene of Friday night’s 2-1 loss to the Maple Leafs in Game 5.
There were plenty of things to go over before the team’s afternoon charter flight to Toronto, where it now hoped to end the series in Game 6 on Sunday night.
“I mean, for sure, our plan was to close it out [Friday night],’’ said Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, who logged 28:01 of ice time over 31 shifts in Game 5. “But we don’t like [making] things easy, it seems like. You can go back however many [elimination] games and series, we just seem to like to always make it tight, a little more harder on ourselves. But again, we just have to find a way the next game and just play.’’
Clinging to a 3-2 series lead, it seems the Bruins’ modus operandi in the playoffs has been to push it to the limit, going to Game 7 in five of their last six series. They squandered a 3-0 series lead to the Flyers in 2010, and made a first-round exit with a Game 7 loss against the Capitals last season.
Even when they made their magical run to the Stanley Cup in 2011, the Bruins were forced to go to Game 7 to win three of their four playoff series, doing so against the Canadiens in the first round, the Lightning in the Eastern Conference finals, and the Canucks in the Stanley Cup Final.
And Friday night’s loss dropped the Bruins’ all-time Game 5 record in series in which they held a 3-1 lead to 9-9. In series in which they have led, 3-2, Boston owns a 10-13 record in Game 6, but is 19-4 in Game 7.
“Well, for anybody, it doesn’t matter where the series is at, winning is a tough thing to do,’’ said Andrew Ference, whose turnover led to Tyler Bozak’s shorthanded goal at 11:27 of the second period Friday night, giving Toronto a 1-0 lead.
“Every team is here for a reason and they’re very hard-working and skilled and they obviously have their systems down and that’s how you make the playoffs,’’ Ference said. “Whether it’s closing out or getting the first win of the series, either way it’s tough to win. If you make mistakes and don’t play a full, consistent game, then things don’t usually work out.
“Regardless of the situation you’re in — in the playoffs or the series — if you make mistakes, or you don’t have that full-out effort for a whole game, like I said, there are no freebies. The wins have got to be earned.’’
But here’s the rub: If the Bruins had scored a series-clinching victory over the Leafs, they likely would have earned a day off.
Actually, they would have had the opportunity to recuperate from this demanding series, sparing themselves a return trip to Toronto and enjoying no fewer than three days of rest before the next round.
At this time of the year, in the heat of the Stanley Cup playoffs, it would be akin to taking a luxurious weekend vacation to a golf resort and spa. Now those would have been well-deserved “maintenance days,’’ as Bruins coach Claude Julien likes to refer to days off from the ice.
“Oh, we would’ve just rested and got treatment on our bruises and just relaxed and obviously practiced on things we needed to work on,’’ said defenseman Johnny Boychuk, who would have enjoyed such a breather, having averaged 21:28 of ice time in the five games, and sacrificing his body with 22 hits and 21 blocked shots.
“Yeah, it would’ve been nice [to rest and recuperate], but it was not meant to be,’’ Boychuk said.
There was no such luck for the Bruins, whose sense of urgency was trumped by the Leafs’ sense of desperation. Now, the Bruins must play Game 6, and if necessary, Game 7 Monday in Boston.
“The killer instinct, for me, would be to play three periods like we did in the third period,’’ said Julien, whose team outshot the Leafs, 19-4, in the third period of Game 5, getting its lone goal from Zdeno Chara at 11:12. “We’re very capable of doing that . . . It’s the way we have to play to have results. We’re expecting again [a] really tough game over there and that’s the only way we need to play in order to have success.’’
So, how do the Bruins draw upon their experiences from going to Game 7 three times during their Stanley Cup run?
“You just know that they’re going to be putting everything on the line no matter what, and we have to do the same thing,’’ Boychuk said. “Because if you don’t, it’s going to be a bad outcome. You have to stay positive, keep pressuring them, keep going, keep hitting, keep doing anything to win this game.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.