The Bruins host the Red Wings on Saturday afternoon in Game 5 of their first-round series, which the Bruins lead, 3-1. But despite the Bruins’ 3-2 overtime win in Game 4 and their return to home ice, players and coach know the competition remains keen.
“Right now, we have yet to lose respect for that team we are playing against,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “They have added some good players to their lineup last game. A guy like [Henrik] Zetterberg can only get better in his second game, better than he was in his first. So there’s a respect factor there that we have to be really good [Saturday] if we want to end the series. If not, then we’re going back to their building and that’s something we would prefer not to do.’’
The Bruins know a little something about leading a series. Last season, they led the Maple Leafs, 3-1, before losing twice, setting up their desperate overtime victory in Game 7. Julien said there might be a lesson there.
“Well, I guess it depends on how you want to look at it,’’ Julien said. “We look at it one game at a time, we know that tomorrow’s win is just as important as the first three. But there is meaning to tomorrow’s win and that is what is a little bit different. We can end it tomorrow but the urgency still has to be there and the focus still has to be there.
“I thought our first period [Thursday] — it wasn’t that it was bad, but we didn’t quite play our game and because of that, they were able to get some opportunities and some speed through the neutral zone. We didn’t have the numbers coming back, it wasn’t so much the stretch guy, it was more of the second wave that was coming through.
“Once we got that taken care of, our game kind of found its rhythm again and we started playing the way we wanted to.’’
The players, too, talked about holding tight to their single-game focus.
“We have to more or less focus on [Saturday’s] game and not so much about what position we’re in right now,’’ said defenseman Matt Bartkowski. “If we continue to play the way we’ve been playing, we have a pretty good chance to wrap it up.”
“We’re definitely in a good position here,’’ said winger Loui Eriksson, “but at the same time it’s not over yet. It’s nice to go and play in front of your home crowd and try and get the win. Still, we need to win one more.’’
Defenseman Johnny Boychuk has learned from experience.
“It’s always tough to close out a series, no matter what, or who you’re up against,’’ he said. “We know that, we’ve been in a situation like that many times, where it went either way. It helps being in that situation before. You have to come in tomorrow and do your job and be ready to do whatever it takes to win.”
Boychuk also said the team’s experience in tight situations allows it to play without panic, as it did Thursday when Game 4 went to overtime.
“There’s no panic in the room between the third period and overtime,’’ he said. “If we don’t score in the first overtime, there’s always the second. Just as long as you do your job and keep the puck out of your net, we know that we have the tools here, to put it in the net.
“You always have to stay positive, especially in overtime. It has to be a group thing. You have to all be in it together.”
According to goalie Tuukka Rask, reaching Game 5 with a 3-1 lead is an accomplishment, and also an opportunity.
“We have a chance to close the series at home,’’ he said. “It’s an opportunity we really have to use and it won’t be easy, but seeing how our game has improved during this series, it’s a good sign, and I think coming home tomorrow, we just have to really focus on our start and try to get that lead and protect it.”
Potter injuredThe Bruins had an optional practice at TD Garden on Friday, with only goalie Chad Johnson and skaters Daniel Paille, Corey Potter, and Andrej Meszaros on the ice.
During the practice, Potter, a spare defenseman, suffered what appeared to be a shoulder injury and had to be helped from the ice.