BOSTON -- Desperation was the buzzword in the Bruins’ dressing room Tuesday as this Stanley Cup playoff series between Boston and archrival Montreal nears its apex: Game 7.
Prior to Monday night’s elimination game at the Bell Centre, the Bruins clinging to a 3-2 series lead, coach Claude Julien stressed the need for urgency, saying “there’s one team that’s desperate tonight,” referring to the Habs. “There’s a team on the other side,” he continued, “that has to be just as desperate, because you don’t want a Game 7.”
That desperate team played like a stick of dynamite, outhitting and outshooting the Bruins, who after falling behind seemed resigned that Wednesday’s Game 7 was inevitable.
“Whether it’s on the forecheck or going back for pucks and talking to Tuukka to make sure we’re breaking out pucks efficiently, that jump was missing, so we’ve got to make sure we have that back tomorrow,” defenseman Torey Krug (who was a minus-2 in Game 6 ) said following an optional skate early Tuesday afternoon at TD Garden.
And how do you find that sense of urgency?
“It’s Game 7,” he smiled. “If you don’t have it, there’s something wrong with you.”
A handful of players participated in the optional skate, most notably veterans Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic. In the dressing room, the mood was subdued (at times drowned out by jackhammer noises from arena construction) as fourth-liners and young defensemen spoke of embracing this winner-takes-all contest and going all-in.
Winger Shawn Thornton, a veteran of six Game 7s, characterized these moments as “awesome.”
“You can let it tighten you up or you can really feed off the fact that this is what you trained your whole life for, these situations,” Thornton said. “That’s kinda the way I’ve approached it. This is awesome. This is the best time of year.”
Conceding a more noticeable jump in Montreal’s step Monday night, defenseman Matt Bartkowski was hesitant to characterize the mood as a sense of desperation, noting that could be taken as a positive or negative. However, this talk of “puck luck” -- or the Bruins’ supposed lack of it -- is no accident.
“If it is a little puck luck for them, I mean, they earned it,” said Bartkowski, who has played in one Game 7. “A couple of the goals, call them lucky or not, you come out hard and good things are going to happen. This next game, we need to come out the way we did in Game 5. Just take from last game, fix what we can, and go from there.”
Asked about matching the Canadiens’ sense of urgency visible Monday night, Bartkowski said, “I don’t even know if they were all that urgent, or whatever it was. Next game, we’ve just got to set the pace. That’s about it.”
For Julien, this is the time of year you’re supposed to go for broke. If you’re not putting it all on the line, you’re losing it.
“I think desperation is going out there and giving it the best shot you can,” Julien said. “The last thing you want is regrets. And if you hold back the things you know you can do, and you don’t leave it all out on the ice, then you have regrets. So, that’s what desperation is all about, leaving it all out on the ice and you can walk away knowing you gave it your best shot.”
But as always, with desperation must come control.
“I think it’s kind of how we played in Game 5,” said defenseman Dougie Hamilton, a veteran of one Game 7. “I thought we were playing pretty desperate in that game, and it isn’t about changing our game, it’s about focusing on the details and working hard and focusing on the things we’re good at. It’s about having a good start again, obviously, and not having to try to come back and to try to play with the lead.”