BOSTON -- During the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, it was deemed taboo by veteran forward Shawn Thornton to discuss the Bruins' collapse in the 2010 Eastern Conference quarterfinals. They blew a 3-0 series lead and a 3-0 lead in Game 7 as the Philadelphia Flyers became just the third team in NHL history to win a series after losing the first three games.
The Bruins went on to win the Stanley Cup in 2011. On the way, they once again found themselves up 3-0 on the Flyers in the second round, but they sealed the deal in Game 4 to sweep Philadelphia, essentially erasing the demons from the previous season.
The Bruins have struggled to close out other playoff series since then, including Friday's 2-1 loss to the Maple Leafs in Game 5. But as the Bruins prepared to head back to Toronto for Sunday's Game 6, they appeared to know they are in a much better place than they were in 2010. That bad experience and others since then have helped the core of this team understand how to compartmentalize each game and move on, without letting doubt creep in.
"It's OK to talk about it. We won the year after, so it's OK," Bruins winger Milan Lucic said Saturday with a laugh when asked about the epic collapse to the Flyers. "It's a part of the learning process as a player, as a person and as a team. Not take anything for granted and once again you look at the situation yesterday and it's almost like we did take it for granted. But thankfully we're still up in the series, and you go back to how we played in the year after against Philadelphia and how we had that opportunity to close them out and we made no mistakes again and closed them out."
Lucic doesn't see anything similar now to what he and his teammates were experiencing as that 2010 series slipped away. Instead, he sees a team that knows exactly what it did wrong and what must be done to correct matters in Game 6.
"That year in 2010 was almost like a snowball effect," Lucic said. "They won in overtime, and then they came in here and won 4-0. It just kept getting bigger and bigger, and we couldn't stop it.
"But I think in this case, especially the way [Friday's] game ended and the way we played in the third period, we realize that we didn't have the best start. We kind of waited to see what they were going to do and then kind of playing like a deer caught in the headlights. Like I said, if we can come out like we did at the end of last game, we're giving ourselves a chance to win."
Thornton felt the same way and hasn't sensed any nervousness.
"I haven't heard any doubt here," Thornton said. "I think we're a pretty confident group in here. We should be at least because we're up 3-2, we're a good team, and we just have to figure out a way to win one more game."
But as coach Claude Julien said after practice Saturday, it's now about putting words into action and playing the way the Bruins know they can.
"The one thing, like I said, that has been a challenge for us in the past has been closing out series," Julien said. "And we know that; we're aware of that. But at the same time, the strength of our team has also been to bounce back from adversity and situations like that. As much as yesterday was proof of it, hopefully tomorrow's the proof of the other side that we are capable of bouncing back and playing the type of game we need to close the series off."