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Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Bruins soak in the magic of Lake Placid

By Joe McDonald
ESPNBoston.com

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- The Boston Bruins are hoping seclusion and serenity will keep them focused before they continue their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with Game 4 against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night at Bell Centre.

With two days off between Games 3 and 4, Bruins management thought it best to depart Montreal and bring the team to this small town in the Adirondacks in order to keep the players focused and prepared for Thursday's crucial game.

A Bruins win will tie this series at two games apiece. If Boston loses, the B's will need to stave off elimination at the Garden in Game 5.

With Monday's 4-2 win in the books, the Bruins took a two-hour bus ride south to Lake Placid, the home of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics.

Olympic Hockey
A view of the Lake Placid arena during the gold medal game between the United States and Finland at the 1980 Winter Olympics.

"For our guys, it's a great place to be," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "It's nice, quiet and has great history here. I think it's a great opportunity for us to get a quality practice in and a chance to get some rest. There are a lot of good things about being in Lake Placid."

Of course, Team USA staged one of the greatest moments in hockey history in 1980 when a bunch of college players defeated the Russians in what is referred to as the "Miracle on Ice." The Americans then went on to beat Finland for the gold medal.

This picturesque town is full of reminders of that magnificent moment.

Bruins goaltender and 2010 Team USA Olympian Tim Thomas has his own vivid memories of that time. But he wasn't about to compare the Bruins' current situation with the Miracle.

"This isn't the Olympics, and it wouldn't be a miracle if we were able to win Thursday," Thomas said with a smile. "It's a totally different situation. This was a huge moment for hockey in the United States and also for the United States as a country."

Thomas talked about the culture in the late '70s and early '80s, speaking about the Cold War, the troubled economy and the problems in the country back then. In the middle of all that, Team USA gave everyone something to feel good about.

"The Russian team was supposed to be unbeatable, and a team of college kids were able to put it together and basically have a miracle tournament," Thomas said. "That really is on a different, higher level than this series between Boston and Montreal. Don't get me wrong, it's very important, but the Miracle on Ice was a totally different beast."

Tim Thomas
"I already had some inkling that I wanted to be a goalie, but those [1980] Olympics and [Team USA goalie] Jim Craig sealed the deal," said Tim Thomas at Lake Placid, N.Y., on Tuesday.

Wearing a flannel shirt and the 1980s mustache he's been sporting for most of the season, Thomas spent a few moments Tuesday afternoon in the locker room in which Team USA celebrated after winning the gold medal. Thomas said he quickly started to recreate in his mind what it must have been like in 1980.

He was 5 at the time, and Thomas said he remembers that it was then that he set his first big goal.

"I already had some inkling that I wanted to be a goalie, but those Olympics and [Team USA goalie] Jim Craig sealed the deal," he said. "That's why I became a goalie, and my goal from age 5 until I was 20 was to play in the Olympics."

Julien and some of the players and team trainers were talking about the Miracle on Ice on the bus ride from Montreal.

"As a Canadian, you hear the Americans talk about the Miracle on Ice, and rightfully so," Julien said. "When you have a bunch of college kids, and what they accomplished, they should be proud of it and they can talk about it as long as they want. It was quite a feat. I was watching that game, as well, and I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It's a great inspirational story."

The Bruins did not come here in search of inspiration, however.

"It's good to get away for a bit and be by ourselves and not have a lot to worry about," Bruins forward Brad Marchand said. "A little bit of team bonding, being together for a few days in a small town. It's always great to kind of regroup and calm down a bit."

The Bruins were able to crawl back into this best-of-seven series but still trail 2-1. They believe they can beat the Canadiens, and winning Game 3 made the trip here a lot better.

"If we were down 3-0, it wouldn't be a fun atmosphere to be in," Thomas said. "It's 2-1 and we still have a lot of work ahead of us, but [winning Game 3] was the first step. Now, we can come here for a couple of days, step back and recharge ourselves and get ready to do it again."

Added forward Nathan Horton: "We're still in hole, we're still down and it's going to take all of us to get out of it. We're looking forward to the challenge."

Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.