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PHILADELPHIA -- The 1993 Montreal Canadiens won a record 10 overtime games en route to the franchise's 24th Stanley Cup. As the Habs rode the stellar goaltending of Patrick Roy, who would win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP, and watched player after player step up, they looked more and more comfortable playing in the pressure-cooker that is postseason OT.
After beating the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 for their fourth overtime win of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Boston Bruins are exhibiting similar confidence in late-game situations, although they are by no means getting ahead of themselves.
|David Krejci watches his shot fly past Flyers goalie Brian Boucher, making the Bruins 4-0 in overtime in this year's playoffs.|
Team president and Hall of Famer Cam Neely didn't want to compare his team to its archrival and said he didn't watch the '93 playoffs after the Bruins were swept by the Sabres in the first round. But he admitted it is hard to ignore the feeling building in the Bruins' dressing room with their 4-0 overtime mark through nine playoff games.
"It says a lot about the preparation of this club and what we can do," Neely said. "It gives you a lot of confidence and you feel like you can pull out the win. You're not feeling tight while the overtime goes on, and that's a big confidence thing. You can certainly feed off that type of confidence whether it's in regular time or overtime. To be able to know that they can play and win those games like that is huge."
Bruins forward Mark Recchi has been in his share of overtime playoff games in his 23 seasons, including a five-overtime thriller with the Flyers when they beat the Penguins in 2000. Like Neely, he couldn't deny that he sees a quiet confidence taking hold.
"When you get the first couple [OT wins] and everything falls into place, it helps," Recchi said. "We know what to do and we know how to play, and tonight obviously [Tim Thomas] was the difference and gave us a chance to win, and [David Krejci] made a great shot.
"We have to focus on what we do, and that's playing. Whatever people are talking about, we don't care. We're in our little bubble right now, and that's where our focus is. We're in there together, and whatever is going on on the outside is going on on the outside. We can only control what we do in there.
"We all believe in each other and we all trust each other, and I've been saying that all year. We worked hard to get to this point, and we've had a lot of fun together on and off the ice. We've worked hard at trusting and believing in each other, and we've been rewarded for it."
Goalies are almost always a main factor in a team's success in playoff overtimes, and Thomas was huge for the Bruins in Game 2, making 52 saves, including 32 in the third period and overtime, and 46 after the Bruins fell behind 2-0 9:31 into the first period.
The winning goals always seem to come from unlikely heroes, and that has been the case to some degree for the Bruins, who have gotten winners from Nathan Horton (twice), Krejci and Michael Ryder. All three have battled long stretches of not finding the twine but have come up big at the right time.
As Recchi pointed out, unsung heroes aren't just those who score in OT. They're also the players who go above and beyond for their team, and that was the case with the Bruins' energy line of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton in Game 2. Midway through overtime, that trio got stuck on the ice for a longer-than-planned shift. But they combined with Thomas to prevent the Flyers from scoring, and when they finally got to the bench, the top three lines were refreshed.
"It was very important and it goes into believing in those guys," Recchi said. "We believe in those guys, and they've probably been the best fourth line in hockey all year if you call them a fourth line because they just happen to play for a hockey team that's deep up front. They're good hockey players; they're good guys and good leaders. They play hard and they play the right way. They deserve to be out there. They create energy for us and they always do the job for us."
The Bruins were outshot 52-35 in Game 2, and they all acknowledged they were outplayed in the third period and overtime. But that confidence and trust in each other prevented them from folding under the pressure.
"We got outplayed tonight, and to win those kind of games is important for our confidence," defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. "Sometimes when you don't play your best and still win games; it shows that we battle and we keep going. We feel kind of comfortable playing in those situations and guys just stick to the game plan, make solid plays. We always tell ourselves, 'Who's going to be a hero,' and the last four times it worked out. Hopefully it keeps going."
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.