Well raise your hand if you thought the Boston Bruins would be trailing the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 in their second round Stanley Cup Playoffs series headed into Game 4 at the Bell Centre Thursday. My hand is raised but if you were to ask those who think the Bruins will be facing elimination down 3-1 in the series when they face the Habs back on TD Garden ice for Game 5 Saturday night, well let’s just say my hand isn’t raised yet. But it could be come faceoff time for Game 4. It all depends on the feel and atmosphere around the Bruins tomorrow at their skate. Right now, that atmosphere is not the loose, been there, done that atmosphere they or Bruins fans want. Instead it’s one of almost bewilderment and tenseness over how they have had the lead just once in the series and how they seemingly have lost the structure that made them heavy favourites coming into the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Following last night’s 4-2 loss in Game 3, head coach Claude Julien in maybe the understatement of the playoffs, told the media he felt his club needed more “awareness.” He was specifically referring to the lack of awareness that P.K. Subban‘s first period penalty was winding down and no Bruin seemed to be aware of that, especially goalie Tuukka Rask who should’ve been slamming his stick on the ice the way he once did following a shootout loss while playing for the Providence Bruins. Instead defenseman Dougie Hamilton was fixated on nailing Canadiens forward and puck holder at the time Lars Eller, who easily fed the puck to Subban as he came streaking out of the sin-bin and broke in alone to beat Rask with a wrister for a 2-0 Habs lead at the time. Speaking of Rask, by no means are the Bruins where they are in this series solely because of him. But he did make an errant clear on the first Montreal goal scored by Tomas Plekanec and as colleague Steve Buckley pointed out in the Boston Herald, the Vezina Trophy candidate must be held accountable.
This Bruins team has a solid core of leadership and it is up to them to once again pull the team together, settle down the young defense that has been exposed thus far in this series and have the team collectively aware at the drop of the puck, that this isn’t the Habs team they were able to come back on and win two straight at the Bell Centre after falling down 2-0 in their 2011 Eastern quarterfinals series. This Montreal team is better coached. They are deeper and they’re led by two stars who have matured well in Subban and Price. This may very well be a tougher challenge than 2011 and we will find out early on in Game 4 if the Bruins are up for it.
–Speaking of that young Bruins defense, I know Bruins fans are hoping for Dennis Seidenberg to come back and save the series for them but according to a team source on Wednesday, that probably won’t happen in this series and there is no target date or timetable for the rugged rearguard to get back in the lineup.
–At first glance I thought for sure that P.K. Subban should’ve been called for deliberately dislodging the Montreal net from it’s moorings in the waning seconds of Game 3, thus leading to a Bruins penalty shot where they could’ve tied the game at three and sent it to overtime. But after watching it again, I’m conflicted and just can’t get myself to join the “deliberate” group of Bruins fans and media. Former NHL referee Kerry Fraser examined the play and determined a non-call was the right call in his must-read ‘C’mon Ref!’ column at TSN.ca. Regardless of what you think, the Bruins dug themselves into a hole early and were lucky to even be in a position to tie the game. Kudos to them for acknowledging that and taking the high road.
–Apparently the Bruins aren’t reading my Twitter advice. The Montreal Canadiens just may have their modern-day version of Kate Smith in Quebec music legend Ginette Reno who has now sung the national anthems before all three Habs playoff home games in the 2014 playoffs. The Canadiens are now 3-0 at the Bell Centre and she is starting to become a good luck charm. Daniel Briere kissed her after she sang prior to Game 4 in the first round series with Tampa. Briere went out to score the first goal of the game and the Habs went on to win to sweep the series. Smith sang “God Bless America” before Flyers playoff games during their Cup run that season and they seemed to win every time she did. Former Bruins and hall of famer Phil Esposito who before Game 6 of the 1974 Stanley Cup finals against the Philadelphia Flyers infamously tried to jinx the Flyers’ “good luck charm” Kate Smith by presenting her with a bouquet of roses after her performance of “God Bless America.” If I’m the Bruins, I’d have Shawn Thornton pull an ‘Espo’ and give Reno some flowers or chocolates prior to “O’Canada” at Game 4.
–Speaking of the atmosphere at the Bell Centre, this is what it’s like as the Habs come onto the ice before the game.
–Speaking of Esposito, heard a great story about him during the first round. So every game, the media does a game-winning goal pool and in Game 1 of the Lightning-Canadiens series, Esposito who does some broadcasting work with the Lightning, picked Dale Weise out of the hat. ‘Espo’ yelled out “Who the bleep is this guy?” and threw his pick away in the trash. of course Weise went on to score the overtime winner for the Habs in that Game and apparently ‘Espo’ came around looking for his money but to no avail since he didn’t have the slip. Weise scored the eventual game-winner in Game 3 against the Bruins Tuesday. Wonder if Espo knows who Weise is now?