April 10, 2013.
That date sound familiar? It should, because it’s the last time the Boston Bruins won back-to-back games.
From April 10 on, the Bruins went on to finish the season 2-7. Tonight, up 2-1 on the Toronto Maple Leafs in the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, Boston has a chance to take a commanding series lead back home for Game 5 Friday night.
The Bruins’ regular season struggles have been documented and discussed like there’s no tomorrow, so there’s no need to get too detailed. The bottom line is this; tonight’s Game 4 against Toronto is about as pivotal a matchup Boston has seen all year.
Once again, the Bruins will head into the hockey madhouse that is the Air Canada Centre to take on a Maple Leafs team desperate to fight their way back into this series. If Toronto scores the first goal of the night, the roof is going to blow off the arena. With that said, the Bruins’ task tonight is simple; silence the building.
If Boston leaves Toronto with a 3-1 series lead and they hit the mute button on the Maple Leafs fan base, Las Vegas odds would have to favor this ending in five games. However, if the Bruins revert to the ways of old, letting Toronto tie the series at two as a result of lackadaisical play and just plain sleepwalking through three periods of hockey, this is a brand new ballgame.
Just look at what’s happening with the perennial playoff favorite Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s safe to say having names like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jarome Iginla, Kris Letang and more is enough to make any betting man presume they’d sweep the “we’re just happy to be here” New York Islanders with minimal effort. However, after a Game 1 drubbing, the Islanders have scratched and clawed their way back into the series to tie it 2-2, leaving a huge question mark in the Penguins’ net at the same time.
It doesn’t matter what seed a team is. Any time you give an opponent a glimpse of life in the playoffs, the momentum shifts. This is why Game 4 is a must-win for the Bruins.
Boston cannot afford to go soft and assume they’ve rattled the Leafs. Not again. If they get a lead, even if it’s 8-0, the foot must remain on the gas until the final horn. Those third period woes we’ve seen for months now? The Bruins better not even think of bringing them back tonight.
The Bruins sure looked like they were trying to fumble the lead in the final period of Game 3. Tuukka Rask standing on his head during an 18 shot flurry was the only thing that prevented a Boston letdown.
If the Bruins from Game 1 take the ice tonight, you can all but guarantee the series will be 3-1 Boston come tomorrow morning. But if the team from Game 2, or even the final frame of Game 3 makes a cameo, Toronto is taking all of the momentum in a series that’s suddenly best of three.
Tonight will be a genuine test for Boston. Is the nightmare that was the regular season finally over? Can the Bruins finally take hold of a series most experts picked them to win?
We’ll find out at puck drop.