The Boston Bruins have made comebacks before.
Though coming back from being down 2-1 in a best-of-7 series, as the Bruins stand in the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Tampa Bay Lightning, wouldn’t exactly count as a historic achievement, it has been made more difficult by Boston’s 7-1 loss in Game 3 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Wednesday.
“We’re licking our wounds today, but we’ll be better,” coach Bruce Cassidy said Thursday after the two defeats on back-to-back days. “We’ve got a good group in there, core group will be ready to go. They’re going to have to pull that middle group along. We challenged the middle group the other day and hopefully they’re able to respond, too.”
Game 4, scheduled for Friday, has been postponed and will be played at a date to be determined in Toronto, the Eastern Conference hub city.
“You need 20 guys,” Cassidy said. “This is too good of a hockey club, no passengers. So that will be the message, and our guys are pretty good at bouncing back. I wasn’t happy with our response in the second and third period last night, but Game 4 will be a different animal.”
The good news for the Bruins is leadership and experience are areas in which they excel; this is almost exactly the same team that made it to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final against the St. Louis Blues last season. That team was facing elimination in Game 6, but won decisively to force Game 7.
They have a core that has made three runs to the Cup Final, winning in 2011 against the Vancouver Canucks, and losing in six games in 2013 to the Chicago Blackhawks, a core that knows how to turn the page.
“We’re gong to have to move on from this game,” captain Zdeno Chara said after Game 4. “Obviously, not our best game. We realize that was one of those games that nobody wants to look at. Definitely something that we have to move forward from and get ready for the next one.”
And they know what they need to do: As Cassidy said, “take care of the puck breaking out of our end, control the neutral zone better. There’s a lot of areas of our game. Typically I like our special teams. We got beat on that the other night, so I think they’ll bounce back.”
Boston’s penalty killing was especially problematic in Game 3. The Lightning scored on three of their six power plays, an aberration for the Bruins, who finished the regular season third in the NHL on the penalty kill (84.3 percent).
The other area that needs a bounce back is in net. Jaroslav Halak is expected to start after Cassidy opted to relieve him at 11:18 of the second period in Game 3. Boston was down 4-1, with Halak having allowed four goals on 16 shots. The Bruins inserted backup Dan Vladar to get Halak some rest and get a look at the backup who had never played in an NHL game. Vladar allowed three goals on 15 shots.
But it’s that middle of the lineup Cassidy is focused on, knowing he needs more from them to turn the series around. He made some lineup swaps for Game 3, removing injured center Sean Kuraly and struggling forward Anders Bjork and inserting center Par Lindholm and going with an extra defenseman. It did not seem to help.
“We’ve got guys in the middle of the lineup we challenged to be better, to drive the bus on a night like tonight where young legs matter,” he said. “Clearly that didn’t happen enough and we’ll continue to push that message.
“But as a whole, let’s face it, they were better than us in every facet of the game, so we’ve got our work cut out for us. But it’s one loss and put our best food forward in Game 4, try to even the series by playing a lot better and a lot smarter.”