The Boston Bruins are already facing a serious mental challenge of being down two games in the first round of the playoffs, but being one of the League's best road teams in the regular season would normally serve as a source of inspiration in such a situation.
Except the Bruins left Boston on Sunday en route to Montreal, a city where they haven't won a game in their last four tries, a span of 14 months.
It makes what was already a serious test of will just that much more daunting, and the Bruins know it.
"Yeah, definitely," Bruins forward Milan Lucic said Sunday when asked if they were now the underdogs in this series. "I mean, especially going into Montreal … we haven't won there this year. It's the only building we haven't won in. We have been a really good road team this year, but we're definitely the underdogs for the rest of the series. But we're not thinking about that at all. We're just thinking about what we need to do to get ourselves back in the series."
Scoring some goals -- particularly the first one -- would definitely help the Bruins in that regard.
They have only managed to beat Canadiens goalie Carey Price once on 66 shots through the first two games, and very few of those shots came on rebounds as Montreal is keeping Boston away from the front of the net for the most part.
Not only have the Bruins never led in the series, they have trailed for all but 3:27 of it, and frustration has clearly set in.
"We got to make sure that we don't keep giving them those early goals because now you're playing into their game," coach Claude Julien said. "We got to make sure we keep that puck out of our net and hopefully we get the first goal. And if we do that then maybe now you force them to play out of their comfort zone and start getting away from their game."
The Bruins were severely hurt in Game 2 by the surprise absence of defenseman Zdeno Chara, who was admitted to hospital on Friday night with what the team called dehydration, but Julien admitted after Game 2 that it was more than that.
Chara made the trip to Montreal with the Bruins, but Julien could not say whether or not he will be ready for Game 3.
The ripple effect of Chara's absence was felt throughout the Bruins' defense as replacement Shane Hnidy only played 4:13, with just one shift coming in the third period. Tomas Kaberle was up above 28 minutes and Dennis Seidenberg was close to 27 minutes of ice time, but Julien insists his defense was not taken out of its comfort zone.
"I think it's more the type of mistakes that we've made that have been costly," Julien said. "That has nothing to do about the comfort zone that they're out of more than it is about making the right decisions."
While the Bruins are embracing the underdog role they are playing as they arrive in a city that has not been kind to them, Canadiens coach Jacques Martin wasn't willing to let go of the tag his team had at the start of the series when asked about it Sunday.
"I don't think anything's changed, it's been two real close games and I think both could have gone either way," Martin said. "We're playing a team that's a tremendous hockey club that had over 100 points. We need to be better, and that's our focus."
That focus is the same for Boston, but perhaps a bit more of mental challenge because while the Canadiens are building on positives, the Bruins are trying to erase two games worth of negatives from their minds.
"You got to give them credit, the Canadiens, they have played real well," Lucic said. "For ourselves, just looking over the games it seems like we're frustrated and the mistakes that we're making are uncharacteristic mistakes and they're capitalizing on it. So I think we just need to calm down and relax and just play the way we know we can."
We want to make sure that whoever makes our team really makes our team by earning it and not putting them in situations where they get preference because of their status as a first-round pick or whatever it might be. That's not going to happen. Everybody has to earn their way on our team.
— Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen on the team's prospects at development camp