BOSTON -- By not closing out the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the New York Rangers on Thursday, the Boston Bruins left themselves open to having to answer questions about 2010 and their second-round loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.
"I don't even want to compare," Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask said after the team practiced Friday at TD Garden to prepare for Game 5 Saturday (5:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS). "I mean, it's a totally different team. We beat [Philadelphia] the next year 4-0, won the Cup, so lots of things have happened. And as we've said all along, we don't want to look in the past or too much ahead. We like to live in the moment and focus on the task."
But 2010 was the last time Rask was the Bruins' No. 1 goaltender. That club also reached the second round of the playoffs, also jumped to a 3-0 series lead, and also lost Game 4 on the road in overtime. So while the Bruins want to avoid the history that was created that season with the Flyers becoming the third team in NHL history to win a best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series after losing the first three games, the resemblances are too obvious to avoid.
Of course, Rask is right. This is a different team, even if many of the core players still are wearing black and gold. That club lacked the depth Boston has flaunted against New York in making up for the absence of three key defensemen, Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference and Wade Redden. When the Bruins were without forward David Krejci and Seidenberg in 2010, they were devastated by the absence of two of their best players.
This year's team also has the benefit of several years of experiencing the ups and downs of a playoff run. Most of this year's team fought through adversity and won the Stanley Cup in 2011, partly motivated by the chance to erase the horrid memories of the 2010 collapse. This year, the Bruins had the Toronto Maple Leafs on the brink of elimination three times before finally advancing. And the current Bruins all know that although they battled hard in their overtime loss in Game 4, they weren't playing at close-out level.
"We played all right. We did play a good game," forward Daniel Paille said. "But it wasn't a good-enough game to get that fourth win. And New York realized that and capitalized on some chances. For us, it was a good game, but we could be better."
Krejci said, "We still had a chance to win. I think we played an OK game. But I don't think we were … we didn't show the emotions that we wanted to finish the series last night. So [Game 5] is another game. It's a new day and we're up 3-1, we have a chance to get our win at home [Saturday], so we're going to try to do everything we can to get a win."
The Bruins might have had a different topic to discuss Friday had Rask not taken the tumble heard 'round the world on Carl Hagelin's goal that got the Rangers on the board in the second period of Game 4. One unfortunate flop by Rask -- and the lucky trickle of the puck past his stick and into the net -- breathed new life into the Rangers.
Rask did his part to overshadow his fall with a host of great saves to get the Bruins into overtime then keep them alive as long as he could in the extra session. His teammates wanted to make sure the flop wasn't the story of the night and failed. That quest will continue Saturday.
"Yeah, you know, it's unfortunate that that play went in," Paille said. "He definitely felt responsible for it. But in the same sense we've got to be there for him as he's been there for us all year. We weren't there for him [Thursday], and we've got a chance to respond for [Game 5]."
That Rask didn't let a gaffe that led most highlight shows affect him the rest of the way resonated with his teammates.
"He's a professional," defenseman Torey Krug said. "You expect him to make saves and he expects that out of himself. So to see him rebound the way that he did was important for us, and I think we all kind of expected it. So it was good."
Rask said he had yet to take guff from anyone not on the Bruins since the Hagelin goal, but said he's sure he’ll hear about it plenty this summer. That razzing will be a lot easier to take if that goal is just one bump on the road to a triumphant finish this season. A better, flop-free game from Rask, as well as the rest of his teammates -- whose miscues also contributed to the defeat -- will go a long way to making sure 2010 continues to be representative of a different era in Bruins lore.
"I didn't think we were good, we were OK, [but] in the playoffs, OK is not enough to win you some hockey games," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "A lot of our play was just OK, so we need to be good. That's what we're aiming for [Saturday]. We've proven along in this series that we can be good and consistent. We've just got to be good and bounce back [Saturday] and play as hard as we can, hoping that that's going to win us a hockey game."