BEDFORD, Mass. -- The 2011 Boston Bruins, who went on to win the Stanley Cup, might have lacked the firepower of the current Pittsburgh Penguins, but the team that snapped a 39-year championship drought still could score with the best teams in the NHL.
That squad ranked fifth in the regular season in goals per game and was the best 5-on-5 team in the League.
Yet, in a first-round series against the Montreal Canadiens and in the Stanley Cup Final against the Vancouver Canucks, the Bruins' offense couldn't get out of park in the first two games of those series. They scored one goal against the Canadiens and two against the Canucks en route to falling into 0-2 deficits.
But we know how both those series turned out.
So after the Bruins arrived home Tuesday with a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference Final against the Penguins, they weren't letting their 9-1 scoring edge in the series influence their opinion of the top seed's chance of mounting a comeback.
"We know -- we were in the same position two years ago. We were down 2-0 and you just try to throw everything at the other team," Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said after getting off a plane from Pittsburgh here at Hanscom Field. "So we know what can happen. And hopefully we've learned out of our experience. So we have to stay grounded, stay even-keel and stay in the moment."
The core of the current Bruins team has tasted victory and defeat several times in Stanley Cup Playoff series. In 2009 they rallied from 3-1 down before losing Game 7 to the Carolina Hurricanes. The comebacks and Cup championship in 2011 were followed by a seven-game defeat in the first round in 2012. And there was the historic collapse of 2010, when the Bruins lost a 3-0 lead to the Philadelphia Flyers.
Those shared experiences have taught the Bruins to take nothing for granted.
"Of course, our whole team can [relate to the Penguins' situation]," defenseman Andrew Ference said. "You know we have a large group of guys that have gone through this and been in that situation on both sides of the coin. And so that's the good thing about being with the same group for a long time, is that you can really lean on your past experience and not just talking about what could happen. Because we've done it all, I think, with this team. Whether it's coming back or having teams come back on us. We've all seen it together and we all know certain lessons that we've learned with those experiences."
However, the Bruins don't own all the experience in this series. Although you have to dig a little deeper into history, a lot of the current Penguins' core -- including Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, Brooks Orpik and Kris Letang -- was in this situation twice. The 2009 Penguins had to overcome an 0-2 deficit in the second round against the Washington Capitals then had to overcome the same series score against the Detroit Red Wings in the 2009 Stanley Cup Final. At the end, Crosby and his teammates hoisted the Cup.
So it's doubtful the Penguins are demoralized enough to give up.
"Not many teams that make it this far ride roller coasters," Ference said. "That's one of the things that I think experience helps with. I mean, all four teams have won recently. So I don't think you're going to find too many guys that are emotional train wrecks."
The Bruins will not be able to wait for the Penguins to lose the rest of this series. They know they have to go out and take it from the Eastern Conference's top-seeded team by continuing to do everything they've done well so far. Coach Claude Julien said Tuesday his team is playing its best hockey of the season, and his players agreed.
"I think so. We know we played some good hockey in the regular season, but it wasn't even close to the way we're playing right now," center David Krejci said. "But we've still got a long way ahead of us, so we've just got to keep it going."
The Bruins' greatest accomplishment among many through two games has been their ability to stymie the Penguins' offense. That starts with goaltender Tuukka Rask, who has stopped 48 of 49 shots. The team in front of Rask has contained some of the Penguins' biggest stars, with Crosby landing six shots on net in two pointless games and Jarome Iginla limited to three shots on goal.
Even without the final line change on the road, the Bruins were able to get many of the matchups they wanted. And even when they didn't get the right personnel on the ice, they adhered to their team defensive structure nearly to perfection.
"We did get lucky a few times. They hit a few posts," Seidenberg said. "But for the most part, you try to keep them to the outside, try to have a good gap all over the ice. And just try to keep them from having too much speed entering our zone. And again, for the most part, we've done a good job."
The job isn't done yet, and no one has to remind the Bruins.
"Any time you can come back from a road trip like that, having won both games, it's encouraging," Julien said. "Our team is really playing good hockey right now, without a doubt the best we've [played] this year. That has to continue to beat these guys. Like I said [Monday], we were in the same position as Pittsburgh a few years ago and we worked our way back into it. I think we understand the situation here. We're not going to get ahead of ourselves here. We need to understand that these next games are crucial for us, just as much as it is for them."