The Bruins may have defeated the New York Rangers Saturday afternoon, giving them a psychological edge in this home-and-home series, but there was little celebration in the locker room last night.
As soon as they exited the ice, players and coaches alike were already focused on today’s game, which finishes the series this afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
“It’s one of those situations where you don’t have much time to think too much,” said head coach Claude Julien after last night’s win. “You’ve got to get right back into it….Tomorrow’s another day, and this is like a mini series.”
“The playoff picture, whether it’s the Eastern Conference or Western Conference, it’s so tight, so every game matters,” said forward Chuck Kobasew.
“When you look back at the end of the year, these could be the most important games,” echoed goalie Tim Thomas
Going into yesterday's game, the teams were neck-and-neck for the last of eight playoff spots. Today, the Bruins lead by one point after winning in a shoot out.
The race is close, the stakes are high, and both teams know it.
Kobasew called last night’s win “huge.”
“We lost the game [Thursday] night [against the Toronto Maple Leafs] in the shootout, and it’s nice to rebound…especially against these guys, now that we’re playing against them tomorrow,” he said in the locker room.
The teams aren’t the only ones focused on how big this series is, either.
“I think everybody has written about it, how important these two games are [for] both organizations,” Coach Julien said. “It’s created some great fan interest, and that’s something that we enjoy doing, and it’s part of trying to make this game better."
All the attention isn’t distracting the B’s. Playoff dreams are motivating them to stay focused and work hard for their points.
“We’re close in the standings, and we’ve got our little weekend series here, so [last night] was a better game,” Kobasew said.
It hasn’t been an easy road lately. Injuries and sickness have left the Bruins playing with an entirely different team from the beginning of the year.
“I was looking yesterday at our roster last time we played [the Rangers] early [in the season],” Julien commented, noting how many third- and fourth-line players have now moved up to the first and second lines.
“[They are] totally new lines. So it is a big change up front,” he said.
Coach is happy with his “new” team’s performance under pressure and doesn’t want any sympathy.
“I don’t think anybody’s feeling sorry for us….It is what it is. We have to fight our own battles,” Coach Julien said.
“When we fell down 3-2 [last night], we stayed focused; we went right back at them and didn’t let some of those goals discourage us,” he said. “We just stayed with it from start to finish, and I think it was nice for it to pay off.”
Despite the pressure, the players were looking forward to the road trip and the conclusion of the series.
“It’s going to be heated,” said Kobasew. “I think it’ll probably be even more emotional than it was today…just like a playoff atmosphere.”