BOSTON, MA - Well, this is what playoff hockey is all about, right? The Toronto Maple Leafs are facing elimination tonight at TD Garden, as the Bruins, leading the series 3-1, go for win No. 4 and a bid to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
And if it's anything like last game (recovered yet?), we're in for a great night of hockey.
"It's a do-or-die game for us tonight, too," said Brad Marchand, following the team's pregame skate. "We got to make sure we that we leave everything out there tonight. Hopefully, we can match their effort and have a good game."
For Toronto, it's literally a do-or-die, but for Boston, they're approaching tonight with the same mentality, not taking for granted the ability to close it out at home. They might not want to revisit past experiences, but they can certainly draw on them.
"We've learned both sides of the coin; when you don't close out a series and give a team life, how it can be a pretty dangerous fire to play with," said defenseman Andrew Ference, before offering his pragmatic thoughts on the fourth win being the toughest.
"I don't know, I think it gets tossed around a lot that the fourth win is the hardest, but I don't think it's any harder than the first or second or third," said Ference. "Every win is tough. In playoffs, the victories are earned. There's no freebies."
"We know what’s at stake, we know the job that needs to be done, and like I said,
there’s lots to look forward to," added Milan Lucic. "They’re going to come out hard, and
we need to come out just as hard, and you can’t take anything you have for granted."
The Bruins have been to the top, but, they've also experienced the lowest of lows. They know what it takes to get to win No. 16, but the possibility of defeat is the main motivation-driver.
Every team likes to win, but nothing sparks the hunger more than the "we hate to lose" approach.
"We’ve been in situations like this before, where we’ve had chances to close teams out in the past, and you go back to 2010 with Philadelphia, and you’re up 3-0 and everything’s going well and you kind of take it for granted and you don’t want to make that same mistake here."
"For us, we want to do everything in our power to play well and close it out tonight."
We've seen the effects of that hard-nosed, all-or-nothing playoff mentality played out through the series.
Nathan Horton took a hit on Wednesday that led to David Krejci's overtime-winner. On Thursday, he was right back at it, feeling good and "ready to get at 'er." Lucic took a puck to the face in Game 4, and was sporting a shiner this morning on his right eye, with stitches lined up under his length of his eyebrow - but, he's ready to play on.
"I feel good. Looking forward to tonight, obviously a little bit of a shiner here on my right eye, but like I said, looking forward to tonight," said Lucic. "A lot on the line for both teams."
He wasn't the only one that paid the price Wednesday night. A scary moment happened when Lucic's shot deflected up and hit Leafs' defenseman Mark Fraser. The blueliner immediately fell to the ice from the impact, and Lucic rushed down towards the faceoff circle where Fraser had gone down.
"It’s definitely a tough play, you can see it on the ice that I was concerned when I did see the puck hit him," said Lucic. "I saw him walking out just before the overtime period when we were standing out there before we go out and I asked him if he was doing alright, he kind of nodded and said he was doing okay at the time."
"You never want to see a play like that, doesn’t matter if it’s your teammate or not," added Lucic. "From what I heard, he had successful surgery so that’s also good to hear and I wish him all the best."
A look around the locker room Friday morning saw Chris Kelly wearing a gash across his cheek and his own black eye after taking a high-stick Wednesday. Daniel Paille still had stitches across the bridge of his nose. Johnny Boychuk, though not wearing his scars on his face, has plenty from blocking 18 [recorded] shots so far this series.
"I think you’ve seen it a lot in this series and a lot around the league. That old time kind of hockey," said Lucic. "And when there’s a lot on the line, things like that are going to happen."
“This is playoffs," Rich Peverley said, matter-of-factly, on a stitched-up room of Bruins.
"You’ve got to do whatever it takes.”