Just focus on our team.
Take it game by game.
Play our game.
They are words that that have been repeated over and over again by everyone within the Bruins organization — players, coaches, management. But they aren’t empty words. They are not cliches that are simply used to fill space.
They are words that the Bruins truly believe, at their core, and they are words that powered this team to a commanding first-round demolition of the Detroit Red Wings.
In essence, they are words that this team lives by.
“It just comes down to turning the page,” a levelheaded Gregory Campbell said in the aftermath of the Bruins’ most emotional win of the series, a 3-2 overtime victory at Joe Louis Arena in Game 4. “Being up 3-1 is obviously a good position to be in, but it doesn’t mean much because playoffs are so based on game-to-game performances that you really have to do your best at every opportunity. I think we’re just, again, we’re looking at [Game 4] as a big win but [Game 5] is another one.”
The B’s took that same approach in Game 5 and came out with a victory that punched their ticket to the second round.
After Saturday’s series clincher, Red Wings Head Coach Mike Babcock commended the Bruins for their leadership. It takes mental strength for a team to rebound so furiously from a 1-0 series deficit after dropping Game 1 at home. It also takes mental strength to come back from a 2-0 deficit in a critical Game 4, when the opponent is throwing everything it has at you, when you’re putting shot after shot on net and nothing is breaking your way.
During the series against Detroit, the Bruins faced both of those scenarios, and they conquered them. They didn’t conquer because of lucky bounces or a Red Wings collapse. They conquered because of their leadership — because every member of the Bruins truly, honestly believes they can win under any circumstance, and they refuse to give up until the final horn sounds.
“When you play with great players that like to step up in big situations, it’s easy to play with confidence,” said defenseman Torey Krug. “It was a lot of fun and a great series.”
When we think of the Bruins’ leaders, we often think of the usual suspects — Zdeno Chara. Patrice Bergeron. Shawn Thornton. Milan Lucic. David Krejci. We think of the guys who have been in Boston for a long time, who embody what it means to be a Bruin.
The joy of this particular team, though, is that new leaders have emerged. They may not be Chara or Bergeron, but they are cut from the same cloth. It’s clear from the way that they carry themselves and from the words they say that they know what it means to be a Bruin. They understand what it is that makes Chara and Bergeron such good leaders, and they emulate those qualities.
Reilly Smith. Kevan Miller. Torey Krug. Dougie Hamilton.
Even veteran players — Loui Eriksson, Carl Soderberg — who only recently became Bruins have been able to establish themselves as new leaders. They are all buying into what makes this team roll, and it shows — from the way the Black & Gold tore through the post-Olympic stretch, to the way they buried the Red Wings, game by game, until the task was completed.
“What makes them so special I think is — I don’t think there’s any one thing,” said Jarome Iginla. “I think it’s a group that, you know, we’re a very close group, and guys have been through it before, but a very hungry, very competitive group. Starting with Zee, Bergy, Tuukks [Tuukka Rask], Soup [Gregory Campbell] — you name it, there’s a whole group of guys — Thorty — it just goes on and on — that love to compete and battle — Looch [Milan Lucic] — literally, you could just keep naming guys. You know, one guy goes out and leads the way, and the next guy keeps going and going.”
We often hear talk about “the Bruins Way.” We hear about certain players who are, plain and simple, Bruins. This season, there aren't merely a few players who fall under that umbrella. This season, the entire roster falls under that umbrella.
Goaltender Tuukka Rask said after Game 4 that a lot of winning in the playoffs comes down to mental strength. It can’t be taught; it can only be earned, through good times and bad. Plenty of the players on this Bruins team have been to the mountaintop. They also have experienced ultimate heartbreak, as recently as last year.
Through that kind of experience, a team develops its identity. And from the top down, this is a team that is all about just that — the team. It is a group that is full of stars, none of whom would ever refer to themselves as that. It is a group that is humble and grateful when heaped with individual awards but continuously reiterates that no individual award comes without the help of talented teammates.
After being nominated for the Norris Trophy, Chara said only, “It’s obviously a huge honor. It’s one of those things that you’re very proud of and it’s something that you need to have the whole team working towards the same direction and working together, and it’s a reflection of the whole season — having a steady and strong season as a team.”
After being nominated for the Selke Trophy, Bergeron said, “There’s no individual awards that don’t go without the help of your teammates. I have other things on my mind right now, which is the playoffs.”
After being nominated for the Vezina Trophy, Rask said, "It’s great recognition, but everybody knows we're a team-first team, and it’s something that comes after the biggest trophy."
This is a group that understands that individuals don’t win championships. Teams win championships. They don't just preach it. They actually believe it, and that's what makes them special.
“They want to win. These guys want to win,” said General Manager Peter Chiarelli. “They’ve tasted, and they want to keep winning, so it’s kind of – you breed it a little bit, and then sometimes maybe you bring a player in and you hope that the group can mold him a little bit.
“Sometimes, that trait is in you and it just comes out with the group, so credit to the group, for helping us bring players in.”