Boston, MA -- You know it’s playoff time when the hallway outside the Bruins locker room, the usual place for a pre-game media scrum, has been abandoned, and the press room, generally reserved for post-game press conferences in the regular season, is in full swing at 11 a.m.
If that’s not the indication you’re looking for, the Stanley Cup Playoff banner draping the wall behind the table set up for the coaches to sit at is probably the only better indication you’ll get of the magnitude of this evening's tilt.
Either way, it’s clear that the tension is growing in TD Banknorth Garden.
The B’s may be down 2-0 in this first-round playoff series, but the spectacular fight they put up against the Montreal Canadiens last night let everyone know they don’t plan on giving in. With last night's hockey in mind, both team’s coaches took a seat at the table this morning to field questions from the press.
Coach Julien Speaks Addressing a room full of mostly Canadian media, B’s head coach Claude Julien wanted to get one thing straight: the scores and series stats tip in favor of the Habs, but his team knows, especially after last night, they can keep up.
“I don’t think we went into last night’s game thinking we [couldn’t] beat them, and that hasn’t changed,” he said. “I think anybody who saw the game knows it could have gone the other way.”
The Bruins season record against the Canadiens, now reading a combined 0-7-2, prompted many to dismiss the team as playoffs began, but that’s only because Montreal had yet to see, as Coach put it, “the real Bruins” before last night.
“What we showcased last night was probably our team identity all year,” he explained. “We’ve been a hard-working team, resilient no matter what…so hopefully we can carry that into tonight and make this an interesting series.”
It’s already pretty interesting, though, as tonight’s game is another test for the B’s. A win from Boston tonight forces a fifth game, while a Montreal win puts them ahead 3-0, and, in the eyes of many, seals the deal.
“This game tonight means a lot for both teams, whichever way it goes,” said Coach. “It either gets us back in the series, or it puts our backs against the wall. That’s what it represents.”
But, if the Black & Gold have proven anything in these two games, it’s that they thrive under pressure, and they can make the changes to step their game up – something that’s just another part of the playoffs.
“[In the first game], they were a lot grittier, they were winning battles, they were a lot stronger, and we had to make those adjustments,” said Julien. “This is about winning hockey games in the playoffs, and you’ve got to do, what you’ve got to do,” which, as the B’s did, is often to changes lines around.
Coach Julien was tight-lipped on tonight’s lineup, but he did say that, no matter who plays, they will have to be more careful about penalties, which flew back and forth all of last night.
“[Discipline] is probably the number one priority,” he said, “and I think we got away from that a little bit. As well as we played, and as hard as we battled, the one thing that hurt us was our discipline, and it ended up costing us at the end.”
Both teams are, of course, playing two games in two nights, a tough thing to do at any point in the season. However, they know, as Coach said, they “just have to live with it and go forward.”
Fortunately, the Bruins play this second game in front of a home crowd, which could bring some added confidence and energy.
“This is where we belong,” said Coach Julien. “Last night was not intimidating for our team, [but] coming back home, having all our fans behind us, maybe that’s the extra boost we need.”
Coach Carbonneau’s Turn While most of his questions were in French, Habs head coach Guy Carbonneau discussed facing up to last night and making changes because of how those 60-plus minutes went.
“They played hard, we didn’t react,” he said. “We were lucky maybe that we won the game, but that’s the most important thing. Now we have to kind of look at what happened, how it happened, and try to make those adjustments and play better.”
The excessive penalties for both teams became disruptive to the game’s flow, making it hard to gain momentum.
“We spent way too much time killing penalties or on the power play, and there was no rhythm to the game,” said Carbonneau.
Coach Carbonneau knew that, for his team, game one of the series was far better, even though the Habs knew the B’s would be seeking revenge in the second contest.
“Our focus wasn’t really high yesterday. We knew they were going to come hard last night, we just didn’t react in time,” he said. “I thought in the first game, we were in the battle. Yesterday, we shied away from it.”
So what’s Coach looking for from his bench tonight?
“Obviously discipline is always a big part of it, but our execution has to be better,” he said. “And [we need to] stay in the battle longer.”