BOSTON -- With the Boston Bruins leading the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Final, there's a sense of confidence around the team, around how they're playing, around their prospects as they stand two wins away from the Stanley Cup Final.
But as Bruins president Cam Neely made clear on Monday, he does not believe the team is overconfident heading into Game 3 of the best-of-7 series at PNC Arena on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS). Boston has too many players who've been there before to get ahead of itself; six were a part of the team that went to the Cup Final in 2013, five when it won it in 2011.
"Obviously, the group feels confident but understands that we're going into their building," Neely said at the unveiling of "Bear Force One," a Bruins-themed plane that's a new addition to the JetBlue fleet at Logan Airport. "It's going to be a tough match. We've got to be prepared for their best game.
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"Fortunately, we've got a lot of guys that have been through this before and we think they'll get the group ready."
That is the benefit of having those kinds of veteran players and a group that knows what it takes to get to this point in the season.
For those who don't, that's where the leadership steps in. Neely has seen this team grow together, merge the two groups, and become a dynamo through the first two rounds of the playoffs.
"I think they realize they're a good team and they have confidence, but they're not overconfident," Neely said. "They understand that they can play with anybody and they've shown that. So the big thing for me is they've got this confidence about themselves that they know they're a good team but they have to put the work in. You saw Game 1 [against the Hurricanes] where we didn't have a great second period and we're behind the eight ball. So they came out with a different mindset in Game 2."
Video: Reaction to Bruins' huge Game 2 win against Carolina
That earned them a six-goal lead on the way to a 6-2 win Sunday.
It's something the Bruins might have seen coming as recently as February. At the start of the season, the goal was to make it to the Cup Final, but management knew there was a long way to go and a lot of variables to face before they got there.
"When we talked about our group and what we needed to accomplish throughout the year, we thought we had a chance to compete for the Cup," Neely said. "You never know what's going to happen with injuries and whatnot, and we certainly had our fair share at the start of the year. Then at the [2019 NHL Trade] Deadline, we acquired two players that have been certainly instrumental in our success right now and the depth has been key for us.
"So after the deadline, we really looked at our club at said, 'We've got something special here, potentially.'"
That might have been the turning point. On Feb. 20, less than a week before the deadline, Boston was second in the Atlantic Division (behind the Tampa Bay Lightning), second in the Eastern Conference and third in the NHL with 80 points.
Video: Johansson talks to Jaffe about Bruins' Game 2 win
But the Bruins still hadn't solidified their third line, and the right wing on the second line -- David Krejci's line -- was up in the air. Enter forwards Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson, acquired from the Minnesota Wild and New Jersey Devils, respectively. Coyle was acquired for forward Ryan Donato and a conditional fifth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft that became a fourth-round pick when the Bruins made the second round of the playoffs; Johansson was acquired for a second-round pick in the 2019 draft and a fourth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.
"I think the players that were available were players that we felt we needed to upgrade our group and that doesn't necessarily happen every deadline," Neely said. "There's some deadlines where there's really good players available, but you don't really want to give up the assets to get them. This deadline, where we were and what we needed and the players that were available, we were able to get something done."
Coyle has 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 15 playoff games and Johansson has nine points (three goals, six assists) in 13 games as the two have paired on the third line to create depth Boston hasn't had in years.
Which gives the Bruins a good feeling about themselves heading into Game 3. They have the right players, they believe, and they have the knowledge of what it takes to make it this far -- and potentially even further.
"It's guys understanding what it takes to win at this time of year and that rubs off on players that hadn't maybe been this far," Neely said. "To have some of that experience going into this year with guys that have already won and been to a Final another time, it just rubs off and they show them how to prepare properly."
And ultimately, how to win.
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