-- Ever since the Boston Bruins
drew the Philadelphia Flyers
in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Boston has insisted it is a different team in a different year.
What started merely as talk designed to slough off suggestions that the Flyers have Boston's number after last year's historic four-game comeback in the second round of the playoffs, though, has slowly proven to be a reality through the first three games of this Eastern Conference Semifinal.
Yes, the Bruins once again have a 3-0 lead in a series against the Flyers after Monday night's 5-1 dismantling of the Flyers in Wednesday's Game 3, but there is a far different vibe emanating from this Boston team, both on the ice and in the dressing room.
"We're trying to keep (last year) out of our mind," rookie forward Brad Marchand
said. "It's a brand new year. We have a new team here. Half the team is brand-new guys. It's a new season, so we're not worried about that at all, we're writing our own new chapter."
The chapter to this point has been compelling and underlies why there is abundant confidence that Boston can author a new, more satisfying, ending this time around.
This Boston team has proven its mettle throughout the playoffs, refusing to fold when situations dictate it to be a distinct possibility.
In the first round, Boston dropped its first two games at home to hated rival Montreal, another team that consistently gives the Bruins fits in the postseason. Instead of buying into the doom and gloom that enveloped the city, Boston won four of the next five games -- including three OT wins.
In Game 2 of this series against Philadelphia, Boston fell into a quick two-goal hole against Philadelphia at a hostile Wells Fargo Center. The response from the Bruins? They scored two quick goals of their own and absorbed wave after wave of pressure from Philadelphia in the final 50 minutes of the game to steal an OT victory, their fourth extra-session win this postseason.
Those tangibles allow a stern coach like Claude Julien
to believe his group has a different makeup, to have confidence that this team will not commit the springtime sins of its predecessor.
"You have to move on in life," Julien said Thursday. "And we've moved on as far as this being a different group. This is obviously a different feeling. This is a group that feels like it has to continue playing the way it has been. We're a determined group right now.
"We're certainly not sitting comfortable by any means. We never have -- whether it was the last round or whatever. So we have the right mindset, I think, as we speak. We know the importance of tomorrow's game and what it means and we'll be prepared for that."
Why are these Bruins so different this time around?
Well, confidence is clearly a huge factor, but so is health for the Bruins, who have won seven of their past eight games.
Last season, David Krejci
was hurt in Game 3, breaking his wrist after a big open-ice hit by Mike Richards
. This year, he is still going strong and has tormented Philadelphia in each game. He has 4 goals in the first three games of this series, including the game-winner Wednesday night.
Defenseman Dennis Seidenberg
never made an appearance in last year's playoffs, sidelined when a skate sliced his wrist tendon late in the regular season. This time, he is playing more than 25 minutes a game against Philadelphia and has 3 points and a plus-9 rating in the three games.
Goalie Tim Thomas
, battling hip injuries that eventually required surgery, was on the bench watching as Tuukka Rask
tried to stop a rampaging Philadelphia offense that eventually carried the Flyers all the way to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. This time around, Thomas has stopped 120 of 126 shots fired at him, including a span of 68 straight that bridged the final 50-plus minutes of Game 2 and the first two periods of Game 3 -- essentially the same time frame in which the Bruins took over this series.
That improved health, coupled with some shrewd in-season acquisitions, has also made Boston a far deeper team than it was at this time last year.
"First of all, we have about half the guys weren't here last year," said Krejci, referencing the key acquisitions of Nathan Horton
, Rich Peverley
, Chris Kelly
, Greg Campbell and Tomas Kaberle
. "It's a deeper (team), we have bigger depth in our lineup, and we felt good in the first round. So hopefully that's going to help us in the second round, too."
Each of Boston's four lines has contributed at some point this postseason. In the first round, it was the third line that saved the day. Wednesday night, it was the fourth line that scored the back-breaking goal to make it 3-0.
"It's a brand new year. We have a new team here. Half the team is brand-new guys. It's a new season, so we're not worried about that at all, we're writing our own new chapter." -- Brad Marchand
Now, the Bruins must prove that all these improvements are not a mirage. They must go for the kill and put down these Flyers to stop talking the talk and finally walk the walk into the third round. That win doesn't necessarily have to come in Friday's Game 4 at TD Garden, but the Bruins know the sooner it comes, the better for a team that is dying to exorcise last year's demons once and for all.
"It was a good win," Thomas said after Game 3. "That is what we are going to be shooting for. Hopefully, we just hit the rest button in our mind and the games before don't mean anything. That motto I just said: one game at a time, one period at a time, and one shift at a time. We (have to) approach it like that."