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Bruins understand perils first round can carry

by Matt Kalman

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- For all of the Boston Bruins' success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs the past three years, they have struggled in the first round.

The Bruins, who open the Eastern Conference First Round against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday at TD Garden (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, FS-D, NESN), have gone the full seven games three years in a row, and all of those series finales have gone to overtime.

As the third seed in 2011, the Bruins fell behind two games to none before beating the sixth-seeded Montreal Canadiens. Boston was the second seed when it lost to the seventh-seeded Washington Capitals in 2012 after forcing Game 7 with a Game 6 win on the road. Last season, the fourth-seeded Bruins made their miracle comeback from three goals down in the third period to beat the fifth-seeded Toronto Maple Leafs in the do-or-die game.

Bruins forward Milan Lucic said he has an idea why the Bruins, who won the Presidents' Trophy this season and are the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, have made it so hard on themselves and how they can rectify the situation against the Red Wings, who are the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.

"We've got to be prepared to bring our best, because you talk about the last three years, you know the other team hasn't taken us lightly at all and they've given us their best," Lucic said after practice at Ristuccia Arena. "And maybe we kind of overlooked, I guess, the other team a little too much where we kind of got ourselves into holes and got into a Game 7 overtime situation the last three years. So hopefully our mindset is where it needs to be in order for us to bring our best."

Coach Claude Julien said he believes the Bruins are playing better entering the playoffs than in recent seasons.

"I think this year we just kept our team going and going, and whether that Presidents' Trophy was something that kept us going, I think it was important for us to keep playing fairly well," Julien said. "And just because we had a couple of iffy games there at the end in Minnesota and Winnipeg doesn't mean we feel like we're limping into the playoffs or maybe not going at full tilt and let our guard down. I think this year we've played pretty consistent, and we hope that that's going to be help for us there in that first round."

Julien said lower seeds have less to lose than higher seeds, and that attitude can loosen up a team for an upset. As the No. 1 seed, the Bruins will have a giant target on their collective backs. But Lucic said he doesn't think there's more pressure now than in the recent past.

"I think it's the same type of pressure that we had in the last three years," he said. "You know, I think there was pressure even to start this season, just making the Stanley Cup Finals out of the East two of the last three years. Obviously I think a lot of the pressure was on us throughout the whole season. And it seems like obviously this year we were able to deal with that pressure real well.

"But going into these playoffs, I don't feel any extra added pressure. And you know you don't want to put too much added pressure on yourself. You just want to remain focused and do what you need to do in order to help your team win."

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