This, of course, is what the Bruins do so much better than everybody else.
They learn. They adjust. They take mistakes that have burned them and apply alternatives.
It wasn’t perfect, but the Bruins’ 4-2 win Saturday night over the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference semifinals indeed showed off a team that had something click. After the first three games of this series, you could argue that the Canadiens should have had a 3-0 lead. After watching Game 5, you wonder how they even have two wins.
“We started focusing on ourselves and the way we needed to play,” P.K. Subban’s sparring partner Milan Lucic said. ”We played to win and not to lose. That change in our mindset has been the difference for us.”
The Bruins lead the best-of-seven series, 3-2, and can close it out Monday at the Bell Center in Montreal. A showdown that seemed destined to go seven games, now has the Canadiens on the brink of elimination, and if the approach that arrived in Boston shows up on Monday, the Bruins can start laying out the silverware and napkins for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“We expect that we are going to have to play our best game yet,” said Jarome Iginla, who scored a second-period power play goal. “But we also feel like we want to keep building off what we are doing. Today feels good but that’s a part of the playoffs. It’s literally as soon as we leave the rink it’s done and it’s about preparing for that next game and trying to go in there and we know that they are going to try to use their crowd and we are most likely going to need our best game of the series.”
To be better than Saturday would take some work. Boston capitalized on a pair of power plays, busting an 0-10 streak in the series, for a pair of goals while Tuukka Rask and the Bruins defense surrendered a pair of their own, but you can really blame Brad Marchand and Matt Bartkowski for those instances. After fits and frustration throughout this series, including 60 minutes-plus of being unable to solve him Thursday night, the Bruins delivered Montreal goalie Carey Price his weakest performance of the series. And if the Swedish have yet to develop cloning, may we be the first to hear of it.
“Filmjölk” is a type of Swedish yogurt, which seems a fitting name for the Bruins dominant playoff line that features country-mates Loui Eriksson, Carl Soderberg (both scorers Saturday night), and Matt Fraser, the hero of Game 4 whose benign affinity for frozen yogurt became a national storyline because of the kid’s “aw, shucks” guilt after imbibing in some prior to his midweek callup. Soderberg got the Bruins rolling Saturday night and Eriksson finished them off, with a sweet score that defined patience paying off. It’s clear that the three of them have an on-ice chemistry that has paid maximum dividends for the Bruins over the past two games. As much as we all enjoyed referencing the “Swedie Pie” line, it’s clear that its missing ingredient was Fraser, not Daniel Paille. Those evil geniuses Claude Julien and Peter Chiarelli.
“[Fraser]’s played with that line, so he knows those guys a little bit,” Julien said. “Even that last goal, that’s a great play by Matt Fraser. He hangs onto the puck and looks around and has nobody, so he throws it at at the net and it was a great rebound there for Loui. So again, he’s played really well for us. He’s a strong player and a trustworthy player as well.”
This is where the Bruins’ scouting and coaching wins playoff series. While other coaches at the NHL level will consistently tinker with their playoff lines and their goalies (in hindsight, not so bad a call by Bruce Boudreau for the Ducks, eh?) Julien and Chiarelli stay the course, for the most part, choosing instead to take a cognitive approach to altering their game plan that eschews panic and displays a deep knowledge for the assets in their system. The addition of Fraser was a bigger key than many realized when the Bruins announced he was getting the call Thursday morning. Perhaps the Bruins’ awareness of their players’ talent also explains why Jordan Caron is still with the team. Maybe?
On Saturday, the Filmjölk line delivered a six-point evening. That’s one hell of an adjustment for a Bruins team that went into the night struggling to score goals against the Habs in this series.
“It always takes [time]– with [Chris] Kelly we had before, it took like 10 games, 15 games to get the chemistry together but then it was all set,” Soderberg said. “Loui and I had that chemistry for a long time and now we have changed the third guy in our line and, I don’t know. It seems like Fras [Fraser] is a pretty good option there.”
What we’ll see Monday night is anyone’s guess. Aside from a crowd frothing at the mouth over a silly water bottle incident that will become Canada’s obsession over the next two days, it’s hard to determine how the Canadiens will adjust to a Bruins team that showed them a passive defensive approach in Game 4, only to come out charging in Game 5. The Habs will be skating for their playoff lives against a team that has seemingly had that light bulb moment, from Julien to Rask to Soderberg and friends.
And if the Bruins fail to come out of Montreal with a victory, they’ll just have to adjust for Game 7 on Wednesday in Boston. It’s what they do best anyway.