With a win-or-go-home Game 7 against the Bruins at TD Garden just hours away, Maple Leafs winger Joffrey Lupul spoke confidently to members of the media from the team hotel in Boston Monday afternoon.
Lupul, who has three goals and one assist in the series, said the pressure is on the Bruins, who at one point held a three-games-to-one advantage in this first-round series.
“Everyone’s watching, the spotlight’s on,” Lupul said. “Every play is obviously a high-pressure play. It’s not a time to go out there and play tight. It’s time to not be afraid of the big moment and, obviously, you want to stick to our team game, but as individuals, it’s a great time to step up.
“We’ve won two in a row. The pressure is mostly on them. I don’t think a lot of people expected this game to even be happening, especially when we were down, 3-1.”
Lupul and several other members of the Maple Leafs looked relaxed and well-rested. The Maple Leafs arrived in Boston late Sunday night, unlike the Bruins, who were forced to stay in Toronto after mechanical difficulties grounded their charter flight.
“Those things happen,” said Toronto coach Randy Carlyle. “We’ve all been in airports where we’ve had mechanical or weather delays. It’s just part of it. You accept it and move on.”
Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf didn’t see the Bruins’ travel issues as any kind of advantage for the Leafs.
“That’s all part of travel and things happen,” he said. “I don’t think it’s an advantage, no.”
The Bruins have dropped two straight closeout games since their 4-3 overtime win in Toronto last Wednesday.
“I just think that we’ve given ourselves a chance, that’s all,” Carlyle said. “Anytime you get to a seventh game in the Stanley Cup playoffs, there’s been some good, there’s been some bad. And we’ve been a pretty resilient group all year. We’ve been able to respond from some of the adversity that we’ve had to face.”
After playing before a raucous Toronto fan base at the Air Canada Centre that spurred them to their first playoff win against Boston on their home ice since 1959, the Maple Leafs return to TD Garden.
“Here we are facing a very hungry Boston team in their own building, which will [have] a pretty hostile crowd,” Carlyle said. “We’ll just have to focus on the things that we need to do to give ourselves a chance for success.”
Carlyle offered no update on his top center, Tyler Bozak, who sat out Sunday’s game with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Former Boston first-round pick Joe Colborne saw 15 minutes of ice time in Bozak’s absence Sunday and figures to play significant minutes again tonight if the 27-year-old remains sidelined.
“When we started the series, there was lots of talk about guys not having experience and what not,” said Phaneuf, “but guys have really gone through a lot of ups and downs, as everyone does in different playoff series, and I think that guys have really handled it well and we’ve learned a lot. We’ve been through a lot. We want to keep going.
“We know that it’s going to be an energetic building, that they’re going to come hard, as they always do in their building, and we’ve got to keep raising our game.”
The season will come to an end for one team Monday night, and Carlyle’s philosophy is a simple one.
“We’ve got to win a game. That’s what it is,” Carlyle said. “If we’re going to continue, we have to win a hockey game, and that’s what our focus has to be. Our focus has to be on our start — establish the skating game, the forechecking game, the effective workmanlike attitude has to be right at the front. If we can be first on the puck, first faceoff, first body check, first power play. We’re going to try to have a night of firsts.