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Bruins regroup after the storm

Team gets day off to reassess Hurricanes

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / May 8, 2009
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RALEIGH, N.C. - There was no practice for the Bruins yesterday, a day after Wednesday's 3-2 overtime loss to the Hurricanes in Game 3 at the RBC Center. No meetings. No video work. Coach Claude Julien gave his players the day off with the hope that time away from the rink will help shake the Bruins from their two-game slide.

"That's what this whole day off is about," Julien said. "It's taking a step back. Let's regroup here and go back to playing the type of game we know we can play."

The Bruins claimed a 4-1 win in Game 1, capitalizing on Carolina's giveaways and cross-ice turnovers. Since then, the Bruins haven't belonged in the same rink as the Hurricanes, save for a 16-shot third period in Game 2's 3-0 shutout loss.

On Wednesday, the Hurricanes assaulted Tim Thomas with 41 shots and missed 17 more. At the other end, the Bruins bothered Cam Ward with only 23 shots, most of the meek and polite variety that the goalie was able to see and stop.

But for all their shortcomings, the Bruins still had their chance to snatch Game 3 when Marc Savard and Milan Lucic had high-quality scoring chances early in overtime.

"We're not in trouble," Julien said. "We're in a series, a hard-fought series. What we have to do is get our game going in the right direction, which means a commitment to outworking the other team and a commitment to making better decisions. Again, it's a mind-set. We've struggled the last couple games, but there's ups and downs to a season. You win a game, you're Stanley Cup contenders. You lose one, you're in trouble. That's what you have to face every day. We just have to keep our focus on what we have to do, believe in ourselves, and go out and do it. We're very capable of doing that."

So it comes down to this: Perhaps the Bruins' biggest test is tonight, when the Hurricanes could grab control of the series and force the Bruins to win three straight games.

"We've got to be sharper in all areas," said Savard by phone yesterday. "Hopefully today's day off will clear our heads and get everybody focused. Obviously we need Game 4."

Despite Boston's disappointing effort in Game 3, the Hurricanes know how dangerous the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference can be. Coach Paul Maurice has seen his players get the better of the Bruins for most of the last two games. But he knows he hasn't uncovered a fatal flaw in the Bruins. In Maurice's mind, the Bruins don't have one.

"They were very good all year," Maurice said. "There's two numbers: their offense and their defense. Their ability to score goals and defend so well means that there's not a hole there. We're not exploiting any weakness in the Bruins' game. They don't really have any. They have a great goaltender. Their back end is big and strong. They've got some great transition forwards up front. I don't sense in this series that we would ever look beyond a game and say, 'Hey, now we've got them where we want them.' "

The Bruins' stars must elevate their games tonight, starting with Zdeno Chara. The captain, who logged a game-high 42 shifts Wednesday while trying to match up against No. 1 center Eric Staal, was at the center of the overtime breakdown that led to forward Jussi Jokinen's winning goal. Chara tried to clear the puck. But wing Sergei Samsonov stepped in front of Chara's chip. When Chara reached out to slow Samsonov down with his stick, the winger danced around him. Thomas stopped Samsonov's shot, but couldn't get over in time to get in front of Jokinen's follow-up bid.

"[Chara]knows that the last goal started with not getting the puck out," Julien said.

While Chara and his defensive mates must push back against Carolina and keep the fast-moving forwards from harassing Thomas, it will be just as crucial for the Bruins to give the Hurricanes some heat in their own zone. Ward has looked far too comfortable in the two wins, as the goaltender has been given wide-open shooting lanes to track down shots.

"We've got to be more patient with the puck," Savard said. "We're getting rid of it way too quickly. We've got to create more chances. We didn't create that many last game as a team. Every line's got to do their job. I think everybody needs to play better. Everybody. It's not just one guy who has to be better. It's everybody."

The Bruins have faced adversity before. They lost their touch for healthy stretches of February and March before they reignited their engines and carried momentum into a first-round sweep of the Canadiens.

"We just have to find our game again," Julien said. "We just have to be a little better in all areas. It takes you one good game to get back on track. That's what we're looking for right now. That game [tonight] has to be one of those games where we play as well as we know we can."

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com.

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