The news broke that the Toronto Maple Leafs snuck past the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-3, in overtime Thursday night just as Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien was wrapping up his press conference following his team’s pivotal 5-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings at the TD Garden.
“Oh?” Julien casually said when a reporter informed him of the news that involved playoff implications for the Bruins as he waltzed out the door.
Inside, the coach probably had a different, say, more jovial reaction.
Especially after the way his team had played against the Wings.
The see-saw tipped, the glass was filled half-way, and the Bruins finally found some semblance of the fortune Thursday night that they figured had gone the way of the capable defensemen that they had jettisoned since the last time they made the NHL postseason.
Just when it seemed little could go right for the Bruins, the Red Wings turned up at TD Garden and delivered a taste of hope for Boston, which discovered its haphazard scoring streak early enough to beat up on the Red Wings, giving both teams 93 points in the chase for the Atlantic Division’s final playoff spot.
It was, indeed, a good night for the Bruins.
“It was definitely a playoff feel out there,” said 7th Player Award-Winner Brad Marchand, who silenced the doubters of his validity for the overachiever’s honor with his 37th goal of the year only 2:44 into the game, the Bruins’ second score of the game. “You could tell the guys were preparing that way.”
It still might not be enough.
Just when it seemed that the lowly Maple Leafs were going to do their rival a favor, they allowed the Flyers to force overtime in their game. Granted, they came through in the end, but they made things more difficult for the Bruins’ playoff chances.
If the Bruins beat the Ottawa Senators and the Red Wings fall to the New York Rangers this weekend, Boston is in.
Bruins lose to Ottawa? Fine. As long as the Flyers lose in regulation to the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Islanders.
Bruins win, but Flyers win both games while Detroit wins its season finale against the Rangers? Well, it was nice getting to know Lee Stempniak.
So, all the Bruins have to do is beat Ottawa in regulation on Saturday afternoon, and the picture gets very interesting.
Go ahead and bet on that.
“That’s the way it is,” Julien said. “I’ve said that before and I’m not going to change my tune. We created that situation so now we’ve got to live with it and take care of business the best we can.”
I mean, heck, based on the fluid nature of this Bruins team, one should at least expect the to come out against the Senators in much the same way that they greeted the Carolina Hurricanes Tuesday night. Lifeless. Antiseptic. The very antithesis of what an NHL fan should want their playoff team to look like on the doorstep to the league’s second season.
Which for all we know means the Cup will be here come June.
Hey, you figure this team out. The Bruins came into Thursday night 2-7-1 over their last 10 games, a stretch that Marchand seemed A-OK with for whatever reason.
“I don’t really think that we’re in a slump,” he said.
His coach would beg to differ.
“You know guys, almost every team in this league goes through a slump at one point in the season,” Julien said. “And unfortunately for us, we hadn’t, until this last month.”
There was that stretch in early January when the team lost five out of six, including the disastrous Winter Classic against the Montreal Canadiens. But you know, that’s hindsight.
“That’s what’s really gotten us in trouble and it’s unfortunate. But, again, you can look in the rear-view mirror or you can focus on Saturday, and that’s probably the best thing to do right now.”
Win and they just might get in, a proposition most Bruins fans had already turned their backs on after Tuesday’s lifeless effort against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Simple as that.
You know it isn’t really though. Right?
These Game 81 Bruins didn’t resemble what Garden regulars had seen during a season in which the team finally evened up its home record (17-17-6) with the win over the Wings. David Pastrnak broke away for his 14th goal of the year only 1:25 in the contest, followed swiftly by Marchand’s only a little more than a minute later.
“That made a huge difference,” Julien said. “Obviously what we’ve been going through here, gave our guys some real good confidence there and loosened them up a little bit, and we just took off from there.”
It was a lead that never really felt safe until Stempniak and Loui Eriksson repeated the quick draw feat with third-period goals at 0:20 and 0:45 in the third period. Torey Krug, who hadn’t scored since December, finally nailed a power play goal in the net during the second period for his fourth of the year.
Who the hell were these guys anyway?
“It’s important that we bottle that up and bring the same kind of game on Saturday,” Julien said. “We have to rely on some breaks here or there, but we have to be focused and kind of bring that same kind of game and give ourselves the best chance possible.”
Best chance possible would have been pairing this win with one Tuesday night over the Hurricanes.
But the Bruins will take it.
Just don’t expect the same team to show up on Saturday.
It never seemingly has this season.
Photos: A look back at the Big, Bad Bruins