The Bruins are down 3-1 in their best of seven series against the Tampa Bay Lightning and it’s not looking good.
Not only have the B's lost the last 23 playoff series where that was the case, but in this bubble hockey format, only one series has even gone the distance, and that was the Blue Jackets-Maple Leafs series in the qualifying round.
Otherwise, teams have eventually fallen under the weight of trying to come back while knowing a trip home means they can see their friends and family for the first time in what’s been well over a month in isolation at this point.
“We’ve got a veteran group and we’re able to focus on the task at hand,” said Torey Krug. “It’s true professionals and a lot of pride. We’re very proud to wear the Bruins sweater and we have a lot of people that we’re trying to make proud because of that.
“We put our head down every day and go to work. Yeah, we miss our families. This situation is a little bit different. But at the end of the day our ultimate goal is to win a Stanley Cup, or at least get a chance to do that. We’re just here working and hopefully [in Game 5] we’re on the winning side of things.”
Put all that together with a Bruins team that’s also playing a clearly superior opponent in Tampa Bay that’s on the verge of closing them out in five games for the second time in three postseasons, and it’s really, really, really not looking good for the Bruins. Still, the B’s players put on a brave face headed into Monday night’s Game 5 against the Lightning in the Toronto bubble where it could be all over quickly if they don’t vastly improve in pretty much every phase of the game.
“We obviously hope to flip the script on that one,” said Krug. “I could give you a bunch of clichés, but it truly is one game at a time here. We’re focusing on [Game 5] and trying not to let things spiral out of control in a hockey game is a big part of it. We’re just working on our game and focusing on ourselves. We just need to bring it next game. We have to get up to our level fast, otherwise it’s going to end before we want it to.”
Clearly the Bruins need to improve the 5-on-5 scoring after being unable to score any even strength goals in each of the last two games while getting outscored 10-2 overall, they need to tighten up the defensive zone coverage, and Jaroslav Halak needs to be better than the .891 save percentage that he’s posted in the series to this point.
It all starts with fighting through the Tampa defense and winning battles in the key areas of the ice, and everybody top to bottom being much better than they’ve been in the first four games of this series.
“We’re focusing on the next game and trying to leave whatever happened behind us,” said Pastrnak. “We know that we need to win every game, but we’re just focusing for [Game 5].”
Or maybe it’s just not possible against a Tampa team that has won the same battles against the Bruins time and time again in each of the last two playoff meetings between the two Atlantic Division rivals?
At a certain point it might become a mission statement for the Bruins to do whatever they need to do to get past a Tampa hockey club they will face pretty much every year in the postseason rather than winning Presidents' Trophies and measuring themselves against everybody else when that stuff doesn’t really matter as much to their playoff lives.