Through five games in their best of seven series against the Buffalo Sabres, the Bruins have given up the first goal in all five games. In three of the five they managed to come back, but the Bruins need to stop relying on late game heroics. Boston came out flat in Game 5 and played their worst game of the series. Buffalo played hungry and angry after going down 3-1 and outplayed the Bruins across the board. The Bruins failed to match Buffalo’s intensity for 59 minutes of that game. If not for the strong play of Johnny Boychuk, Ryan Miller may have notched a shutout. The fight, desire and physicality that have made Boston successful this series were nowhere to be found in Game 5. They were a step behind Buffalo the entire game, rarely challenging Miller and ignoring everything that had made them successful. The worry for Boston is that they have had trouble handling success this season. Their recent success before Game 5, including their 10-4-1 run to climb into the 6th seed, shows that maybe they have learned from their mistakes. But the Boston team that took the ice in Game 5 had the look of a team that was looking ahead to the second round, a round that includes a high probability of a match-up with the Penguins. The Bruins need to remember each series is a race to four wins.
As Ryan Miller said, the Bruins won three in a row, why not the Sabres? Boston showed some life late in the third… with less than a second left. Captain Zdeno Chara finally had enough of the Sabres taking liberties with his team mates, but it was far too late. Boston needs to carry that emotion, that anger, into Game 6. They need to feed off the home crowd and jump out to an early lead. They need to once again swarm Miller, hit everything wearing a Sabres sweater and go back to their intense forechecking game that helped them jump to that 3-1 series lead heading into Game 5. “It’s a must-win, just like Friday was,” said coach Claude Julien. “We probably didn’t play our best hockey, obviously. And so it’s up to us to bounce back.” The boys in black and gold have found ways to win the past month or so despite having so much trouble scoring. They are not a team that can play a sub-par game and still grab a victory. Against a defense like the Sabres and a goalie like Ryan Miller, Boston needs to be at or near the top of their game constantly to survive. Boston also needs to learn from the mistakes they made last year.
In their first round match-up against Montreal, they came out on fire every game. They bruised and battered Montreal and took that momentum into Game 1 against Carolina. But then, for some unknown reason, in Games 2-4 the Bruins ventured away from their physical game and played right into Carolina’s hands. This Boston team, by design, is at their best when they are at their most physical. In Game 5, Boston let themselves get abused and ended up on the wrong end of a 4-1 game. Boston has not won anything yet and they can’t let themselves think closing out Buffalo is going to be easy. How Boston starts Game 6 Monday night at home is going to say a lot about this team’s chances going forward. And while Lindy is still crying… let’s bring up some old memories for him.