The Big Bad Boston Bruins.
They haven’t lived up to that reputation all that much in the 2013-14 NHL playoffs but they’re certainly getting back to those roots.
Saturday night, they were nasty, physical, brooding beasts—and the result was a 4-2 win in Game 5 to give the Bruins a 3-2 series lead and put the Montreal Canadiens on the brink of elimination.
The game highlighted what makes the Bruins so tough to play against, and what has been a major reason they’ve been to the Stanley Cup final in two of the past three springs: they dictate the pace of play against opponents.
At least they do when they’re playing to their potential.
For much of this second-round series against the Canadiens, the Bruins have been guilty of playing out of character.
That wasn't the case Saturday.
Now, with a chance to end the Habs’ season on Monday, the Bruins still have their work cut out for them at the Bell Centre. The Canadiens will surely put together a desperate effort.
But if the Bruins play the way they did in Game 5, with an aggressive Milan Lucic dishing out punishing body checks and battling with any member of the Habs who will engage him, the Bruins will secure a third trip to the Eastern Conference final in five years.
Lucic was a beast Saturday, pounding out a game-high seven hits and leaving plenty of bodies in his wake.
He celebrated like a ‘roided-out wrestler, flexing his arms at Subban from the bench after a grappling match along the boards.
“It’s playoff hockey. You’ve got to play physical and get in there whenever you can,” Lucic told NBC broadcaster Pierre McGuire after the game. “We just started focusing on ourselves and the way we need to play.
“There’s a big difference when you play to win and play not to lose, and that was our mindset.”
The hits took their toll on the Habs. And perhaps it wasn’t just the Game 5 physicality that slowed down the Canadiens. It might be the cumulative effect of a series that has seen the Bruins take the body more often and with more force than the much more diminutive opponent.
Maybe the Bruins knew all along they would get it done this way.
If you maul the Habs at every opportunity, get in front of their incredible goaltender Carey Price, make them take penalties as a reply to the physical and mental punishment you’re dishing out, they have little to answer with.
Here's a breakdown of the punishment the Bruins have doled out in this series:
|Bruins hit parade|
Now as confident as they have been in the second round, the Bruins sit one win away from moving forward.
Moving forward, according to veteran winger Jarome Iginla, is exactly what they intend to do in Game 6, and again in Game 7 if necessary.
“We were very determined to get in there on the forecheck and make sure we were staying on our toes and aggressive,” Iginla, who scored Saturday's winning goal, told the NHL Network.
“We have to get back to playing the way we have success.”
They simply overpowered the Habs on Saturday, and they finished with all of the swagger they’ve displayed during the regular season and in seasons past.
They look like the team so many picked to win the Stanley Cup before the playoffs began.
Steve Macfarlane has been covering the NHL for more than a decade, including seven seasons for the Calgary Sun. You can follow him on Twitter @MacfarlaneHKY.