There's no denying that Bruins fans have a reason for concern after Thursday's overtime loss to the New York Rangers.
With a 2-0 lead in the second period, the B's looked destined to sweep a Rangers squad that had their share of issues prior to Game 4. But a series of blunders that started with Tuukka Rask's gaffe on Carl Hagelin's backhander left many fans scratching their heads.
It's no secret that the Bruins have not fared well in closing out a series. Claude Julien is now 7-13 in closing situations. Rask, who backstopped the Black and Gold during the Flyers collapse in 2010, is 2-8 with a 3.20 goals against average and a .890 save percentage in series clinching scenarios.
All of this is a reason for concern. But, there's no reason for The Hub of Hockey to panic, at least for the time being.
The two teams resume their series this afternoon at the TD Garden for Game 5. And while the Rangers might have a little momentum after Chris Kreider's overtime winner, the Bruins are still in the driver's seat.
After returning home, the Bruins had a loose mentality after practice on Friday. They still know there's work to be done, but there's no reason to be disappointed with another chance to clinch the series.
It's a situation the B's have been in before, including their first round series with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and they aren't rattled by it.
"There's no panic here. Had we been outworked and not been there at all, we would be talking differently here. But we didn't get outworked, and all it was, as a team, we didn't execute as we have been," Julien said after Thursday's loss. "We have to go home and play a better game."
After Kreider scored his game-winner, some fans and talk-show radio hosts, including Michael Felger, were quick to compare Thursday's Game 4 loss to the defeat against the Flyers in 2010. Those comparisons are completely misleading according to Rask.
"I don't even want to compare. It's a totally different team," said the Finnish goalie. "We beat Philly the next year, 4-0, and went on to win the Cup, so lots of things have happened and we've said all along that we don't want to look at the past too much. We like to live in the moment and focus on the task at hand."
While Rask is still between the pipes three years later, the two teams are completely different. Unlike the Philly series three years ago where injuries to David Krejci and Marco Sturm hampered the Bruins, young defensemen Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski and Dougie Hamilton (despite his blunder on Kreider's winner) have done a solid job replacing an injured blue-line core of Andrew Ference, Dennis Seidenberg and Wade Redden.
Moreover, youngsters like Hamilton and Tyler Seguin took responsibility for Thursday's loss. And that's an encouraging sign as Julien and company look ahead to Game 5.
"I think the one thing our guys have been is they've done a great job being accountable," Julien said. "Acknowledging it is certainly a great thing because it means they know what needs to be done and then, from your end of it, you make the correction and then they show confidence in them and they're going to go back and redeem themselves."
If the Bruins play like they did in the first three games of the series - and through the first period and a half in Game 4 - then there's a good chance they'll be waiting to shake the Rangers' hands to symbolize the end of the second round matchup.
A loss, however, would really put the fan base on edge, recalling the ghosts of 2010. And that's something the Bruins don't need - even if they eventually wind up claiming the series in six or seven - with the Pittsburgh Penguins awaiting the winner of this series in the Eastern Conference Finals.
"We want to rally back tomorrow and play an even better game so that we can win this series," Julien said after Friday's practice. "That's all we're thinking about right now, not about mistakes and anything more than 'What do we need to do here tomorrow?'"
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