Sound has surrounded Bruins’ surge
WILMINGTON — Shawn Thornton remembers his first game donning the spoked-B some three years ago, fresh off a successful run to the 2007 Stanley Cup with the Ducks, and taking a look at the Garden crowd — not exactly at capacity on that evening.
“I think it was something like 13,000,’’ he guessed when asked to reflect following yesterday morning’s practice at Ristuccia Arena in anticipation of Game 5 of the Bruins’ Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Flyers tonight at TD Garden.
Such a crowd was par for the course in a transplant NHL destination such as Atlanta or Phoenix. But Boston? An Original Six city steeped in century-old tradition, one of the nation’s grass-roots hockey hotbeds? That wasn’t cutting it.
The Bruins, of course, went on to draw some great crowds during their playoff push that season, with some intense sellouts in their best-of-seven first-round series with top-seeded Montreal.
But there’s been nothing like what Thornton is seeing on a consistent basis now.
“It’s unbelievable. You’re just speechless when it comes to that,’’ said defenseman Johnny Boychuk. “They’ve been roaring all the way through, and I don’t expect anything less [tonight].’’
Boston is getting behind the Bruins more and more — and vocally, too — with the team holding a three-games-to-one lead on the Flyers and looking to finish them off and advance.
“It’s changed a little bit. I’m glad everyone’s on board,’’ said Thornton. “It’s fun to walk around the city and have everyone say hello, good luck, and all that stuff. And the building’s been rocking . . . I like it.’’
The crowd has been sprinkled with a cast of characters that has only added to the atmosphere. The chanting of Tuukka Rask’s name at every stoppage in play. The homemade signs, ranging from the standard (“Tuukka Time’’) to the silly (“Hail Satan’’).
And many of those characters have been popping up on the big screen; from the twentysomethings with homemade shirts bearing the number of anyone from Marc Savard to Mark Stuart to Adam McQuaid; to the absurdly dressed — one in particular, decked out in Viking-like attire, calling himself “Big Scary Man Guy,’’ an ode to the latest Internet sensation.
“It’s pretty funny, some of them, that’s for sure,’’ Boychuk said.
Did anything in particular catch his eye? “If I get caught looking up there . . . you know . . . ’’ he joked, the possible punishment implied.
Nobody will dispute what a home-ice advantage the Garden has become. The Bruins are 5-0 at home this postseason.
All five of their wins have come by one goal, two in overtime, making it feel like the home team truly is getting a little extra push in the waning minutes.
“Winning those games at home, they were all tough games, the crowd was behind us giving us that extra, that little emotional push that we needed to get those wins,’’ said winger Milan Lucic. “The crowds have been great, and we’ve been able to respond and play well in front of them.’’
Lucic didn’t think it’s made them play any looser, though.
“I think we’ve tightened up our game and that’s why we’ve played better in the playoffs this season,’’ he said. “In the regular season we were a little bit too loose, playing at home just expecting things to happen, whereas in the playoffs we were going out there making things happen. So I think that’s been the difference in our success at home.’’
The return to home ice tonight coincides with the unveiling of a statue of Bobby Orr at the arena this afternoon, capturing the legend at his most famous, flying through the air after scoring the overtime goal that clinched the 1970 Stanley Cup.
“That’s the one goal in Boston history that will stand out forever, for sure,’’ Boychuk said, adding with a chuckle, “I want to get a picture with it.’’
But at the same time, some pressure is looming. With David Krejci (dislocated wrist) done for the rest of the season, there are concerns about how much scoring punch has been compromised for the playoff run.
Nobody in the locker room seemed overly concerned about closing the series out, but the tension could increase if the Bruins don’t wrap up the series tonight.
Coach Claude Julien said there shouldn’t be any difference in the team’s mentality.
“To me, there’s none,’’ he said. “There’s got to be an urgency that’s just as big as the other side.
“When we were fighting for our lives, we knew there was no tomorrow. Right now, we have to have the urgency that we know the other team’s got their backs against the wall, and there’s no tomorrow. We’ve got to be able to match that urgency.’’