Confident Bruins aren’t looking back

By John Powers
Globe Staff / May 6, 2011

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Wall Street folks can tell you that the four most dangerous words are: This time it’s different.

Is there anyone within 10,000 miles of Causeway Street who doesn’t know that the Bruins squandered a 3-0 lead in last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals against these same Philadelphia Flyers?

“I don’t think there are too many people who aren’t aware of it,’’ Bruins coach Claude Julien remarked wryly yesterday as his club prepared for tonight’s Game 4 at TD Garden.

This time, though, it is different. This time, the Bruins will be playing Game 4 at home. This time, they’re coming off a 5-1 beatdown of the erstwhile Broad Street Bullies that essentially was over after 63 seconds and left the visitors reeling. This time, their goalie is the likely Vezina Trophy winner playing at the top of his game.

“A 3-0 lead in the series is the same,’’ acknowledged Tim Thomas. “Everything else is different.’’

The numbers are lopsidedly in the hosts’ favor. They’re 16-1 in Stanley Cup play when they’ve won the first three games, and the Flyers are 1-6 when they’ve lost them. In each case, the “1’’ occurred last year when Philadelphia won Game 4 in overtime, 5-4, in their own building and went on to take the series in seven games, knock off Montreal, and play Chicago for the Cup.

“We learned last year that the fourth win is the hardest,’’ said Thomas, who was an observer then.

Most of the Bruins learned it personally, but nearly half of their teammates — the Kaberles and Campbells and Peverleys and Kellys — only know what they’ve been told. In the rink, as in the courtroom, hearsay is irrelevant.

“Whatever happened last year was last year,’’ said Nathan Horton, who was playing for Florida then. “It doesn’t mean anything to us now.’’

What is relevant is that the Bruins are playing their best hockey of the season when it most matters. They’ve won seven of their last eight games, four of them in overtime, and they’ve done it by adhering to the approach that Julien brought with him four years ago: It’s always about the small picture.

“One game at a time, one period at a time, one shift at a time,’’ said Thomas.

That was how the Bruins conquered the Canadiens after dropping the first two games at home. None of their Spoked-B predecessors had survived a series in which they’d gone down, 0-2, and winning the next two in Montreal seemed unlikely. But focusing on one victory led to another and then another.

Thus did the Flyers craft a comeback for the ages last year, and that’s how they’ll have to do it this time.

“We’re not going to win four games on Friday,’’ Danny Briere said after Wednesday’s tutorial. “We have to win one game and go from there.’’

The Bruins would prefer not to return to Philadelphia for another elimination game Sunday against a rival that would be coming off a life-saving road victory, so they’re likely to be a little short on brotherly love tonight.

“You need to have that killer instinct to end it as soon as you can,’’ observed Julien.

Boston went for the throat immediately two nights ago, scoring the two fastest opening playoff goals in franchise history, then hit the Flyers with another 1-2 combination within 95 seconds in the second period. What was notable was that the tallies came from four different players on a night when 10 Bruins made the scoresheet.

What has been significant this postseason, beyond the irreproachable play of Thomas, has been the production and diversity of the club’s four lines. Ten forwards have scored so far and seven have done it against Philadelphia.

“There’s a chemistry that’s evolved with all our lines now,’’ said Julien. “Guys are comfortable playing with each other.’’

The directional arrow has been pointing upward ever since the Bruins pulled themselves back from the abyss at the Bell Centre on Patriots Day.

“We’re a determined group right now,’’ said Julien. “We’re not sitting comfortable, by any means. We never have.’’

His club was in a comfortable place a year ago, coming off a 4-1 decision at Philadelphia that put them up, 3-0. The series sequence, though, was different. The Flyers had lost the first two games at the Garden by a goal, one of them in overtime, and they knew they’d have a chance to make a last stand at home.

This year’s Flyers team was blitzed, 7-3, on its own ice, had its heart torn out in overtime despite tommy-gunning Thomas, then was knocked cuckoo in the first game here, both on the scoreboard and on the ice.

“We got what we deserved,’’ conceded Sean O’Donnell.

This time, it’s different. The Bruins survived a near-death experience against their bleu-blanc-rouge archrivals and came out stronger for it. They’ve developed a taste for the jugular. The Flyers, who barely escaped the Sabres, have been playing goalie roulette. Even chairman Ed Snider allowed that another resurrection is “an awful lot to expect.’’

This Boston bunch is a different group, Julien declared, with a different feeling.

“We’re writing our own new chapter,’’ said Brad Marchand.

If this version doesn’t start with a recap, it’s because not enough of the authors were around for the earlier one. The past doesn’t necessarily have to be prologue.

“Right now, I like where we are,’’ Julien said. “The biggest thing again will be putting the past aside and thinking about the present — and living in the moment.’’

John Powers can be reached at

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