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Blackhawks aren't the '11 Canucks, and Bruins can't afford to go down 0-2

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  June 15, 2013 12:56 PM

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After the Bruins played 1 hour 52 minutes and 8 seconds of hockey Wednesday night only to skate off in weary, frustrating defeat, coach Claude Julien required only few seconds during his postgame press conference to provide a reminder that this core of Bruins has overcome greater obstacles than one Klima-style loss.

"Last time we won the Cup, we lost the first two games in Vancouver," said Julien. "It never stopped us from coming back and this certainly won't."

It was the right sentiment at the right time, a reminder that while the 4-3 triple-overtime loss was nearly the length of two full games, it still counts only as one.

But it also obscures one critical truth:

The Bruins cannot afford to lose Game 2 Saturday night. They can't, at least not without greatly enhancing their degree of difficulty in their quest for a second Stanley Cup in three seasons.

The circumstances are different this time than they were two years ago. The Blackhawks are the real deal, an extraordinary team, with a 24-game point streak to start the season and eight wins in their last nine games this postseason. They bear remarkable resemblance to the Bruins but feature perhaps just a little more pure talent. They are fiercer and far more focused than the weak-kneed, front-running 2011 Canucks.

Now, it would be skating a stride too far toward panic to suggest that the series is over if they don't prevail tonight. As the Bruins have proven time and again over the past couple of seasons, the only true must-wins are Game 7s. And even then, they've survived to play on after not showing up until 10 minutes remained in the third period in one memorable instance.

But making it hard on themselves could be fatal this time. These teams are so even that the Bruins need to pull even. Losing tonight would mean they Bruins would need to beat the Blackhawks four times in five games to seize the Cup. If they pulled that off, it would arguably be their greatest feat of the past three seasons.

The Bruins could use more luck in Game 2 than they had in the opener. They've already had some good fortune Saturday, or at least good news, in terms of personnel. Nathan Horton, who appeared to re-aggravate a shoulder injury during the first overtime of Game 1 and did not return, is a go for Game 2.

Horton, the second-leading scorer in the postseason (18 points) to linemate David Krejci and a plus-22 in the playoffs, is essential to the Bruins' hopes. He hasn't been close to 100 percent for a while, having originally suffered the injury April 20 in a fight with the Penguins' Jarome Iginla.

And yet he's somehow performed brilliantly, including a gorgeous redirected pass to Milan Lucic to set up his linemate's second goal in Game 1. Hard to believe the Florida Panthers once questioned Horton's heart. Then again, that's why they're the Panthers.

Horton's return jostles the memory of two years ago and how so much changed. The Bruins lost Game 1 in Vancouver on Raffi Torres's goal in the final minute. Game 2 brought anger along with disappointment -- the winning goal was scored in overtime by Alex Burrows, the saw-toothed weasel who had bitten Patrice Bergeron's finger in the opener.

The eulogies on the Bruins weren't completed two games into that series, but the first-drafts were being written. Here's Scott Burnside of ESPN.com after Game 2:

Again some of the [Bruins'] best players seemed to wilt under the pressure.

Nathan Horton, playing with Lucic and Krejci, has been a non-factor through the first two games.

We know how it went from there. Horton's season ended when an Aaron Rome cheap shot left him with a concussion. The Bruins rallied around him and in his absence, routing the Canucks, 8-1, in Game 3.

Nine days later, with Horton in attendance and not-so-covertly delivering some bottled karma from home ...

... the Bruins hoisted the Cup on Vancouver's ice.

Today is the two-year anniversary of winning that Cup. It's also the day we'll get an important clue about their chances of winning another.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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