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Kalman: Plenty Of Successes For Bruins To Learn From In Their Closing Past

By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
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(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) – Let’s not act as though the Bruins have never closed.

There was that night a few years ago in June in Vancouver, where the Bruins not only put the finishing touches on a historic victory but inspired the citizenry to burn its city down.

But if you want to act like that’s ancient history, fine. Instead of going back to 2011, then let’s just go back to 2013. The Bruins had the Toronto Maple Leafs on the ropes with a 3-1 lead heading into Game 5 at the TD Garden. The result was a 2-1 Maple Leafs win, which was followed by another 2-1 Maple Leafs win in Toronto, which was followed by the Miracle on Causeway Street.

That series didn’t make the Bruins master closers. Nor did it make them chokers. But they followed up with a couple impressive series endings. You’ll recall, only the “Rask Gasp” against the New York Rangers prevented a sweep in the second round last season. The Bruins ended the Rangers’ season in five.

And then against what was supposed to be the greatest team in the universe, the Bruins did to the Pittsburgh Penguins what they didn’t do against the Rangers – swept. Every foot was on the gas until the last possible second, as the Bruins sent Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jarome Iginla home for the summer.

So while it’s easy to be wowed by the identical series score from the same round a year ago, it should never be forgotten that the Bruins survived and thrived after that Toronto scare. To their credit, the Bruins didn’t shy away from that eerie coincidence Friday as they prepared for Game 5 of their Eastern Conference first round series on Saturday, when they’ll have a chance to close out the Detroit Red Wings at TD Garden. The Bruins lead the best-of-7 series 3-1.

“I mean you have to. You have to learn from it,” Bruins center Gregory Campbell said. “That’s why things happen like that. And if you don’t learn from those experiences then you’re not growing as a team or as a player. So hopefully without having to remind yourselves about what happened last year, hopefully it’s in the back of our minds a little bit and we can be more prepared and know that it really is never over until you win that fourth game.”

The Red Wings will be sure to throw everything but the kitchen sink at the Bruins. Their tactics might even work and they may fight to live another day. Of course, that won’t matter. Game 5 is not Game 7 and the Bruins will also have another chance to put Detroit down. Teams that expend that much energy just to extend a series typically run out of steam, especially when they were more than 20 points worse in the regular season than the giant they’re trying to slay. It even works out for underdogs. Remember the 2009 Bruins trying to overcome a 3-1 deficit against the Carolina Hurricanes?

The Bruins should do all they can to make this a short series. It’s not the end of the world if they don’t. One more trip to Detroit won’t kill them. I don’t think.

But in terms of rest and preparation, not to mention playing in front of the hometown crowd, it would be in the Bruins’ best interest to match the Red Wings’ top game with their own best performance. That might take more than shooting, passing and checking. Goaltender Tuukka Rask believes the key is between the ears.

“You get these opportunities, and sometimes, it’s more of a mental challenge than a physical challenge,” he said. “You kind of start thinking about the end score of the game before the game even starts, and you kind of feel and hope that you get to do that. But I think we’ve learned over the years that it doesn’t help us. We just have to focus on our job and the game itself and then the results will take care of themselves. I hope we learned from the past years and are ready for [Saturday].”

The Bruins should learn from their successes as well as their failures.

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