- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Pugilist Shawn Thornton made his point loud and clear that the Boston Bruins have already filed away the 2009-10 regular season and are completely focused on the current task at hand, the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"It is a new season," he said. "It's a cliché, but it's true. You just focus on what's ahead and not behind you."
It's been that mentality on and off the ice for the Bruins in the first three games of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal matchup against the Buffalo Sabres that has helped Boston gain a 2-1 advantage in the series with Game 4 Wednesday night at TD Garden. The Bruins have the confidence and the belief they can pull this off and possibly even stun the hockey world this postseason.
"We went through a lot this year and really sucked it up for each other and we started playing our best hockey at the end of the year," said Bruins veteran and team leader Mark Recchi. "It's a heck of a series [against Buffalo] and it's going to be tight the whole way through."
The mood in the locker room after all three games against the Sabres has been extremely upbeat and positive. Even after Boston's 2-1 loss in Game 1 in Buffalo, the Bruins were confident they could find a way to beat Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller.
They have done just that and rattled off a pair of wins. Boston feels extremely confident right now, and that's dangerous for the Sabres.
The Bruins have demonstrated what they're capable of with a clean slate.
During Boston's 2-1 victory in Game 3 at the Garden, the 17,565 fans were electric and the players were flying. Memories of past Bruins playoff victories came to mind, and a glimpse of what possibly lies ahead could be seen.
The Bruins believe they could be the team that scares the opposition the most this postseason.
"I think we could," said forward David Krejci. "We didn't score many goals in the regular season, but we didn't get scored on either. Even the games we lost, they were pretty tight. I don't remember losing 5-0 or something like that. There were a lot of games with a one- or two-goal difference. We were always in the game and maybe that's what has helped us. We're used to playing these types of games. In the playoffs you never know, and I really like our chances."
The Bruins finished the regular season 39-30-13 and had 25 one-goal losses. They finished last in the league in scoring, but ended the regular season second in goals against. That shows why the Bruins struggled to even reach the playoffs, but also the exact reason they did.
Now, if goaltender Tuukka Rask continues to play well, and with the possible returns of forward Marc Savard (concussion) and defenseman Mark Stuart (hand infection) in time for the next round, Boston could find itself in a desirable position.
"That would be awesome and hopefully that's going to happen," said Krejci, a native of Czechoslovakia. "I like to win, so we'll get through the first round and go from there. I don't want to finish the season yet. I might get stuck here for a while anyway because of the volcano in Europe, so I don't want to finish the season."
Staying away from an erupting volcano? Now there's a new kind of incentive to win the Stanley Cup.
But it's also that attitude that has helped the Bruins morph into a playoff contender.
The Bruins can't exactly pinpoint when that occurred. Some could point to the Penguins' Matt Cooke's hit on Savard that resulted in a Grade 2 concussion. Some could focus on the vast injuries the team overcame down the stretch to earn a postseason berth. Some could point to the play of Rask or the leadership of Recchi, who called out the Bruins players when things weren't going so well.
Whatever it is and whenever it was, it's certainly working for the Bruins in the first round as they have found their unity.
"Everyone is chipping in and doing their job," said Marco Sturm. "We're doing everything as a team. We kind of started a while ago and we're having much more fun now than a couple of months ago. It got us tight and it's carried on.
"We haven't won anything, yet," added Sturm. "We just have to keep doing the same thing."
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins and Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.
The playoffs are giving the Bruins a chance to make things right.