- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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WILMINGTON, Mass. -- From now until the end of the regular season, the term "must-win" for the Boston Bruins will saturate Web sites, newspapers, radio talk shows and television.
The one place it won't make a difference is within the Bruins' locker room. But, they do know they need a major response when the close out a home-and-home series Sunday afternoon against the Detroit Red Wings.
The Red Wings defeated -- and embarrassed -- the Bruins 6-1 on Friday night at TD Garden, and even though "must-win" is not in Boston's vocabulary, Sunday's game in Detroit is a must-win.
The Bruins have built an identity this season on strength, size and toughness, and it's been successful against similar types of teams. But when they play a more finesse team, like the Red Wings, Boston's game falls apart.
What works in Boston's favor is the fact its been down this icy road before. Suddenly, the Bruins' game goes kaput, like it did on Friday, but they've shown this season they can stop the bleeding before it gets out of control.
There's only one way to do that.
"Bounce back," Julien said empathically. "I think it's pretty obvious what we have to do. We need to play much better. We were just flat. We weren't on top of our game."
The Red Wings were on top of their game and executed their game plan perfectly. Detroit was solid in every aspect, especially with its breakout and transition game. Boston also hasn't seen passing like that this season.
The Bruins can expect much of the same on Sunday in Detroit.
Only this time, Boston should be better prepared.
Julien and his players called Friday's debacle uncharacteristic. We'll see how serious they are once the puck drops at Joe Louis Arena.
"It's not so much going into the dressing room and saying, 'This is a must-win.' It's going into the dressing room and saying, 'We must play our game and we must play it well.' When you do those things and you focus on that, you put the results in your favor. There have been times when you play a really good game, but you don't get the bounces. That will happen during the course of a season, but the biggest focus is going in and playing our game, and playing it well."
There's no guarantees the Bruins will respond, but they have proven in the past they're up of the challenge.
"If I were a betting man, I would bet our team is going to bounce back," Julien said.
After the Bruins completed practice at Ristuccia Arena on Saturday morning, it was clear the players had already turned the proverbial page on Friday's loss. It's been that way the entire season.
"It shows character in our locker room," said Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk. "We have character and everybody knows that. Usually when we play flat like that, the next game we usually come out and we're a lot more focused. Hopefully, you see that [Sunday]."
Of course, the Bruins will tell you they're focused on the one period, one game at a time mentality -- and that's a good thing because that mindset works. But, there's a strong possibility the Bruins and Red Wings could meet in the Stanley Cup finals.
In fact, it's been 70 years since Boston defeated Detroit for The Cup in 1941. The Red Wings returned the favor in 1943, but there's a chance history could repeat itself this June.
"We could. That's 100 percent and there's no question about it we could," said Boychuk said. "The way we played [Friday] wasn't the way we wanted to play. We want to bounce back [Sunday] and let them know that if we do meet in the finals, we're not going to be the team they saw last game.
"If we put our minds to it, we're unstoppable," added Boychuk. "If everybody shows up and plays, we know we're a special team. Our potential is to win the Stanley Cup and it's not even an overstatement to say that, it's something we feel we can do."
There are 27 regular-season games remaining, so it's tough to even think about the Stanley Cup, but this home-and-home series is a good test.
"We try to look at this as a two-game playoff series," said Bruins forward Gregory Campbell. "It's a good measuring stick for us as a team because they are a good team. It's tough to look too far ahead and think this could be a potential matchup, but they're a good team in the Western Conference. We consider ourselves a good team and that's our goal to make it that far, but to look that far ahead is foolish. There's a lot in front of us and we have to take it game-by-game."
It starts with a must-win on Sunday.
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.