- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOSTON -- It's not going to happen. No way. Not this year.
Things are different than they were in 2010 for the Boston Bruins. History will not repeat itself in 2011. The way the Bruins are playing against the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, there's no way they can't win one more game to advance to the conference finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The answer: Yes.
The Bruins completely dominated the Flyers in every aspect en route to a 5-1 win in Game 3 Wednesday to take a 3-0 series lead.
This was the exact scenario last spring, when the Bruins gained a 3-0 series lead in the semifinals only to collapse in monumental proportions as the Flyers won four straight games. To make matters worse, the Bruins had a 3-0 lead in the first period of Game 7 on home ice.
This season is different.
"I think so," said Bruins forward Daniel Paille, who scored Boston's third goal of the game and his first career postseason strike. "It is different. We all feel pretty good about our game right now and confident. The main thing for us is not to get too high and just stay focused."
The Bruins are a confident team. They say they've learned from the past, and they're showing it now. But they need to close the series out in Game 4 on Friday at the Garden. The Flyers still are a dangerous team and there's no way the Bruins can allow them back in it.
"The toughest win to get is the fourth win, so we've got to make sure we're ready on Friday," Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron said. "We're happy with tonight's game, but we can't get too high in the playoffs. We're going to celebrate tonight, but we're going to get right back to work tomorrow and make sure we work Friday because Philly is not going to quit. They're a great team and they're going to be there to bounce back on Friday, so we better make sure we're ready for that."
After dropping the first two games of the series in Philadelphia, the Flyers came to Boston determined to win one, if not both, of the games in Boston. The Bruins knew they needed a strong start and were able to produce in a big way.
Boston gained a 2-0 lead in the first 63 seconds of the game and kept the pressure on throughout.
"If we come out with that kind of intensity every night, we're giving ourselves the best opportunity to win," forward Brad Marchand said. "That's what we want to do every night, is give yourself the best chance to win and anything could happen. You could run into a hot goalie, or bounces don't go your way. But if we come out that hard every night and battle then it's definitely going to be tough for other teams."
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette predicted at least one win in Boston after the Bruins won Games 1 and 2 in Philadelphia. Laviolette can definitely motivate a team, and he's shown that many times in the past. In fact, the Flyers brought their own motivational banners and they're hanging in the visitor's locker room at the Garden.
One reads: "With all of our will WE WILL."
Philadelphia has done it before.
"You can draw strength from what you have gone through as a group. It is not time to point fingers," Flyers forward Mike Richards said. "It is not time to get down. It is a time that you have to stick together and come together as a group and hopefully do something special."
Sure, the teams are a bit different from a season ago, but not enough that either team can suggest last year's series has been forgotten. The Flyers aren't about to say they can pull off another historic comeback, they're focused on Game 4 on Friday.
"We have to take it one game at a time," forward Danny Briere said. "Try to win one game and go from there. We can't look at trying to win four in a row. We are not going to win four games on Friday. We have to win one game and go from there. That is all we should be focusing on."
The Bruins have the same mentality.
And that's the difference from a season ago. Last year the Bruins were already looking ahead to the conference finals after they gained their 3-0 series lead, and after Boston lost to Philadelphia, many Bruins players admitted as much.
Not this time.
If you were in the Bruins' locker room after Wednesday's victory but hadn't watched the game, it would have been impossible to know whether Boston won or lost. That's a good sign.
"We don't really think about last year," coach Claude Julien said. "We think about this year and the one thing that's important for us is one game at a time, and we've focused that way. Tonight's game is over. If anything, you've got to build on that, and you've got to know that you've got to be as good -- if not better -- [for Game 4]."
Another major reason the Bruins have gained a 3-0 series lead is that they can count on more than one line; all four are contributing. Probably the biggest goal of the night came at 13:39 of the second period when Paille finished off a solid end-to-end play to give the Bruins a 3-0 lead.
"It a good sign for our whole team. It shows that we're a well-balanced team. It's nice to see everyone contribute on a night like tonight," Paille said.
And there's no need to talk about goaltending because Tim Thomas has been spectacular. He made 37 saves Wednesday night and has 89 saves in the past two games. Plus, he's getting major defensive support in front of him.
Thomas and all his teammates are right. There are differences between the 2010 Bruins and the 2011 team. Boston has more depth. The Bruins are healthier. They're more confident and there are playing as a full unit.
And they're sick of answering questions about the Nightmare on Causeway Street.
"I'm focused on this year," Thomas said. "I'm focused on what we, as a team, want to accomplish this year. I will leave the comparisons to you guys."
"We are glad that we are in the position that we are, but still there is one more win we have to accomplish to move on, and that's where our focus is right now," said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, who played one of his best games of the playoffs with a pair of goals and one assist.
At the start of each period when the Bruins are playing at home, they enter to the Breaking Benjamin song "Only The Strongest Will Survive," which has been a theme all season. A year ago, the Flyers survived and went on to reach the Stanley Cup finals.
"We're trying to keep that out of our minds. It's a brand new year," Marchand said. "It's a new season, so we're not worried about that at all. We're writing our new chapter."
If the Bruins keep this up, they could be drinking out of the Cup. But they're only focused on Game 4 of this series -- and that's exactly how it should be.
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.