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How can the Bruins overcome their Garden playoff woes?


After extending their season with their Game 5 victory in Florida, the Bruins will begin their fourth series-ending scenario on the ice at TD Garden in the last two years.

Danton Heinen (43) of the Boston Bruins falls as he battles Niko Mikkola (77) of the Florida Panthers for the puck during the first period of Game 4 of a hockey Stanley Cup second round playoff series of the NHL, Sunday, May 12, 2024, in Boston. AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

Over the past two decades, home playoff success across the league has eluded a handful of teams.

The Boston Bruins have fallen victim to this development numerous times, most notably under the Jim Montgomery regime.

After extending their season with their Game 5 victory in Florida, the Bruins will begin their fourth series-ending scenario on the ice at TD Garden in the last two years. The Montgomery club missed both chances in last year’s first-round collapse against the Panthers and lost a Game 5 decision to the Leafs at Causeway this year before recovering behind a Hampus equalizer Lindholm and an overtime winner from David Pastrnak in Game 7 of the first round.

The Bruins carried their momentum from their emotional win over Toronto into their first game of the second round against the Panthers. But they barely rode that wave in the next three games, including a pair in front of a raucous Garden faithful.

During those two games, the Bruins heard a round of boos from the home crowd. They also watched their fans litter the ice with gold napkins and other forms of debris following a handful of questionable calls.

But the Panthers failed to hold off the Bruins in Game 5, continuing another trend of teams failing to pull off a series win on their first chance.

With their season on the line, Montgomery saw his team play a little looser and more efficiently in all three zones. Now he hopes their success on the road translates at home in front of a loud and passionate fan base.

“I saw our team feel extra pressure and I saw our team play free,” Montgomery said on the eve of Game 6. “You know, I think it just depends on where the series is at. And I also think there’s a downside to playing at home, which is when your fans start booing you, it has an impact on your players It simply does.

The boos and negative comments are not exclusive to Boston.

After all, they witnessed the blowback of a hockey-crazed Original Six culture in Toronto throughout the first round.

“We’ve seen it with other teams. We saw it in Toronto. We saw it here,” Montgomery added. “It’s not a lack of effort. Players are not trying to win. They are, you know, and sometimes you have to be patient. We have to play through this.

Resisting ineffective play at home is as much mental as it is physical. Sometimes overthinking sets in to the point where players grip their sticks tighter in each zone of the ice and choose to look for the perfect play in their attacking zone setup.

This can even translate off the ice. There isn’t as much team camaraderie at home as there is on the road. Each player becomes more likely to watch blowbacks on social media or hear sports radio callers like “Sully in Southie” or “Rick in Revere” spewing their views with little chance of meeting in person with a group of similar characters.

Still, the Bruins gave themselves a chance to reverse last year’s collapse.

Even with Jeremy Swayman’s playoff breakthrough, a similar outing in Games 3 and 4, where they encountered a significant decline in their shot selection and puck possession, won’t help. But with a little more confidence ahead of another elimination scenario, the Bruins can look at their formula from Game 5, where they generated several high-danger looks and improved their coverage in front of the net in front of Swayman.

“Playing at home… it’s always more fun,” said forward Pavel Zacha, who is still looking for his first career playoff goal. “I think everyone takes this as a positive, and you know, with a lot of fans in our favor, build momentum. This is when you want to spend a lot of time on O-Zone and a lot of shots. It helps you get back into the game and you gain confidence.

The Bruins can use all the confidence they can get as they are 3-7 at home in the last two playoff series through Game 6. But they have put themselves in a spot where they could reverse their trend at home and once again extend their season ahead. from a sold-out crowd.

In the process, they gave Brad Marchand a chance to return after missing the last two games with an upper body injury caused by Sam Bennett’s punch. If anything, the Bruins and their loyal fans can enjoy the excitement of Marchand’s return to the lineup.

“I think it’s going to be crazy,” defenseman Charlie McAvoy said of Marchand’s possible return. “Our fans are passionate, they’re awesome and they love it. If he can go tomorrow, I think it will be loud and exciting. We are counting on them to help us tomorrow.


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