By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
RALEIGH — The Bruins know they’re going back to Boston.
It’s just a matter of whether it’s for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals or Game 1 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.
With the Bruins up 3-0 on the ‘Canes, and with the Bruins having already played 16 games to date (tonight’s game with move the Bruins into a three-way tie for the most games this spring), the latter is undoubtedly more appealing to Bruce Cassidy’s squad. And the Bruins don’t need a pump-up from their coach to know what’s on the line tonight at PNC Arena in Raleigh.
“There’s no rah-rah speeches here,” Cassidy said of the message entering Game 4. “We win a game, we advance. We lose, we go home and play Game 5. That’s pretty much where it’s at for us.”
By now, the Bruins certainly seem to understand the importance of potential elimination games, as they are a perfect 3-0 this postseason when either facing elimination or having the chance to eliminate the opposition. They’re also fresh off silencing PNC’s absurdly-loud home-ice advantage on the back of Tuukka Rask’s 35-of-36 showing in net, and have frustrated the ‘Canes into a woeful 1-for-12 mark on the power play through three games, and with 11 straight misses to their name.
But that’s not to say that the Black and Gold want to put themselves in another Game 3, which saw them outshot 20-6 in the opening 20 minutes of play, and with Rask and the penalty kill forced to stand on their collective heads just to survive.
“They’ve come out — in all the games — pretty hard in the first period,” B’s d-man Brandon Carlo said. “I can definitely notice the physicality they bring each and every night. They’re fighting for their lives tonight, and they want to bring a lot of energy, especially in this building. Hopefully we can weather that storm better than we have, and match that energy.”
It’s worth wondering just what exactly the ‘Canes have left in their tank following what felt like a last gasp effort in Game 3 — and with enough depressing postgame quotes and energy from the Carolina room to reunite The Smiths — but the Bruins are not sleeping on the importance of this Game 4 and what it could mean for Carolina if they’re not ready to their push.
“The fourth game is the hardest to win,” Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk said following the team’s optional skate. “They’re not going to down easy. They’re gonna do anything they can to get back in the series, and it starts tonight.”
On a lineup front, the only change for the Bruins comes with the loss of Chris Wagner from Boston’s fourth line. Already sent back to Boston for “further testing” on his upper-body injury, Wagner’s loss will be Noel Acciari’s gain, as the 27-year-old grinder will skate in Wagner’s spot on a fourth line with Joakim Nordstrom and Sean Kuraly.
“They’re similar players, so we don’t lose much, and that’s no disrespect to Chris, that’s maybe a compliment to Noel,” Cassidy said of the switch. “That’s just what [Acciari] brings. That line should keep on motoring.”