RALEIGH, N.C. — The memory of being on the wrong side of history doesn’t fade, but it can motivate.
Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron never has forgotten what happened against the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010. Neither have defenseman Zdeno Chara, goalie Tuukka Rask or center David Krejci.
Similarly, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy and defenseman Torey Krug probably still shiver when anyone mentions how their Providence team was knocked out of the American Hockey League playoffs by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2013.
All were in the position the Bruins now are in going into Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS), a chance for a four-game sweep on the line, only to end up among the select few in professional hockey who have lost a best-of-7 series after taking a 3-0 lead.
Boston in 2010 was the third NHL team and Providence in 2013 the third AHL team to be on the wrong side of it. The Los Angeles Kings came back from 3-0 to defeat the San Jose Sharks in 2014. It hasn’t happened since in the AHL.
The pain from those memories is being brought up again because the Bruins will try to avoid having it happen again, beginning Thursday.
Cassidy, in fact, said he thinks anyone who has been through it bucks up in a different way when they get in the position to sweep like the Bruins are now.
“I would think you’d have more urgency, you don’t want to go down that road again,” Cassidy said. “It’s typical. You learn from your experiences, good and bad, in life. That’s one … I think you realize you don’t want to give one away. It can happen if a team catches fire in the right way or at the right time, but at the end of the day, yeah, I think it does harden you in understanding to have the killer instinct.”
The good thing for the Bruins veterans who were part of the collapse against the Flyers in the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals is they already have proven they’ve learned from what happened to them that season.
They went up 3-0 on the Flyers in the 2011 conference semifinals but won Game 4 to finish the sweep en route to winning the Stanley Cup.
“We learned from that, but this is a new team,” said Krejci, who didn’t play in the final four games of the 2010 series against Philadelphia because of a dislocated right wrist. “We have lots of new guys. We only have four guys who are the same and we are playing a different team too.”
But a big part of Boston’s leadership core consists of players who have lived through the collapse.
Chara is the captain. Bergeron and Krejci are alternates. Rask is the No. 1 goalie and among the favorites for the Conn Smythe Trophy. Cassidy is their coach, and Krug is one of their best defensemen and the quarterback of their top power play.
When they talk, the rest of the Bruins listen. And they likely will have a few things to say about the opportunity in front of them in Game 4, including the need to close the Hurricanes quickly.
“They’ve been there, so they know the importance of it,” Cassidy said. “It’s always an easier message coming from within. These younger guys, they hear the coach and yeah, there’s a respect level that goes on there, but they do appreciate much more from the guys in the trenches with them. They understand the value.”
The veterans who were part of it in 2010 also understand what it means to have this opportunity. They overcame what happened to win the Stanley Cup in 2011 and get back to the Final in 2013, but the Bruins haven’t come this close since.
“You have to embrace the position you’re in, be humble about it, but you have to earn everything that you want to accomplish,” Chara said. “You can’t just rely on it just happening.”
Put another way, the Bruins can’t let the Hurricanes think they have a chance. They have enough experience to know what could happen if they do.
“You never know what the next day is going to bring so make sure you’re ready to play and prepared to win,” Cassidy said. “Usually when you’re ready and prepared, good things will happen.”