Wednesday night’s thrilling 4-3 overtime win by the Bruins in Game 4 at Air Canada Centre was so important in numerous ways. The most obvious reason is that it left the Maple Leafs on the brink of elimination. For the Bruins, they gave themselves plenty of breathing room in the form of three chances to close it out. Still, they can’t let up now that they’re in control. There are a few reasons why winning Game 5 could be huge for the B’s moving forward.
Look around the Eastern Conference: the three seeds higher than the Bruins are all in dogfights. Entering Thursday, the top-seeded Penguins were tied 2-2 with the Islanders and they’ve chosen to start their backup goaltender, Tomas Vokoun, because their starter Marc-Andre Fleury is a puddle. Meanwhile Montreal was down 3-1 to Ottawa with starting goaltender Carey Price banged up with a lower body injury. Finally, the third-seeded Capitals were up 2-0 on the Rangers, but New York rallied to win the next two games at Madison Square Garden. Keep in mind that the NHL reseeds teams after each round, so the No. 4 Bruins could very well face a lower seed in the semis should they advance.
Game 4 was a perfect example of the brutal physical toll that even one playoff game can have on a team. Both Chris Kelly and Milan Lucic had to get stitches after getting hit with a puck and a high stick in the face respectively, leaving them with nasty scars. They were lucky, however, when compared to Maple Leafs defenseman Mark Fraser, who also took a puck in the face which resulted in a broken bone and surgery.
On top of that, this regular season was so exhausting based on the tighter schedule, so a break in between rounds could do wonders for the Bruins. They want to do all they can to avoid another trip to Toronto on Sunday for a Game 6.
The magic number seems to be four for Boston: in the three games the B’s have won, they’ve scored four or more goals. The one they lost (Game 2), they were held to two. Boston is 15-2 all-time when leading a best-of-seven series 3-1.
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Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter @RichSlate