Back during the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when the Boston Bruins were headed to Montreal to play the Canadiens, Shawn Thornton was quite candid with our own Jimmy Murphy about the atmosphere inside the Bell Centre. “Well, you either s*** your pants or you play the best game of your life! There’s no in between!”
It won’t be as wild as the Bell Centre in May later tonight, but PNC Arena is going to be absolutely bonkers for Game 3 of the 2019 Eastern Conference Final. The Washington Capitals and New York Islanders both found out the hard way earlier this postseason, but the Bruins are ready for what awaits.
“I do know that they’re really good there” said Bruins’ forward Sean Kuraly on Tuesday from Hanscom Air Force Base. After two lackluster efforts in Boston, the Bruins know Carolina will be ready to roll at home. After all, the Canes dropped the first two games of their opening series to Washington before winning both at home to even things up. Kuraly knows, for whatever reason, they’re just a better team at home, “They just play better at home. I’m not exactly sure what it is about them at home.”
David Backes is a veteran who has been there and done that. During his lengthy NHL career, however, he’s only reached this point in the postseason one other time. After losing to San Jose in the 2016 Western Conference Final, Backes knows the Bruins can’t take anything for granted and that this series isn’t over until they win that fourth game. “We’ve gotta go into a hostile environment where they’ve been very good,” began Backes.
“We’ve gotta play an excellent game and play our game, get one game closer to our goal and that’s what our focus is on, tomorrow night at 8.” It’s a businesslike approach for Backes and the Bruins, who have had everything go their way and click to perfection in this playoff run.
Tonight will be different, however. Yes, Toronto is a hockey hotbed but there is a ton of pressure on the home team in that city and sometimes it can actually be a home-ice disadvantage. Columbus? That building was loud, but not crazy loud or uncommon for this time of year. PNC Arena in Carolina? That place is going to be unlike anything the B’s have seen this playoff.
I can’t help but be reminded of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final between the Hurricanes and Edmonton Oilers. Rexall Place in Edmonton and, at the time, RBC Arena in Carolina were two of the loudest buildings I had ever heard on TV. Multiple NHL players and writers have told me there is little competition for Carolina in terms of the loudest building at this time of year and that it can be intimidating to the opposing team.
There’s a reason the Canes are 5-0 at home this postseason. The building gets extremely loud, and the fans get into it like few other buildings around the league. In turn, the Canes feed off of that energy and have overwhelmed their opponent. The Capitals and Islanders both fell victim to it earlier this spring, but the Bruins are ready and determined to not be victim number three.
Heck, a win tonight in Game 3 might break not just the Hurricanes, but their fans as well. Handling the building will be a stiff test for this veteran Boston group.