RALEIGH, N.C. — The Bruins need to wake up. And they need to do it right now.
That was the message expressed by the B’s veteran leadership group in several players-only meetings held during Thursday’s off-day. The meetings were designed to snap Boston out of a series-long puck malaise that has them looking at a 2-1 deficit in the best-of-seven showdown against a surprisingly strong Carolina Hurricanes  team. Another defeat at the hands of the Canes would have the Bruins hanging on the precipice of season elimination with virtually no room for error.
The B’s skaters were — to steal a phrase from that master motivator Pete Carroll  – – jacked and pumped to play a clearly inferior Montreal Canadiens  team in the opening round of the postseason, and blasted them right off the ice and straight into playoff oblivion. It’s plainly obvious to veteran performers like Mark Recchi , Aaron Ward  and Zdeno that the Bruins haven’t brandished the same emotional intensity and fiery focus mustered up against the Habs — and during a handful of regular season rivalry games sprinkled throughout the year.
“I think it’s a little bit of hesitation or a lack of expressing the emotions,” said Chara. “We need to bring that (emotion) more and show it. Don’t get me wrong, we try to play in a way that we don’t take bad penalties. In the series against Montreal and during the series against the Rangers and rivals like Philadelphia, we were more intense and emotionally involved. We need to take that part of our (game) and bring it to another level.
“I think when we play with that edge, then we’re playing much better (hockey).”
In many ways the first three games of this Carolina/Boston series has been “nice guy hockey” played by two of the least-penalized teams in the entire NHL  during the regular season, and there isn’t a natural agitator on the Canes roster that’s going to invoke the fury out of B’s bruisers like Milan Lucic . There’s no Mike Komisarek figure twirling his mustache or Sean Avery  wannabee lining somebody up from behind in the treacherous corner.
The biggest infractions have consistent of nudging goaltenders, which every team worth their salt is going to attempt/follow through on in the playoffs when they’re playing a hot goalie. In essence, the Black and Gold Bears descended into hibernation after eight days off between the Montreal sweep and their current set against the Hurricanes, and they were never shaken awake by a squeaky-clean Canes bunch.
It’s high time that the Bruins awoke from the slumber even if nobody is poking the bear in the cage — and that was the exact message expressed by several members of the B’s during Friday morning’s pregame skate at the RBC Center.
“We’ve been sleeping,” said Recchi. “To say the least. I think we understand that now. (The Canes) want us to sleep, number one. We’ve just let it happen. But the great thing about it is that it’s only 2-1 (in the series) and we have an opportunity to make it 2-2. If we had lost the series and you were thinking about it you’d be pretty pissed off if you were done and you said ‘(expletive), we didn’t give it our best shot.’
“I think that’s what the guys were all talking about (on the off-day) is that we need to give it our best shot. We need to play the way we’re capable of playing, and if we do that then we’re going to be a handful. We need to make players (into) factors that should be factors because we haven’t been playing the way we’re capable of playing. I think it’s very important that we start that (on Friday).”
B’s GM Peter Chiarelli was pleased to hear his players took the initiative to meet on Thursday and address some of the things lacking (emotion, work ethic, poise with the puck, puck cycling, dumping pucks in deep) during the first three games of the series. Now it’s imperative that the team make the meetings meaningful by transforming all of the talk out onto the ice in a critical Game 4 setting against a sky-high Hurricanes squad.
“It’s a critical game and we expect performance out of our best players,” said Chiarelli. “The work ethic thing is something we haven’t had in the first three games. We just haven’t.
“I know that the players met a couple of times. We’ve come along this far in the season, so we don’t have to browbeat somebody. We know what we have to do. The (meetings) happen a lot at times like this, and it’s encouraging. But it doesn’t always work.”
It’s incumbent on the still-bright future of this hockey season that all of the hockey talk does develop into results when the Bruins take the ice tonight for a pivotal Game 4 in their semi-final series.