Though the Maple Leafs are in their first postseason in eight seasons, they are at least a little prepared for the daunting task they face entering Game 5 of their series against the Bruins thanks to one player who is proof that series aren’t over until a team wins four games.
James van Riemsdyk has been in a 3-1 hole against the Bruins before. He’s also been in a 3-0 hole against them, and, two games later, a 3-2 hole. He’s been in a series that was tied, 3-3, against the Bruins, and he’s helped put them away in Game 7.
With the Leafs facing elimination on Friday night at TD Garden, van Riemsdyk is using his 2010 postseason experience with the Flyers as he and his team try to come back in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the B’s.
“You’ve just got to not look at the whole task as getting back to that point,” van Riemsdyk said Friday. “You’ve just got to take it one game at a time and just kind of start chipping away. We know, obviously, it’s not an ideal position we’re in, but you’ve got to take it one game at a time. You win one game and you never know what can happen.”
Folks around these parts know what happened back in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals. As a rookie, van Riemsdyk scored the Flyers’ first goal of Game 7 after Boston jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period. The Flyers came back in that game, just as they had in the series, and eliminated the B’s in shocking fashion.
Now, three years, a Bruins Stanley Cup  run in which the B’s swept the Flyers, and one trade later, the now-24-year-old Maple Leafs winger recalls being the rookie on a team that believed it could come back in a series that looked all but over. He remembered the players buying into the concept of only looking at what was directly in front of them, and not farther ahead of them. They broke their task into shifts rather than games or pages of history books.
“You can kind of psyche yourself out a bit if you worry too much about being down 3-1 vs. just focusing on, ‘We need to win a hockey game,’ ” van Riemsdyk said.
The Bruins have had a hard time finishing teams off when the pressure hasn’t been at its greatest. Under Claude Julien , the B’s are 3-6 when they can eliminate a team in a non-Game 7 situation. Going back to that 2010 season, the B’s had three chances against the Flyers and lost all three. The next year, they had 3-2 leads against both the Canadiens and Lightning and lost Game 6, though they swept the Flyers and came back to force Game 7 against the Canucks. They hope this series doesn’t last any longer than it has to for them.
“We’ve learned both sides of the coin,” Andrew Ference  said. “When you don’t close out a series and give a team life, it can be a pretty dangerous fire to play with.
“It gets tossed around a lot that the fourth win’s the hardest, but I don’t think it’s any harder than the first, second or third. Every win is tough. In the playoffs, the victories are earned. There’s no freebies.”
Despite the score of the series and the fact that three of the first four games were determined by two or more goals, the games have been played tighter than many expected. There’s a reason that Game 4 went down to the wire when both teams were playing strong, fast-paced hockey. The Leafs, who many wrote off entering the postseason, believe they can hang with the Bruins.
“We’ve responded to adversity pretty well throughout the whole season, so that’s what we’re going to continue to do,” van Riemsdyk said. “We’ll find out a lot about our team by our effort tonight.”