Well, that was exciting…
As a Bruins fan, you get used to a certain amount of drama with your hockey. No, I’m not talking the Brad Marchand school of acting, or Jack Edwards’ agreeably hysterical play-by-play style. Instead, I’m talking their recent history of extended, nailbiting playoff series. In the last six years, the Bruins have played eight 7-game series. With the notable exception of the Stanley Cup in 2011, where they won 3 game sevens, they’ve lost every one of those.
Tension, drama, and ultimately heartbreak have been common companions to Bruins fans come playoff time.
All due respect to the Leafs, but no one expected any one of those three things going into the round 1 series, but the Buds played out of their skins, and another game seven decided the Bruins’ fate. In games 1 through 6, the Bruins looked largely flat. Aside from the consistently excellent Lucic-Krecji-Horton line, the forwards all went missing for long stretches of time. On the blueline, Chara was good, but not the dominating presence we are used to, allowing Phil Kessel to finally get the Bruins monkey (Bear?) of his back and have a really effective series.
Reimer and Rask matched each other save for save, with Reimer arguably even having an edge over the former Leafs prospect. And, perhaps most importantly for the Leafs, Randy Carlyle almost accidentally iced an effective lineup. Injury forced Clarke MacArthur and Jake Gardiner into the lineup, both of whom were excellent and Mikhail Grabovski, who had been in Carlyle’s doghouse all year, was an absolute beast.
The end result of this general sluggishness on the part of the Bruins, and surprising quality on the part of the Leafs was that a series I thought would go 5 being decided in OT in game 7. Which would be exciting enough by itself, but that is only part of the story. As I noted generally above, the Bruins were up until this week the champion choke artists of recent NHL history. In 2010, they were 3-0 up in the conference quarterfinals against Philly, only to lose the next 3. They were then up 3 goals in game seven only to completely collapse and lose the game and the series. This was the first time a team had lost a series while up 3-0 since the Pens did it against the Isles in 1975. It was a total, epic collapse.
On Monday night, the Leafs managed to compress that epic 4 games of failure into 15 almost literally unbelievable minutes. I had given up when Kadri scored early in the 3rd period to make it 4-1. Most of the fans at the garden had, too. Apparently thousands left the arena, and those that were left were booing their own team. Then; Horton scored. Then, incredibly, two goals with the empty net. When it was almost too late, the Bergeron line joining Krecji’s in being productive, and it was Saint Patrice who scored the tying goal with less than a minute left.
He then one-upped himself by scoring the winner in OT. I couldn’t quite believe what I’d seen, but the B’s were through to the next round. An amazing series, and hopefully the wakeup call the team needed to kick their ass into gear for the second round.
A quick side note on the Leafs: no one expected them to make the playoffs, and no one expected them to come within 55 seconds of a series win. It was an amazing effort by a team with a lot of talent but also a lot of room to grow, and hopefully their management makes the right moves to let them do so in the off season.
In the second round, courtesy of their own game 7 win, the B’s are matched up with the Rangers. After the Toronto series, the Bruins D was kind of beaten up, and went into game 1 with the experienced Seidenberg, Ference, and Redden. That’s a significant loss of experience and, in 2 out of 3 cases (sorry, Wade) significant talent. Their replacements are the incredibly inexperienced Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski, and Torey Krug. In game one, all three did a pretty damn good job.
Krug scored his first playoff goal in his first playoff game, and Hamilton and Bartkowski looked solid when trusted with fairly heavy minutes. In the end, the B’s won 3-2, again in OT, with a perfect pass from Bergeron setting up Marchand for the winner. With the top two lines both looking good now, Tuukka looking solid, and surprising depth appearing on the blue line, things are looking promising for the 2nd round.
You’ll forgive me, though, if I’m hoping for a bit less drama this time. Technical previews aren’t my forte, but luckily I don’t have to do one. In my view, can’t do better than TomServo42 at Stanley Cup of Chowder, whose excellent preview is well worth reading.