So Boston… how does it feel? You know, to be so sure things are going your way only to see them crash down in a flaming heap? It ruined a sure fire ratings, and historical hockey dream of a matchup, the Bruins vs. the Canadiens. A matchup I was waiting for and hoping for just to feel the hate between two rivals and to see if it was anything like the much over played Yankees-Red Sox matchups. But that’s over.
Losing happens, just not like this. Besides the Yankees only the Red Wings and Penguins had lost a 3-0 series lead in the history of 7 game series in three of the four major sports, they have one new member in their hall of shame. The Bruins collapse was weird, not just that they lost, but because of everything within the series that lead to it. At the end of Friday night’s game 7 I stood and could only utter this, um, wow, that was depressing. So depressing that it brought back memories of 2004 when it happened to the Yankees. The Boston Bruins 3-0 series collapse however, is worse than the Yankees because there were so many eerie things that led to the collapse.
First off, the David Krejci injury at the end of game three when the B’s went up three games to none. For an offensively challenged team like the Bruins, Krejci was undoubtedly their best forward in the playoffs up until he went down scoring 8 points and logging close to 22 minutes a game in the series. Up until game four with Krecji in the lineup the Bruins dominated the action and beat up the Flyers. Once Krejci went down, the tables turned. The B’s gave up nine goals in the next two games and well… you saw what happened in game 7 (more on that later).
Secondly, Tuukka Rask, you know, the guy who took Tim Thomas’s job with an amazing regular season where he finished up with a 1.98 Goals against average, was terrible in net in the final four games. He went from allowing seven goals in the first three games to fifteen in the final four. The first goal the Flyers scored last night by James Vanriemsdike was horrendous. His shot was deflected by Bruins defenseman Dennis Wideman, yet Rask somehow allowed it to trickle under his right pad and into the net. In comparison with Flyers net minder Michael Leighton, Rask looked like the guy that had been thrown into the fire and couldn’t handle the pressure.
Leighton on the other hand was and has been outstanding in net. Since replacing the injured Brian Boucher, Leighton has allowed only four goals in two and a half games, three in last night’s first period and nothing more. At some point I wondered why Claude Julien didn’t go back to Tim Thomas. Thomas has been in these situations before, including last year’s game seven loss to Carolina. He could’ve been a better option than Rask who was undoubtedly shaky.
Third was funny enough, the Celtics epic win in that same arena the previous night. The C’s set up what was bound to be an epic two night period by ousting the Cleveland Cavaliers the previous night with spirited performances and a rowdy crowd. It seemed like the perfect ending to both series. The teams from Boston, who, no one expected much out of at the beginning of the playoffs, now would be two teams in the Eastern Conference Finals in rivalry matchups. It certainly seemed that way as the B’s followed up the C’s win last night with a spirited first period. Milan Lucic came out of hiding with two goals and the Bruins were ahead 3-0. Then the air came out of the Bruins and everything began to crumble.
The Vanriemsdyk goal was the beginning of the end as the Bruins play gradually slowed and slowed while the Flyers, especially Daniel Briere and Mike Richards, flew around the ice creating havoc and swinging the momentum towards the Philly side at the end of the second period.
The third period saw the Bruins regain that intensity as they found scoring opportunities from veterans Mark Recchi and Marc Savard. The B’s controlled the action throughout most of the period and if not for some unlucky bounces (or lucky if you’re a Philly fan) they would be gearing up for a Finals matchup with their rivals the Montreal Canadiens. Then well…
Thing number four, the too many men on the ice penalty at 11:10 into the third period. If you’re a longtime Bruins fan the words “too many men on the ice” are painful to listen to. For those that don’t know what I’m referring to, in the 1979 Eastern Conference Finals the B’s and Habs played a classic overtime game that ended with a Guy Lafleur power play goal thanks to a too many men on the ice penalty by the Bruins. The Habs went on to win the Stanley Cup and the Bruins haven’t been the same since. Last night, history repeated itself.
With only 18 seconds remaining on the power play Simon Gagne, who hasn’t been the same goal scoring threat that he was at the beginning of the decade thanks to a rash of Eric Lindros-like concussions, found a wide open top corner of the net and beat a sprawling Rask. 4-3 Flyers. Somewhere Don Cherry probably did a combination of throw a chair, then chug a bottle of Crown Royal, then had a heart attack.
You knew the end result was coming; I just stopped watching and began taunting a Twins fan after A-rod hit a grand slam in the bottom of the seventh to give the Yankees a win last night (I mean it is May, so A-rod is clutch for these things). As the clock wound down and the Bruins tried their hardest to get a tying goal, they fell short. Flyers win the game and the series 4-3, down 3-0 in both instances. You can’t make this stuff up. As the Flyers swarmed Leighton, the Bruins and their fans were stunned. Yellow, “Go Bruins!” towels littered the ice. Wiseman and other players couldn’t lift their heads for the postgame handshake. As the fans stood in shock a smattering of Flyers fans cheered and ran to their entry way screaming for Gagne and other players. The scene was the epitome of the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
The good part, if any, of the Yankees game seven loss was that they got killed. The drama was over by the third inning and the rest was just a slow alcohol induced death. For Bruins fans this was worse. They watched a team lose two 3-0 leads and lose thanks to a throwback penalty from yesteryear that haunted them up until this game. You tell me what’s worse.
The good news for the Bruins is that they have a top 2 pick in the draft thanks to dealing Phil Kessel to Toronto, yeah the Bruins get Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin while the Leafs 25 goals and underachievement. Brian Burke is probably beating himself with a stick right now. The bad news… well you’re seeing it. The playoff run hid a lot of questionable in this team such as age, lack of offense and consistent play from the wings (ahem, Lucic). It was a great run, but it was bound to end. However, I don’t think anyone could’ve seen it play out like this.