The Bruins absolutely laid an egg in their own building. As a fan, I am sad and angry. I hope this means the end of the Claude Julien era in Boston. Lucic is probably done, too. I expected this game to be close. They can’t even get out of their own way. Hockey fans in Boston deserve a lot better. Something needs to change.
That’s how I started to write in the middle of the third period. Then it happened. The B’s were down 4-1, and I thought about getting caught up on Game of Thrones (granted I already know what’s happening at the end of the season, but that’s another story for another day), but I couldn’t get past the opening credits before turning the radio back on to hear Dave Goucher give the play-by-play of the Bruins’ demise. I was so mad at the coach and the players for blowing it again. I braced myself for the criticism Tuukka Rask was likely to get from fans for not being Tim Thomas (but who is, really?). I wanted to give him a hug and tell him it wasn’t his fault like Robin Williams and Matt Damon. Horton had made it 4-2 by then. It made the potential final score seem less bad, but the game was still far out of reach for the offensively challenged Bruins.
The game was winding down, but as a fan, I wanted to hear it until the end. I love hockey, and I love the Bruins, and the prospect of no hometown hockey again until October was enough to sit through it. With two minutes left, Julien pulled Rask, and the familiar story of the Bruins losing to teams they shouldn’t and choking away yet another playoff series took a turn for the surreal.
The six on five skater advantage is a risky one even for teams with highly functioning power play units. It seems, without Googling the stats, that an empty net goal is more likely than a team with the extra skater. Then they Bruins got traffic in front of the net and Milan Lucic, the quintessential overpaid inconsistent Bruin, crashed the net and made the game 4-3. There was still plenty of time left, but I still thought it was over. Great! They got a goal, but they still need another just to get to overtime. The Bruins controlled the faceoff and Rask skated to the bench to allow on the extra attacker. There was less than a minute left when Patrice Bergeron, my favorite Bruin since he was an 18 year old rookie, buried a deadly snipe past Toronto goaltender James Reimer and that’s when it hit me. I screamed. The game was tied with 50 seconds in regulation. The virtually impossible was happening. The Bruins were alive and kicking heading into overtime of a Game 7 for the third straight year.
The Bruins hometown radio broadcasters, Dave Goucher and Bob Beers, interviewed Milan Lucic during the intermission leading up to overtime. They asked about the way last season ended, with the Washington Capitals defeating the Bruins in the TD Garden in sudden death overtime. Lucic reminded them that this year was different; that Nathan Horton was in the lineup for this overtime, so things would be different. All throughout the intermission, you could hear Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” blasting in the Garden. The crowd was into it again. There was no way they were going to let the Leafs win this game.
It only took six minutes for Patrice Bergeron to find the back of the net once more. It was fitting that he was the one to do it, to. Bergy is the perfect Boston Bruin. He’s not the biggest, strongest, fastest, or most skilled player on the ice, but he has worked to improve himself and the team ever since he arrived in Boston as a teenager. He battled back from concussion after concussion, lockout after lockout, and defeat after defeat to remain in the Bruins’ team photo longer than anyone else on the roster. Last night, he added two more highlights to the tribute video when they inevitably raise the name “Patrice Bergeron-Cleary” along with the number 37 to the rafters of the TD Garden. Even before Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard landed in Boston, Bergy was the guy they were building around. The next great Bruin arrived a while ago, and it looks like he’s not satisfied with his name on the Stanley Cup just once.
In the grand scheme of things, this was an amazing night. Not just for the Bruins. Not just for hockey… the Bruins’ comeback ranks among the great comebacks in all of sports, but it will take until the end of the season to really see where it stands. Carlton Fisk’s home run off Fenway’s left field foul pole, is one of the classic moments in baseball history, but it would have been bigger had the Red Sox finished the job in Game 7. Nobody would remember the Patriots’ Snow Bowl (or Tuck Rule Game) if they had been beaten by the Steelers the following week, and the lore of that game would have been far less illustrious if Tom Brady and Adam Vinatieri had not made the plays they made in the Super Bowl against the Rams.
Time will tell how we remember this night, but the Bruins still have a lot of work to do. With the second round we get another Original Six opponent. This time it’s the New York Rangers. I think it will be a great series, and the Bruins have a good chance against this worthy opponent, but more than anything else, I’m just glad they’re still in it, and I can write about the local hockey club for at least a couple more weeks. Playoff hockey is as good as it gets, and it’s a lot of fun when it lasts more than one round. To quote Jack Edwards, “who has more fun than us?” You did a good thing, Bruins. Now it’s time to take advantage of the break you just caught!