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Up 3-0 in the second round series against the battered and bruised Flyers, the Bruins seemed to be flying high. They had improved to 7-2 in the playoffs at that point, and were just one win away from their first Eastern Conference Finals appearance since George Herbert Walker Bush was President in 1992.
Then, David Krejci broke his wrist in Game 4, Tuukka Rask returned to Earth and began to act like a human goalie, and the Bruins returned to become…those lovable losers we’ve come to know. Add it all up, and the Flyers converted an 0-3 series deficit into 4-3 series victory with four straight wins over the Bruins, becoming the third NHL team to battle back from such a deficit, including the 1975 New York Islanders (who beat Pittsburgh) and the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs (who beat Detroit).
By comparison, no NBA team has ever come back to win a series when down 3 games to none, and just one baseball team has ever done it: your 2004 Boston Red Sox over the New York Yankees in the ALCS.
History aside, there’s also a bit of irony too. The Bruins won the first three games of the series, and the Flyers won the next four. The Bruins scored the first three goals of Game 7, and the Flyers scored the next four unanswered to win the game 4-3, and the series 4-3.
Initially, it seemed the nervous Bruins fans could finally be at ease. The team shot out to a 3-0 lead in the first 15 minutes of the game thanks to two high sticking penalties by the Flyers.
On the ensuing power play after the first penalty, Michael Ryder scored his fourth goal of the playoffs just over five minutes into the game.
Milan Lucic added a goal on the next power play, and scored again five minutes later to give the Bruins a 3-0 cushion. That should be enough in a playoff game, right?
James van Riemsdyk scored his first goal of the playoffs with less than three minutes to go in the first period to cut the lead to 3-1. No big deal, right?
The second period was all-Flyers, as they out-shot Boston 11-6. Scott Hartnell and Danny Briere (on a wrap-around) each scored early in the second to pull the energy out of the building, the wind out of the Bruins’ sails, and all the momentum Boston had left.
To this point, Tuukka Rask had allowed three goals on 19 shots. He definitely tired as the series went on, and his age in and inexperience began to show. But, nothing (not even years of experience) could have prepared him or anyone else in the building for what happened in the third period.
In 1979, the Bruins were facing the rival Canadiens in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and a ridiculous too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty led to Guy LaFluer’s tying goal. The Habs later won that Game 7 in overtime, eliminating the Bruins.
Some 31 years later, the Bruins somehow found themselves in a similar situation. There it was again: a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty, and the Flyers had the man advantage. You knew they would score. I knew they would score. Tuukka knew they would score.
Sure enough, Simon Gagne (who earns series MVP honors in my book) banged home the game-winning goal with less than eight minutes to go in regulation.
The Bruins had a couple weak chances toward the end of the game, and didn’t convert any of them in the defeat. In fact, after sending in 14 shots in the first period, the team combined for just 11 the rest of the game.
The B’s lost their third straight Game 7 overall, including last year’s devastating defeat in overtime against the Hurricanes and the Game 7 drubbing in the first round of the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Canadiens. They are 9-10 all-time in Game 7 situations.
Will I remain a Bruins fan? Yes. After the Red Sox let me down in the 2003 ALCS, and I remained a fan the next season, I knew I could take anything. Friday night’s embarassing and historic loss really sucked. It did…but we have to remember that the future of this team is bright.
We should be happy with how far they’ve come considering how mediocre they were all year. Tuukka Rask is developing into a world-class goaltender, and David Krejci showed he can be a second line center in the NHL (when healthy). With Marc Savard at 100% by next season, the Bruins should be in good shape. Oh, and they have that No. 2 pick (likely Taylor Hall) to add to the mix as well.
The Flyers, meanwhile, seem to be hitting on all cylinders, and will have home-ice advantage in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Montreal Canadiens. For you Bruins fans looking for someone to root, ignore the NHL’s East Finals and turn your attention to the Celtics…because I mean come on, how can you cheer for the Flyers after this past series…or cheer for the Canadiens in any situation?