BOSTON (CBS) – The Boston Bruins are always making things easy for themselves, right?
They roll to a 3-1 series lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs, and we all know it’s “ova!”
We should be much smarter than that.
Friday night at the TD Garden, there was an air of invincibility going into the building; Bruins fans had that smug “we know the Leafs are done” attitude and, for the most part, sat there and waited for the Bruins to dispatch Toronto so they could go home and get ready for the next victim over the weekend.
If only it were that easy. Instead, the Leafs came out with a phenomenal first period and put 19 shots on Tuukka Rask. They left Boston with a hard-fought 2-1 win and at least one more game in their season.
Sunday, back at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto and thriving off their fans, the Leafs jumped out to another two-goal lead before Boston finally found the back of the net — with 26 seconds left in the game.
It was too little, too late for the Bruins, and now they have one more game that decides it all. Whether that’s just one more game against Toronto or one more game before they head home for the summer is entirely up to them.
For the eighth time in their last eleven playoff series, the Bruins are facing a winner-take-all seventh game. No one is sure why the team seems to always find their way into this situation, but we are here again, and it’s just not fun anymore.
Well, maybe it is fun, but it’s not funny.
History, especially recent history, will show that Game 7’s have not been good for the Boston hockey club. Yes, they played three Game 7’s during that marvelous year of 2011, winning them all. All three were one-goal games and one even needed overtime for the Bruins to come out on top. But take away those three dramatic victories, and all we have left are crushing defeats. There was last season’s loss to the Capitals, a Game 7 loss in the Conference Semis to Carolina in 2009, Montreal in 2008, and that fabulous meltdown to the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010. Even after leading Philly 3-0 in the first period of that Game 7 (and 3-0 in the series, in case you forgot), the Bruins couldn’t get that last win for a trip to the Conference Finals.
With all of that history, and their play in the present, there are a lot questions hanging over the Bruins’ heads ahead of Monday night’s Game 7. Will they be able to score? Who will score (it seems that only the Krejci-Lucic-Horton line has done what little damage the team has done this series)? Will Claude Julien mix up the lines before the game? Will he do it if Boston comes out as stagnant as they’ve been, or will he leave them be — as he tends to do?
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The only question that has really been answered — and that answer stays the same no matter how tonight’s game plays out — is that of how Tuukka Rask would handle the playoffs. The netminder has done everything asked of him this series, but how many times can a team ask their goaltender to pitch a shutout because they can’t light the lamp? If it weren’t for Rask, this series wouldn’t have gone seven games and the Bruins would already be packing for the off-season.
This final question is my own, and my answer is a simple “no” — as in I have no confidence that the Boston Bruins will come to play and take control early and often in Game 7. They have shown this season that they do not play back-to-back games with the intensity that is needed to win — especially now in the playoffs. They have shown that they will not crash the net to make the goaltender’s life more miserable, instead showing a propensity to not shoot when the opportunity is there. They try cutesy passes instead of firing the puck, which have led to odd-man rushes for the Leafs and headaches for Tuukka.
So, will the Bruins make things easy for us (and themselves) tonight, or will we have to go through the madness of a lucky bounce here or there, one way or another, deciding the outcome?
I hope I’m wrong, and I don’t usually predict, but I don’t think this is going to end the way Bruins fans want it to tonight.