Sometimes a game is about something more. Sometimes we don’t know what to say or think about a game. All we can to is just let it unfold before us and take it all in.
And tonight for the Boston Bruins, as they took on the Montreal Canadiens in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, this was one of those games that was about more than statistics, more than match-ups and more than anything that happened in the previous six games. This was Game 7. This was a game where there was no need for any kind of critical analysis. This was a game that meant something.
Not only do I spend most of my time outside of hockey reading comic books, but I was also kind enough to let my father pay for four years worth of schooling to get an ever-practical degree in Greek Mythology. Hero worship and an understanding of the heroic cycle is just what I do. It’s part of the reason I am drawn to sports.
Sports, after all, have become modern day mythology. Mortal men romanticized into something larger than life as they compete in what are often referred to as “epic battles”. Yes, the games can be judged and dissected based purely on the raw, statistical data of what transpires on the ice, but no one can argue there is an element of the game that transcends the action on the ice.
Enter tonight’s Bruins-Canadiens game. All year the Bruins have dealt with questions about whether or not they could win. Not just win the meaningless games in October and November, but really win. It is a demon that has dogged the Boston Bruins in recent history as tonight marked their third consecutive season playing in a Game 7 on home ice. In 2008-2009, the Boston Bruins were at the top of the league all season before bowing out in the second round when they lost in overtime of Game 7 to Carolina Hurricanes. The 2009-2010 collapse against the Philadelphia Flyers does not need to be revisited.
Here they were again. Another Game 7 at the TD Garden, this time against their hated rivals at the end of a long, drawn out series where both teams traded brutal punches. Would the Bruins put an end to all the questions? Could this group finally stand up and win when everything was on the line? A win would not define them, but a loss would certainly define the careers of the likes of Chara, Julien, Bergeron and Thomas.
I cannot say the Bruins exercised all of their demons as Nathan Horton tipped a Milan Lucic slap shot past Montreal goaltender Carey Price at 5:43 of overtime to give the Bruins the series clinching, 4-3 win, but they did take a step forward. Despite an early 2-0 Boston lead, Game 7 was predominantly controlled by Montreal, particularly in special teams play as the Habs went 2-for-4 on the power play and scored a shorthanded goal. All series long, the Canadiens dominated the Bruins on special teams, converting on 6-of-27 power plays and killing off all 21 Boston attempts. And with the pressure back on Boston in Game 7, the Bruins continued to look rattled.
Yet, in the end, the Bruins came out victorious and have now gotten over that first hurdle. An even bigger hurdle still awaits the Bruins, however, as they move to the second round and have a date with those very same Philadelphia Flyers who made them a historical footnote in the second round of last year’s playoffs. The perfect story line as the Bruins redeem themselves by finally winning a Game 7 and now get another shot at redemption against the Flyers.
With a rash of injuries hampering some of the Flyers top players such as Chris Pronger and Jeff Carter, as well as their revolving door between the pipes, there are some things working in the Bruins favor. The Bruins, however, will still need to play better than they did against Montreal to get their revenge.
They cannot go down 0-2 in the first two games again and the Bruins’ 0-21 power play needs to be productive. The Flyers goaltending may be shaky, but the Bruins’ series win over Montreal was one of the few times in NHL history that a team won a series without scoring on the power play.
Even with a hampered Pronger, the Flyers still bolster a deep defensive corps, so the top line of Horton, Lucic and David Krejci, despite their penchant for scoring in overtime, need to step up in regulation. The trio combined for just two goals in regulation play against Montreal and the Bruins cannot continue to rely on their second and third units to carry the scoring load.
The Flyers offense also bolsters many a small, shifty forward in the same ilk as the Montreal forwards that gave the Bruins a lot of trouble over the past seven games, meaning not only will the Bruins defense need to raise their game, but goaltender Tim Thomas will as well. Thomas did make some spectacular saves throughout the Montreal series, particularly when the games went into overtime, but there were also many times that the odds on favorite to win the Vezina Trophy this year as the league’s best goaltender let in some soft goals and looked nervous and rattled.
Tonight, however, is not the night to worry about the Bruins play. For those of us who follow the Black-and-Gold, tonight is a night to enjoy the moment. This is one of those games that means more than just one win. This is one of those games to be reveled in. Tomorrow, however, it is on to the Flyers and trying to take another step towards exercising the demons.
About the Author
Written by Matt Preston
I'm no Heminway or Haggerty, but keeping the dream alive, even if I'm pretty sure my Nana is my only follower. Self-deprecation is key, grammar is optional.