Monday, May 10, 2010
In the pre-game show, the Versus guy was talking about how B's coach Claude Julien didn't want his team to say, or even think about the word "sweep" during their morning skate and practice. Are you kidding me? While I understand not saying that word to the press, don't you want to win, Claude? And if you win Friday night, isn't than an S-W-E-E-P sweep!?! So why are you haranguing your players, and telling them to not think about winning?
Claude Julien teams are always technically sound, and typically well-behaved yet still aggressive groups. But they don't kill. They wound, then hope that their prey dies. They lack the killer instinct. And this deficiency was on display Friday night.
Give credit to Philly, though. It's almost impossible to sweep (oh God, I used the S-word, Claude) a team out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The best hockey team in the World is the one facing elimination. They also benefited from the return of Simon Gagne, who scored the game-winner and peppered Rask with 7 shots.
But I remember when I was a kid, letting my dog out into the backyard in the morning to do his business. He was a beagle, bred for tracking and hunting. He caught the scent of a rabbit, somehow trapped within the confines of my backyard fence. He barked, he barked, he barked, then he chased after his prey, caught it, then clamped his paw down on the its neck. Then my dog looked at me, with a puzzled, confused kind of look, as if to ask me "What do I do now?" My dog Spunky was a tracker and hunter, but not a killer. He could catch a rabbit, but couldn't kill it. He was simply never shown or trained how to kill. We should have named him Bruin.
So many individual battles were lost in this game. The Bruins were somewhat fortunate to take a 1-0 lead, and fortunate to end the 1st period tied 1-1. Rask and the defensemen were excelling above and beyond.
Then the Flyers deservedly took a 3-1 lead. It was suddenly wake-up time for the Bruins. But seriously, the Bruins have needed more wake-up calls this season than a hotel hosting a narcoleptic convention. It's the fucking playoffs, who needs a reminder that this shit is serious?
The Bruins made it 3-2 in the 2nd, thanks to a freakish kind of goal. The puck bounced off Philly's lively backboards, then Boucher couldn't properly smother it, and he seemed to nudge it between his own legs and into the net. Ryder got credit for the score. But while the finish was good fortune, the activity preceding it was good play. The Bruins won battles along the boards, got a puck near the net, and it found its way in.
The B's tied it in the 3rd with a Power Play goal. The PP unit had struggled to do anything all night. But Philly had consistently surrendered easy entry. So Savard entered the zone, with Wideman flanking him. He passed to Wideman off the boards, which deceived the Flyer defending both of them. Savard drew that guy's attention, and Wideman had time and space to launch a shot. He did so, Lucic tipped it, and it was a 3-3 game.
Then the Bruins fell asleep again. They went the next 10+ minutes without getting a shot on goal. Eventually, Philly's relentless forecheck earned a takeaway, Pronger launched a shot, and it was deflected by Lano, into the net. 4-3 Philly.
The magic of Mark Recchi took over with 32 seconds remaining. With the goalie pulled Savard lost a draw, then Bergeron recovered the loose puck, found Wideman, who passed back to Bergy, who shot. With Lucic in the crease, Recchi was free to drift to the side of the net, where he slipped in the rebound to force overtime.
But what did the Bruins really do to win in OT? Well, Paille, Bergeron, and Recchi almost combined for a breakaway goal. Wheeler failed to handle a puck in the slot on a power play. And that's it. But for the most part, the near 15 minute overtime was a shooting gallery on Rask. You have to score to win in overtime.
The Bruins didn't do much to deserve to lose, but they did nothing to deserve to win.
This team needs to wake the fuck up. Right now. In boxing, when you get an opponent on the ropes, you don't ease up and hope the judges give you the decision. In football, when you're up by 17 points, you don't run the ball 3 times then punt, hoping the clock runs out. In baseball, when you're up by 6 runs, you don't swing at everything and hope your bullpen holds the lead. In NASCAR, when you have a 10 second lead on everyone else, you don't keep it in 2nd gear and cruise around.
You have to kill.
Up 3 games to 0, the Bruins were in a position to be aggressive, NOT to be conservative. They had the liberty to take chances, pressure the Flyers, punish them even. Instead, they eased up. They showed some serious fight at the end of the game, coming from 3-1 down to force an OT. But they never implemented their game on the Flyers. They never made the Flyers toe the line and play Boston Bruins Hockey.
It might change tonight in Boston. Rather, it should change tonight. The Bruins will once again have last-change in Game 5. And maybe a night full of wake-up calls will have the same effect as a caseload of Red Bulls.
This series isn't over. There's a reason that 2 of the 3 teams that have rebounded from 3-0 series deficits to win have been NHL teams. And to be frank, if the B's lose Game 5, but win in 6 or 7, they've failed. They have a worn out and bedraggled team, stretched thin by injuries, and they could use a few extra days off. But you have to earn that reward.
Game 5 tonight in Boston, on NESN.