Haggerty: Wild playoffs? These B's know wild well

Haggerty: Wild playoffs? These B's know wild well
June 14, 2013, 12:15 pm
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CHICAGO – To say the Boston Bruins, in their recent past, have failed spectacularly in the Stanley Cup playoffs would be an understatement. The Black and Gold have wildly succeeded as well, of course. There was the whole Stanley Cup thing in Vancouver two years ago and another romp through the Eastern Conference bracket again this season, but they’ve also made life very difficult for themselves over the years.

They blew four straight games to the Philadelphia Flyers with a 3-0 lead in the series, and lived an entire summer being called choke artists and a fragile hockey team. They overlooked the Carolina Hurricanes four years ago, fell behind in the series and were never able to catch up to a team they should have beaten up. They have been crushed by countless Game 7 losses, and have come back from the dead much more than once. The stunning, stupefying third-period comeback in Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of this year’s playoffs was just the most recent example.

Essentially, the last six years have been a proving ground for the Bruins’ resiliency and resolve as they’ve continuously pulled themselves off the mat and jumped right back into the playoff fray.

To say the Bruins have a flare for the dramatic in the postseason is to drastically understate the way things go down for them in the Cup playoffs.

“We joke that we don’t make things easy on ourselves,” said Bruins President Cam Neely. “But these guys bounce back. They’ve shown it time and again [in their careers] and I expect to see that again on Saturday.”

So nobody is expecting proven champions like Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Johnny Boychuk, Andrew Ference, Shawn Thornton and Dennis Seidenberg to be rattled by a triple overtime loss in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals. In fact, if anybody was rattled inside the B’s dressing room there’s a good chance the Bruins leadership group would slap that jangled bundle of emotions back into sense.

“You look back at the game as a whole, and say it’s going to be a tight series. But it’s not like anybody was suffocated with no chances on net, or no good plays,” said Andrew Ference. “In Vancouver it was everybody’s first time around, and you lose that first two games and maybe it’s a little bit of a heavier feeling than it is [now] because guys are better at turning the page.

“We’ve always been successful at not paying attention to what has happened, whether it was 50 years or what happened on the last shift. It’s a huge part of this game. It sucks having guys that are emotional train-wrecks in the room. It really does . . . because it’s contagious. You want to . . . well, you do tell them to shut up every once in a while.”

One day later, the Bruins were actually expressing appreciation at playing in an instant classic playoff hockey game rather than expressing deep regret over the lost opportunities in Game 1.

There are stats to throw at intrepid Bruins, of course.

Over 70 percent of the teams that win Game 1 of the Cup Finals end up winning the entire series. Wednesday night’s Game 1 was only the third time that the first game of the Cup Finals has gone to multiple overtimes, and the winner of Game 1 has won the Cup in each of those two previous occasions.

But this is a team that was down by three goals in the third period with ten minutes left to go in a Game 7, and scored two goals with Tuukka Rask pulled from the net. It’s a team that went down 0-2 in the 2011 Cup Finals to the Vancouver Canucks after dropping both games in British Columbia, and those losses were with 18 seconds left in the third period, followed by an overtime heartbreaker.

The Bruins simply put their heads down, and wore Vancouver down to nothing as the series rolled out into a seven-game marathon.

The Boston Bruins are built for adversity and tough times, both mentally and physically. They have experienced everything possible on the spectrum of possible Stanley Cup playoff situations, and their games of combined playoff experience numbers in the thousands.

There’s no doubt there were some missed chances on the ice amid the exhaustion and challenges of 112-plus minutes of hockey: Torey Krug’s third-period turnover, Kaspars Daugavins missed scoring shot all alone in front of the net in triple overtime, Tyler Seguin unable to finish off a handful of good chances in the overtime sessions, or Dennis Seidenberg going back to retrieve his glove in the corner rather than cover Andrew Shaw in front of the net on the game-winner.

But part of being an experienced playoff team is brushing that kind of dirt off your collective shoulders, and there is nobody better than the Bruins when it comes to that category.

“We've been through a lot. You can chalk that down to experience of having been through a lot, the ups and downs. So we don't get rattled anymore. We know what we can do. I mentioned all the examples earlier,” said Claude Julien. “We're very capable of staying in the moment, not living in the past, which could be last night, or living in the future, which is unrealistic.”

There’s little doubting Game 1 was a nice victory for the Blackhawks, and history shows there’s a chance for them to really gather up some momentum if they get a few fortunate bounces in the next couple of games.

But the Chicago players would be making a major miscalculation if they expect the hardened Bruins team will be stunned by the epic scope, and eventual result, from Game 1 at the United Center. The B’s are expecting six more games exactly like the first, and their own history shows that’s exactly the kind of series both teams should be braced and fortified to withstand.

The Black and Gold have all the playoff scars in the world to show for it.