The Bruins dropped a 6-5 overtime heartbreaker last night at the Garden, and today Boston is understandably bummed.
After all, the Black and Gold had a chance to bring the Blackhawks to their knees. Heading into that overtime period, regardless of everything that happened in the previous 60 minutes, the Bruins were one goal away from a 3-1 lead. Only one team in Stanley Cup Final history has erased a deficit like that, and that was more than 70 years ago. (Coincidentally, Jaromir Jagr’s rookie year.)
So, what went wrong? Though it’s not entirely his fault, you can start with Tuukka Rask, who allowed six goals for only the second time in his professional career (after giving up seven goals total since the start of the conference finals) and pumped the breaks on all those “better than 2011 Tim Thomas” comparisons. Bottom line: When you score five goals in a Stanley Cup final game, at home, with a goalie of Rask’s caliber in net, that’s a game that you should win.
But Tuukka wasn’t alone. Zdeno Chara, who prior to last night had been on the ice for one opposing goal in the last seven games, was in action for five of Chicago’s six goals. Jagr (although he’s certainly affecting the game in other ways) and Tyler Seguin (not so much) were goal-less yet again. In these playoffs, Jagr has set a new NHL record for most shots in one postseason without a goal. Seguin has set a new record for most shots in one postseason with only one goal. And just in general, despite the high goal total, the Bruins weren’t as in-tune as they’ve been and will need to be.
"I don't think we played our best game tonight for a lot of different reasons," Claude Julien said. "I think our decision-making wasn't very good at times. I didn't think we were moving the puck as well as we had been in the past. It was certainly a tough outing for us tonight."
But to be honest, there comes a point in any playoff run, regardless of the sport, where the how and why of what happened just doesn’t mean all that much. Sure, the details of a loss like last night’s will provide fans and the media with all the ammunition they need in the event of ultimate failure. If the Bruins don’t raise the Cup, we’ll retroactively nitpick every missed Game 4 opportunity like we’re back in the 2010 NBA Finals, or Super Bowls 42 and 46. But in real time, it’s different.
Had the Bruins put forth a performance like last night in the regular season or even earlier in these playoffs, the kneejerk reactions would have been littered with impending doom and serious concern over whether this team has enough to win it all. “They’ll never win the Cup if Tuukka’s susceptible to that guide of breakdown.” “They’ll never win the Cup if they can’t find away to get more shots on net.” “They’ll never win the Cup unless Jaromir Jagr and/or Tyler Seguin finds a way to light the lamp.” “They’ll never win the Cup if . . .”
They’re past that. Last night wasn’t an exposition of numerous Achilles heels, but just a reminder that Chicago has a damn good team, that the Bruins aren’t a perfect team, that anyone who thought (after three games) that these Blackhawks were the Penguins or the Rangers was sadly mistaken.
In the here and now, there are no more questions as to whether the Bruins have enough to win the Cup. Those questions were answered after Game 1, even if the result was a triple overtime loss.
The truth is that, even in defeat, the Bruins now find themselves in a three-game series for the Stanley Cup. And when you put it like that, it’s impossible to be anything less than ecstatic about the opportunity at hand. Seriously, ask your Kia UVO to take you back to last summer, or to the lockout-filled drama of the fall, or to any point during Boston’s shortened and inconsistent regular season. Imagine you were granted some freaky window into the future, and saw the following headline:
“Bruins and Blackhawks tied 2-2 in the Stanley Cup Final, as the series heads back to Chicago.”
Can you imagine the excitement? The instinctive “Holy @&$%, are you for real?!” to come flying out of your mouth? That would’ve been a dream scenario, and right now . . . the Bruins are living it. Boston’s living it. After everything they’ve been through, from almost not having a season at all, to the hot start, to the inconsistent stretches, to the Marathon tragedy, to life support in Game 7 against Toronto, to King slayers against the Rangers to Sid the Kid slayers against the Penguins and then to this — right now — three games to decide their season. Two games to win the Cup.
Last night’s loss obviously complicates the situation, and leaves the city bummed out, but it doesn’t change the fact that the dream is still very real, with the chance to be so spectacular.