A great game slips away

A great game slips away
June 13, 2013, 11:00 am
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If you can find a silver lining in the Bruins Game 1 loss to the Blackhawks, then chances are you fell sleep early. Despite all the drama and excitement in that triple overtime affair, in the end: “Well, at least I didn’t stay up to see them lose” is the only real “Excelsior!”-inspiring moment. It’s not a proud moment, mind you. I mean, come on. It’s the Stanley Cup! But if you did tap out before the 1 am ending, you’re feeling a little better than the rest of us today. (P.S. I’d keep that to yourself).

Beyond that, it really was a lost night for the Bruins. Sure, they proved that they can hang with the Blackhawks. They left zero doubt that the Stanley Cup is very much up for grabs. But that’s nothing we didn’t already know. Now, if Chara’s going to awkwardly yodel with the Cup for the second time in three years, the Bruins will have to scrape themselves out of an unnecessary hole. Up 3-1 in the third period, they had a 1-0 lead in their grasp, they had home-ice advantage, they had their 10th win in 11 games and were so close to further building on the momentum from their Game 7 comeback against the Leafs.

Yeah, I know “momentum” is a load of crap. So maybe that’s the wrong word. But there was an unmistakable confidence in and around this Bruins team that, before last night, had strengthened with every victory since Game 7 against Toronto. “Mystique” might be an even crazier word than momentum, but it was there. The team felt it. The whole city felt it. There was something very 2004 Red Sox about the way the Bruins were rolling.

With all due respect to the Blackhawks, it was fair to wonder: Are we headed for another sweep? It was getting harder and harder to visualize a scenario where the Bruins would lose even one more game. Even harder Milan Lucic gave the Bruins a 2-0 goal in the second period. And when Patrice Bergeron lit the lamp for a 3-1 lead in the third period, that confidence shot up another level. The Bruins were about to go up 1-0 on the road in the Stanley Cup Final, and it felt right. Like this is what they were supposed to do. Set a tone in Chicago the same way they did in Pittsburgh and dominate their way to another title.

That all seems ridiculous right now, but that’s what the Bruins had done to us. They’d captured everyone’s imagination and left us floating high above reality.

But these Blackhawks have a mystique all their own. And their comeback (two goals over a six-minute span in the third) and eventual 3OT game-winner (a crazy double-deflection that bounced in off Andrew Shaw’s leg) flipped the series on its head. Now they’re the team merely picking up steam. Meanwhile, the once untouchable Bruins now face real questions and legitimate pressure for the first time since Toronto. The forceful, confident tone they were so close to setting is now feeble and indecisive. In coughing up that two-goal lead, they leave the door open for all future leads in this series. The Blackhawks will always have the memory of Game 1; the ability to reach back and say: ”Well, we did it then. No reason we can’t do it again!”

And that’s too bad. Not only for the Bruins championship aspirations, but because now, here in Boston, one of the most historic, should-have-been-fun-and-well-worth-losing-sleep-over games in Stanley Cup lore is now nothing but the game that got away.

Far be it from me to say that it’s a loss the Bruins can’t recover from, but it’s one they never should’ve had to.