Paoletti: Why isn't third time a charm?


Paoletti: Why isn't third time a charm?

By Mary Paoletti

Being one of few is usually a good thing. It makes you special.

The Bruins are just one of three teams in NHL history to lose a playoffs series after going up 3-0.

This is a bad thing. It's like, rare-type-of-disease-that-gets-you-in-a-medical-journal (and then you die) "special."

The B's are back in Boston for Game 3 against the Flyers tonight. This morning, I was thinking about a text I got from a friend Monday:

"2-0. Yikes."

Seems kinda backwards, right? This guy is a huge Bruins fan and has been for years. But I get the feeling that if Boston wins again tonight, he'll be downright nauseous. He and others lovers of Hub hockey will get cold sweats, and suffer flashbacks of 2010's loss to Philly.

Wait, I'm sorry. You're supposed to say it like this: "2010's HISTORIC POSTSEASON COLLAPSE!!!"

Broadcasters and analysts have mentioned Boston's "EPIC DEFEAT" all season long. Fans would mute the TV, throw things at the screen-- the remote, candy, small pets -- and yell.


Today, at the middle-ish point of conference semifinals, I wonder what the percentage is. How many fans would feel good about a 3-0 series lead for Boston? And how many, in some dark and twisty part of their sports fan brain center, would be okay with a loss tonight? Would maybe be a teensy bit relieved, even?

It's funny that it matters.

Last season's wins and losses have nothing to do with this year's results.

But sports aren't about rationality.

The enormous sweaty dude in an authentic Cam Neely jersey tossing back beers before puck drop won't want to admit it, but he loves hockey because he connects with it emotionally. When Shawn Thornton repeatedly punches someone's face, he gets up out of his seat and sprays beer on people as he screams because he's moved. He's blood-lusty in some primal way.

More obviously, that connection is why he cradled his soggy beard in his hands last year and sobbed like a four year-old when Boston, again, earned an early exit from the playoffs. It made no sense for Boston to blow that series with such a commanding lead. The slide couldn't be rationalized.

But every time you've worn your Tim Thomas jersey, sat on the right cushion of the couch with your legs slung over the arm, and ate ice cream during second intermission, the Bruins have won. That becomes hard evidence. It is fan science.

So people get superstitious because sports are unpredictable and sports fans are emotionally unstable during the playoffs.

It's like any relationship: Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice? Well, that's not gonna freakin' happen. The 3-0 series security innocence is lost; Boston will have it's expectations cautiously lowered. Just like before Game 7.

Ask the guy in the Neely jersey (any of them) at the bar. He's more than ready for the Bruins to be the right kind of "special," but he'd never bank on it.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Haggerty: Bruins continue to stumble against Canadiens at home

Haggerty: Bruins continue to stumble against Canadiens at home

BOSTON -- One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Much like Charlie Brown was never going to actually kick the football before Lucy pulled it away, it feels like the Bruins are never again going to beat the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden. They failed again Saturday night, never holding a lead at any point as they dropped their ninth straight home game to the Habs, 4-2.

Bruins-Canadiens games in Boston have become the hockey version of 'Groundhog Day', as the same patterns emerge over and over again: Montreal's speed forces the Bruins into mistakes with the puck; Habs players draw the B’s into taking bad penalties; Carey Price dominates in goal. It's been that way ever since the last Bruin victory over Montreal at the Garden, on Jan. 12, 2012. To put it perspective, Tim Thomas and Tyler Seguin were still Bruins back then.

Saturday night's loss, though, had a little added twist: The B's second-period woes, such a problem last year, reared its ugly head again.

“[The second period was] terrible, and that’s where it really hurt us," said Claude Julien. "I thought we played well (in the first period) . . . But the second period came back to haunt us. We were flat coming out. We didn’t make good outlet passes, and we spent way too much time in our own end, and because of that, it gave them some momentum. And by the end of it, we cheated ourselves a little bit, and pucks ended up in the back of our net . . .

"[When] you give up four goals to Montreal, and you have Price at the other end, it’s pretty hard to beat that team. So we needed to be better . . . [We] shot ourselves in the foot with some real poor mistakes, and we can’t afford to do that against the Montreal Canadiens."

The Bruins were essentially done for after a couple of very typical Boston-Montreal plays went against them in the middle 20 minutes.

The first was a defensive coverage breakdown in the D-zone that allowed both Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher to operate with time and space. Five B’s players simply watched as Gallagher smoked a one-timer from the outside of the left circle that eluded Anton Khudobin.

Then, later in the period, John-Michael Liles misread a play where he pinched deep in the offensive zone and couldn’t control the puck. As a result, Alexander Radulov worked a 2-on-1 with Phillip Danault to skilled perfection on a typical Habs transition play.

"I think our second period has got to be better overall," said Patrice Bergeron. "We talked about them having a good forecheck . . . [but] we didn’t make the easy plays too many times. When you do that, it creates turnovers and you spend more time in your zone than you’d like to."

From there, it was just more of the same. Playing with the lead, Montreal was able to neutralize Bergeron and Brad Marchand; Bergeron never got a shot on goal. Price came up big when he had to, shutting down a couple of Ryan Spooner chances.

And Bruin weaknesses were exposed, things Julien and the coaching staff may have to address. It looks like it’s time to move on from the Joe Morrow/Torey Krug defense pairing; it's simply not working. (Krug, in particular, was a minus-3 and made mistakes all over the ice.) They also may need to switch things up with the forwards, as they're getting zippo offensively from their second and third lines.

To their credit, the Bruins never packed it in. They hung in and made plays in the third period to keep the game close, right up to the 6-on-3 advantage they had at the end. But there are no consolation prizes or moral victories in the Boston-Montreal rivalry, especially when the Habs have made it so one-sided.

To be a true rivalry, you need equal rivals. And the Bruins, especially at home, aren’t holding up their end of the bargain.

Bruins need to 'find a way to start playing with a lead'

Bruins need to 'find a way to start playing with a lead'

BOSTON -- There’s only so long that a team can hope to thrive, or even survive, in the NHL if they’re constantly chasing the game on the scoreboard, and chasing the puck after digging themselves a hole. The Bruins have been that team in the first couple of weeks during the regular season, and made it five times in five games that they’ve given up the game’s first goal in an eventual 4-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden.

It’s a pattern that is long past getting old to Bruins head coach Claude Julien, who can’t seem to play the front-runner this season despite three comebacks that have allowed for a 3-2-0 record overall this season.

“I hope it’s not a habit. It’s certainly not what we’re looking for, but there’s no doubt. I think it’s pretty obvious that with the amount of games we’ve played, five games, we haven’t scored first,” said Julien. “We talked about that this morning, trying to get that first goal, and it hasn’t happened yet.”

The start to the game wasn’t really the problem on Saturday night as it’s been a couple of times this season. Instead the Bruins enjoyed a handful of quality scoring chances in the opening 20 minutes against the Habs, but couldn’t come through and finish off those plays when it might have meant an early lead.

Instead it lead to what Julien termed a “terrible” second period that was flat, full of mistakes and ended with the B’s trailing Montreal by a couple of goals. The Bruins scratched and clawed their way to making it a one-goal game in the third period, but that was as close as the Black and Gold would get in losing their ninth straight home game to the arch-rival Canadiens.

“It’s kind of been a story about how things are going for us this far, we’ve got to find a way to start playing with a lead. If you don’t capitalize on your chances, you see what happens when you come out [flat] in the second period,” said Torey Krug, who finished a game-worst minus-3 in the loss for the Bruins. “We had another poor second period and you know it’s kind of… you got to make sure that we put our hand on that and it doesn’t become a thing for the team this year. You see that when you don’t capitalize on chances early, that’s what’s going to happen.”

It’s been a positive development that the Bruins have shown the willingness and backbone to fight back into games after early deficits, and they showed that quality once again on Saturday night by scoring a couple of goals in the third period to keep things close. But the Bruins would be best served if they can start lighting the lamp a little earlier in these games, and see how the other half lives by playing with a comfortable lead every once in a while.