Paoletti: Why isn't third time a charm?

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Paoletti: Why isn't third time a charm?

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

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.

"HEY. I'D REALLY LIKE IT IF YOU MENTIONED THE CATASTROPHIC FAILURE ONE MORE TIME? FOR A MOMENT, I FORGOT ALL ABOUT IT."

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 mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Julien reaches breaking point with struggling, inconsistent Bruins

Julien reaches breaking point with struggling, inconsistent Bruins

It sounds like Claude Julien has reached a breaking point with a fragile, inconsistent group of Bruins players who have lost four games in a row at a critical point in the season.

The Bruins dropped a 5-1 decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena on Sunday afternoon, and completely fell apart in the final period after Tuukka Rask was lifted because of migraine issues in the middle of the game. It was a typical Bruins effort, in which there weren’t enough scoring chances despite 45 shots on net -- largely from the perimeter -- and the defense totally unraveled in the third period once the Penguins got their offense going.

After the loss, the embattled Julien challenged his players, saying they weren’t providing enough across the board . . . which has largely been the case for the last two months as the Bruins have stagnated as a team.

“If you look at some of the mistakes we made, it’s a team that just got unraveled there in the third period,” he told reporters after the game. “With the opportunities that we had, we don’t capitalize on them. You always give the goaltender on the other side some (Matt Murray) credit. He was good tonight but at the same time, if you’re going to win hockey games, you’ve got to find ways to get [shots] through to him.

"It’s frustrating. There are a lot of guys that, right now, aren’t giving us enough, and this is a team that I think needs all 20 guys going in order to win. We don’t have enough talent to think that we can get away with a mediocre game, so this is where it’s important for our guys to understand that and it’s important to have 20 guys that want to go. It’s okay to have talent, but you’ve got to compete. For others, you’ve got to get involved. You’ve got to be willing to do the things that are not fun to do but are going to help your hockey club. It’s too bad because I think the players we expect a lot out of every night are certainly battling every night, but we need more than that . . .

“When you’ve lost three, now four in a row, it sets in. We’ve got to find a way to turn this around and start going back to the drawing board with our guys respecting what they need to do and be patient enough to give it time to turn around. When I say patience I don’t mean we need to do it in the next week. We need to do it next game but we need to respect what we’ve done well and when we’re in our game and within our structure we’ve had success but in order to be within the structure, you’ve got to be willing to want to do those things. Right now, we don’t have everybody and it just takes one guy not to want to do his job and it throws everybody else off. We have to look at personnel that way, and say that if we need to replace some guys, and we need to be patient with others, I want guys that care and want guys that want to come in and give it their all every night. We need more of that, and we don’t have enough right now.”

It remains to be seen what, or who, Julien is referring to when he mentioned personnel during his postgame comments, but it’s clear he's well aware the effort hasn’t been consistently good enough over the last two months.
 
The Bruins have dropped to third in the Atlantic Division, with the Maple Leafs just a point behind them while holding a whopping six games in hand. Even struggling teams like the Panthers, Lightning and Hurricanes have caught up to the B’s in the playoff race, while holding games in hand.

The B’s are in big, big trouble at this point in the season, and it doesn’t get any easier with games against an improving Red Wings club and the dominant Penguins prior to a much-needed break recess for the All-Star break.