Two down, two to go

Two down, two to go
May 21, 2013, 1:15 pm
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The Bruins take the ice tonight at MSG with a 2-0 series lead on the Rangers, and as you might imagine, this puts Boston in pretty good shape to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

According to NHL.com, 295 teams have previously jumped out to a 2-0 lead, and of those, only 39 (or 13.2 percent) have failed to finish the job. In other words, the success rate for teams in Boston’s position (86.8 percent) is only slightly less than Larry Bird’s career success rate from the foul line (88.5 percent). I like those odds. You like those odds. But naturally, right now those odds are about as meaningful as a promise from Lance Armstrong.

More pressing, is the memory of 2004 and 2010; the fact while only 10 teams in the last decade have crawled out of an 0-2 hole, two of them have done so against the Bruins. Also, that another one of those teams is the Rangers, THESE Rangers, who pulled off the feat a mere week ago against the Capitals. Not to mention, that while 86.8 is an impressive winning percentage, it’s got nothing on 92.3. That’s the success rate of teams who go up 3-1 in an NHL playoff series, and it took a legitimate miracle for the Bruins to avoid that failure in the first round.

But for all the finger wagging and cautionary tales of how the Bruins have yet to REALLY accomplish anything and how a series doesn’t REALLY start until a home team loses a game, let’s not sell this 2-0 lead short. On paper, it’s only half the battle, but within those two wins, the Bruins have laid the blueprint for success. They’ve grown, both collectively and as individuals. At the very least, you know the Rangers would switch places with them in a second. At the very, very least, the Bruins are a better team right now than they were at the moment Patrice Bergeron’s series-winner snuck through against the Toronto, and at this point — much like with their 2-0 lead — there’s not much more you can ask for.

There was the resilience in coping with the emotional free-fall of going from a heart-stopping Game 7 comeback to hitting the reset button for Game 1 against the Rangers. When the B’s gave up two goals over 16 seconds, and went down 2-1 in the third period of Game 1, they appeared dead, if only for that afternoon. But they bounced back, once again in dramatic fashion, and built off that emotion to straight dominate the Rangers in Game 2. Within those two games, their young(ish) relatively unproven goalie outdueled the game’s best on the biggest stage. Their very young defensemen, Torey Krug, stepped up with the first two goals of his career and went from an anonymous rookie to a guy who you’re somehow counting on as a playoff X Factor. Brad Marchand’s two goals weren’t the first of his career, but after his no show against Toronto, it felt like it. Either way, he’s back in the swing. Him and Bergeron are clicking, and if they’d only share whatever they’re smoking with Tyler Seguin, then the B’s would really be in business.

I don’t have to keep reminding you that “this series isn’t over” because no one truly believes otherwise. Not the Bruins, not the Rangers, not anyone with an ounce of life or sports experience will rule out the possibility of New York winning four of the next five games and leaving the Bruins and all of Boston with that same horrendous feeling we had with about 10 minutes left against the Leafs. I’m just saying, that in the midst of constantly cautioning against the worst case scenario, let’s not lose a grip on reality. Which is that 2-0 is real. It’s well-earned and 100 percent deserved. The Bruins were the better team in the regular season. They’ve proved themselves to be the better team so far in these playoffs. And they’ve got two wins to go before removing any doubt.

We know how circumstances change with location. We’re aware of the possibility of Tuukka and King Henrik switching roles. We know that it might only take a taste of the home ice for the Rangers’ version of Torey Krug or Matt Bartkowski to reveal themselves, while the real Krug and Bartkowski are rendered numb by their surroundings. We’ve been through this before, with the Bruins, the Celtics, the Sox and the Pats. This is sports. It’s almost predictable in it’s unpredictability.

But at some point, it’s OK to believe. We could all hop in a time machine right now, fly back to 1985, hand Larry Bird a basketball at the foul line and freak out over all the different reasons why he might miss. We could travel back to that 2004 series against the Canadiens or 2010 against the Flyers or even two weeks ago against the Leafs. And you better believe that Claude Julien and every veteran on this team will make sure that all three of those series are fresh on everyone’s mind. But there’s a difference between brash cockiness and quiet confidence. Likewise, there’s a difference between playing in fear of the worst case scenario and playing with knowledge that if you don’t take care of business, that the worst-case scenario is still in the cards.

And as long as the Bruins keep their mindset in the latter, this 2-0 lead will be the start of something great, instead of a recipe for disaster.