BOSTON (CBS) — I just keep coming back to the fact that the Bruins lost to the Maple Leafs.
They lost. It was over. The season was over. The future of every part of the entire franchise was in question. A summer of boring, overly dramatic story lines was upon us in the second week of May. The Stanley Cup win in 2011 was an aberration. Claude and Chiarelli? Perhaps done in Boston, who really knows? The core of players, perhaps in need of a mix-up, I don’t know.
All I knew was that the Bruins had lost Game 7, and the season was over.
Of course, you know what happened in the final 11 minutes of regulation and six minutes of overtime in Game 7. The three-goal comeback and OT winner by Patrice Bergeron revived a team that had been pronounced clinically dead and turned them into the best team in hockey.
Now, that team will be playing for a Stanley Cup. That sure beats listening to offseason nonsense and rumors.
How the Bruins got there has been pretty spectacular, and it continued in Game 4 against the Penguins, so let’s run through some leftover thoughts, shall we?
–Claude Julien gets it. He said last week, after the Bruins eliminated the Rangers in five games, that he knows “what Boston is all about,” that it’s a demanding place that wants championships and it’s a place where the coach is always going to be criticized.
Claude was asked about those criticisms after Friday night’s win.
“I’ve been here for six years; I think I’ve been fired five times,” Julien said with a laugh.
Clearly, he doesn’t sweat the rumors of his job status being in jeopardy, and clearly, he is a good coach. A very good coach. If you don’t believe me, here is a complete list of head coaches who have led the Bruins to multiple Cup Finals in their 88-year history: Don Cherry, Milt Schmidt, Art Ross, Claude Julien. And if Claude wins two? He’ll be alone on that list.
And I say Claude gets it because his comment from after that Game 5 victory over the Rangers tells me that he does.
“But I know for a fact that when you win around here you can’t ask for a better place,” he said. “I’d rather be in a city that’s demanding and loves their team and their sports than being somewhere where nobody cares. I’m willing to live with that.”
After this playoff run, he’ll likely get to live with that a lot longer.
–Predictions are stupid. The fact that mine are always wrong might play a factor in my feeling that way. What’s funny is that when I looked at the other seven playoff teams, the only one I thought the Bruins could handle were the Maple Leafs. You know, the Maple Leafs that pushed the Bruins to the brink before the B’s rattled off eight wins in nine games agaisnt the Rangers and Penguins.
Before the playoffs began, I picked the Blackhawks to win the Cup, for the record.
–The Bruins’ 2011 Stanley Cup run had Michael Ryder’s glove save, and now the 2013 playoff run has one from Zdeno Chara.
Chara could not have possibly known exactly when Evgeni Malkin was going to shoot the puck, but somehow, as he was lying on his stomach spinning around in front of an open net, Chara timed it perfectly. He reached out with his left hand and blocked Malkin’s shot, which was headed for an open net after Tuukka Rask had sprawled out on his stomach. It kept the puck out of the net, and seconds later, the Bruins were conference champions.
Afterward, Malkin very quietly talked to reporters in a near-silent locker room. Once the scrum disbanded, Malkin sat there at his stall, staring into space, thinking about that empty net that was staring him in the face before that black glove came out of nowhere to take away his goal. I felt bad for him. I should have slipped him Tomas Plekanec’s business card, so perhaps they could have started a support group.
–There was also this one time that Chara got all James Neal.
–If you read a series preview before this one began, you undoubtedly read this or some variation of this: “The biggest key for the Bruins will be staying out of the penalty box, because that Penguins power play is just too dangerous.”
Yeah, well, uhh … no.
The warnings were fair, because the Penguins’ power play had a 30 percent success rate heading in, but they honored National Donut Day on Friday by finishing with a big fat 0 percent success rate against Boston: 0-for-4 in Game 1, 0-for-2 in Game 2, 0-for-6 in Game 3 and 0-for-3 in Game 4. Donut, donut, donut, donut.
The Bruins deserve credit for doing a good job, but I think more it should be chalked up to the fact that sports are weird.
–The reason the Bruins just about lost to the Maple Leafs was because, I think, they looked past their opponent. Once they realized they were a superior team and that they couldn’t coast to victory, they woke up, and they did enough to win. One reason the Penguins are now in summer mode is because, I think, they looked past the Bruins.
Getting Sidney Crosby to give credit to the Bruins all series long was like pulling teeth, and the Penguins by and large attributed all their struggles to their own errors rather than anything the Bruins were doing. Obviously, teams need to be self-critical in order to get better, but at a certain point, refusing to admit that the team across from them was just as good as they were ended up killing the Penguins.
–Leave it to Jarome Iginla, the classiest man in the game, to be the one to say the right thing: “We tip our hat to the Bruins, they’re playing great hockey. They’re playing tight and they also are opportunistic, and they play hard. They played well. They had a very good series, and they won the close games. Besides Game 2, that was totally their game, and the other games, they found a way, in the first one, to weather our shots, our chances, and they kept it out of their net and they found a way to win.”
See, Penguins? It’s not so hard.
–Wouldn’t it be a twist and a half if the Bruins pursue Iginla in free agency this offseason? It’ll never happen if Iginla wants to keep that $7 million salary, but hey, I’m talking twists here! Bear with me.
–Jaromir Jagr spoke with the media for a very long time after the win, and he was tremendous. NHL Network even played about five minutes of it uninterrupted. He should get his own talk show. I’d watch. You’d watch. Just Joshin’ With Jagr. We’d totally watch.
–At one point during the game, the TD Garden video board showed John Krasinski and Emily Blunt. People cheered, because hey, it’s Jim from The Office, but it kind of felt out of place at a Bruins game. If they’re going to throw celebrities up on the big board, let’s go crazy and fly in Lady Gaga or something for the finals. Because it’s the Cup.
–Your daily update on Tuukka Rask in 2013 vs. Tim Thomas in 2011, now through 16 games.
Rask: 12-4 record, .943 save percentage, 1.75 GAA
Thomas: 11-5 record, .931 save percentage, 2.27 GAA
The Penguins, by the way, led the NHL in goals this season. They scored two goals in nearly 14 full periods in this series.
–This was Rask’s series. This may be Rask’s team. So it was very appropriate that in the final seconds that Rask was calmly making a glove save as a shot from Iginla made its way from the high slot, headed right to the top corner of the net. It was Rask’s exclamation point on a statement that was loud and clear.