Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bruins Find Another Gear (Return of the Curse? part 2)

After the "collapse" against the Habs the Bruins moved on to Pittsburgh. Late in the second period of that game I was struck by how similar it was to the Habs game, only this time the Bruins were the ones down by two. It wasn't just the score, but the way the game was playing out. It was another tight checking affair with relatively few good scoring opportunities. For a fleeting moment I wondered if this game would end the same way--with the Bruins the ones making the comeback victory. As quickly as the grin came with that thought it faded. After all, the Bruins have not shown much of an ability this season to turn up the heat, to find that extra gear, when they need it. But in the end this was exactly what they did.

Just as the Habs had done two nights before the Bruins got two late goals to tie the game. But this comeback was very different. The Habs had scored two fluky goals to tie and won it later in OT. But the Bruins victory over the Pens was much cleaner. The B's suddenly began to dominate the play, to really take it to them. A goal seemed likely, if not inevitable. When it came everyone knew the Pens were in deep trouble. People have claimed that the Bruins collapsed against the Habs. Maybe so, maybe not. It depends on how you look at it. The Pens game was much more clear: the B's took it to them and they wilted under the pressure. Of that there is no question.

So my confidence is thus restored in the Bruins. Some fans have been complaining a lot lately, calling for dumping players like Savard (give me a break) or for the coach to be let go (who would replace him?). To them I point to last season. It was in fact a lot worse than this. The Bruins have been inconsistent this year but they have shown us glimpses of greatness as they did last night. Last year we had none of that. All we had at this point last year was faith the Bruins could put it all together come the playoffs.

Now about last years playoffs: it's easy to forget everything except that embarrassing four-game collapse in the second round. But think back now to the games that came before that. The Bruins looked unstoppable. They could switch into that extra gear we saw last night at will and pretty much score any time they needed to. I see no reason to believe that same team isn't still there waiting to come to life again in the playoffs. We saw a peek of it last night. If they somehow manage to stay healthy this time around they could go far. With with a little luck--all the way.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Return of The Curse?

Near the end of the game against Montreal things got so boring I started writing this blog in my head. It was boring because the B's were leading by two and had the habs completely shut down. Here is what I had been working on:
Although not their best game of the year this was the Bruin's strongest and most consistent effort so far.
Soon afterward the habs scored two goals to tie the game and went on to win it in overtime. Many are claiming this was another monumental collapse and to a certain extent they are right. But look at the two goals that tied it up. They were both tough goals that the habs couldn't repeat if you gave them ten games to try. The first was a weak shot from the boards that went off a skate and then made a fluke jump over Tim Thomas' stick. The second was the result of two players sliding into Thomas. A skate just barely dislodged the puck from Thomas' leg and it dribbled in. All the while the Bruins were keeping play to the outside forcing low percentage shots just as they were supposed to. When they had the chance they took it to the other zone rather than just sitting back. It's difficult for me to fault them for their play, if not the result.

The overtime was a different story however. The crowd, who had been booing their team earlier on, was now fully pumped and loud. The momentum was all on the habs side. For the Bruins to pull off an OT win under these conditions would have been a major victory. It would have been one of those spunky "oh yeah?" "in-your-face" moments that great teams are made of. But they didn't. What worries me most about the character of this team this season is that they never do.

Ive said for a couple of years now that the players on this B's team don't always seem to get the rivalry with the habs, not in the same way that long time fans do. Maybe its the huge turnover in the faces suiting up in Montreal. Regardless, there have been too many lackluster efforts (like the previous game this season in Montreal) as if somehow the habs are just another team in their division. They should have big red circles on the schedule around every game with the habs knowing that the fans expect these to be the biggest games of the regular season. The hard truth is that historically the habs have owned the Bruins. What happened in this game has happened before too many times. It is the Bruins curse. It has happened in the playoffs. It has happened to great Bruins teams that should have won a cup but ran into the rouge et blanc on the way. Speaking for long time Bruins fans, we're all pretty sick of it. My only solace from this loss is the (weak) hope that the players will play the habs with a chip on their shoulder the rest of the season and perhaps into the playoffs.