For Boston Bruins fans, watching this team take the ice night in and night out has been special. The 2017-18 season has been a wild one for the B’s, but they’ve made it very memorable for their ever-faithful following. They’ve established their reputation as comeback masters, battling back from countless third period deficits to win games all season long.
Right now, they are among the hottest teams in the NHL, winning 11 of 16 games in the month of March and sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings with the playoffs right around the corner. Hockey might be the most unpredictable sport when it comes to postseason success; essentially, any team can win once they’ve punched their ticket to the dance. All it takes is for one team to heat up at the exact right time and catch a couple of fortunate bounces and breaks.
Well, I’ll tell you one thing. If there is a team that seems more destined for the 2018 Stanley Cup Final than the Boston Bruins, at least in the Eastern Conference, I would like to see it. Even though the B’s suffered an overtime loss in an early Sunday matinee in Philadelphia, they worked their late-game magic once again to force the game to overtime, earning a point on the Tampa Bay Lightning, who were trailing them by only a single point in the standings.
This never-ending resiliency is exactly why the Bruins seem destined to make it to the Stanley Cup Final.
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I’ve watched just about every game the Bruins have played this year. I’ve seen all kinds of comebacks. For the fans, nothing was more enjoyable than when they came back to defeat the Dallas Stars about a week and a half ago. Boston went into the third period trailing 2-0, then unloaded for three goals in the third, with the go-ahead goal coming with just 12 seconds remaining in regulation – winning the game 3-2 and putting the dagger to the Stars’ playoff hopes.
It’s been the entire story of the 2017-18 season for the Bruins. Well, that and all the injuries, but that’s a story for another day. Because fans have seen so many comebacks this year, you would think that when Patrice Bergeron scored a game-tying goal against the Flyers on Sunday with 3.8 seconds remaining in regulation – yeah, you read that correctly, 3.8 seconds – it wouldn’t even make them flinch at this point.
But this one stunned even me. Boston pulled goalie Anton Khudobin for an extra attacker, which is obviously something that teams do all the time if they are trailing by just one goal and time is running out. But pulling your goalie is like onside kicking in football, or fouling in basketball and just hoping the other team misses their free throws. It rarely actually works out the way you want it to, but at that point in the game, you’re about to lose regardless and it provides you with your only possible sliver of hope.
There have only been a handful of times when I’ve seen pulling the goalie actually work out. But as the seconds wound down in the third period and there was just a cluster of players fighting for the puck in Philly’s defensive zone, the puck took a very fortunate bounce right to Bergeron’s stick, and he fired it past Flyers goalie Petr Mrazek for the goal. I think Mrazek lost sight of the puck for just a second or two and it happened at just the right time for Bergeron to get the feed and take the shot.
Those are exactly the kind of fortunate bounces you need in the playoffs, and that’s why hockey is an incredible and unpredictable game.
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This is exactly why a berth in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final seems like destiny for the Bruins. Even though Khudobin gave up the game-winner in overtime, the biggest story of the game had already been written, and that’s that the Bruins had tied the game in the final seconds of the regulation.
Why were they able to do that? Because the Bruins execute in crunch time better than any team in the NHL, and they’ve proved that all year long. The team that plays better in the third period usually beats the team that plays better in the first period. In the playoffs, it gets amplified. There’s even less room for error. The teams that excel in crunch time are the teams that are going to make a run deep into the summer.
The Bruins have absolutely owned crunch time this season, and that’s why they are the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference and one of the top teams in the entire league. In the playoffs, their resiliency is going to carry them a very long way – maybe even right to the Stanley Cup Final.
It just seems like destiny.
Cody Rivera is a sports writer covering the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers, as well as a contributor to SB Nation’s PatsPulpit.com. In addition to the Bruins, Cody is also a devoted fan of the Boston Celtics, Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots. Send Cody an email at firstname.lastname@example.org