By Mike Miccoli, Boston Bruins correspondent
It’s been done only twice before, they said. Just two teams have ever won a series after falling behind 3-0 in the NHL playoffs.
Actually, make that three.
The Philadelphia Flyers defied all odds by beating the Boston Bruins in seven games after starting the series 0-3, becoming only the third team in NHL’s history to do so. To make matters worse, the B’s held the same lead in game 7 but that was quickly squandered after an undisciplined too many men on the ice penalty helped the Flyers put the game-winning tally on the board. While the postseason seemed to have breathed new life into the Bruins, the same problems and issues that the team suffered all season long caught up with them in the end.
The Bruins won’t be remembered for upsetting the Sabres in the first round nor for their inspired play through the first three games against the Flyers. Instead, until Boston wins a Stanley Cup or another team pulls off this horrible feat, the Bruins will be associated with being the latest NHL team to choke (epically) in the playoffs. This is what we get to hear about all throughout the offseason and whenever the Bruins next hold a comfortable lead in a playoffs series. Being up three games? That’s just not enough anymore.
I didn’t watch all of game 7 because part of me knew how it was going to play out. As soon as the Bruins went up 3-0 late in the first period, I still didn’t feel great. It’s not enough, I thought, they still needed one more to really bury the Flyers. When the Flyers rallied back to tie the game, just as they did the series, I figured that the game wouldn’t end well. One bad shift change later and suddenly Simon Gagne puts one past Tuukka Rask to seal the game and the series; just as he did to prolong the series between the two teams with his game 4, overtime winner.
And that was it. The seventh-seed Flyers clinch home-ice advantage against the eighth-seed Montreal Canadiens in a series Bruins fans will be hard-pressed to watch. The winner’s prize is a chance to play for the Stanley Cup. Seems almost too close, doesn’t it? The Bruins were just a goal away to having that same chance offered in game 4. Three consecutive games pass and the B’s pack up their hockey bags around the same time as they did last season.
I know that I keep getting caught up in the whole this season versus last season paradox but I’m really curious as to which Boston team had it worse. During the regular season, the 2008-2009 Bruins excelled and became a quick favorite to win the Cup. The 2009-2010 Bruins were lucky to even make an appearance in the postseason, let alone come this far. Still, both teams exit in the same spot: game 7 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals. Last season’s heartbreaker was the overtime loss against the Carolina Hurricanes. This season, the three-game deficit. You tell me which is more disappointing: having a great team go down early in the playoffs or having a mediocre team show promise early on only to suffer an epic fall.
It’s almost better to not know than to know at all.
I’ve been avoiding the local sports radio stations and websites all Friday night and probably will into the next week. I don’t need to hear the repetitiveness about what went wrong, or what the Bruins could have done differently because I already know. Truth is, if you have been following this team from the beginning of the season, you probably do too. But when a team is on a stage as big as the one the Bruins were on Friday night, everything gets amplified–times ten, at least.
The part that upsets me the most? History WAS made.
The NHL is responsible for these clever commercials depicting big, key moments from playoffs past and then rewinding the scene and asking a rhetorical question at the end. What if Roy played like a rookie? What if Miro was never given a second chance? What if Bobby didn’t fly? You get it.
Now, I enjoy these thoroughly but it’s painful to say that the NHL’s whole marketing scheme was a success. History was made: the Flyers ousted the Bruins after being in a three-game hole. I’ll probably skip that one once it hits YouTube.
Fans have every right to be upset too. The Bruins grew comfortable with their series lead much like how they started the season fully knowing what they could be capable of. Claude Julien said it best before the game: Safe is death. All of the “no pressure on game 7” talk was cheap. The same dialogues were almost recited before each game as far as pressure was concerned. Philadelphia sensed their weakness and capitalized on it for the rest of the series. That wasn’t their only plight.
Boston suffered from a lack of offense all season. You can’t tell me that adding that one forward who could provide a finish wouldn’t have helped the team advance past Philadelphia. Thank goodness for guys like Mark Recchi and Miroslav Satan who did wonders for the Bruins this postseason but that one x-factor was still missing. Some might place the blame on Marc Savard whom, after a successful game 1, disappeared in the postseason by not playing his best hockey. Factor in some injuries to key players and the lack of confidence from the blue line and there you go. It did seem like a quick four games.
The 2009-10 Bruins will be notorious from now on and that’s a shame–not because they don’t deserve it, but because at the end of the day, they weren’t a very great team at all. They were average and you need to be great in order to advance in the postseason. The Flyers, on the other hand, were great. Out of the seven games played, five were decided by one goal, with each team splitting the two “blow-out” games. This was always a closer series than expected, even closer than what it appeared to look like on paper.
The Bruins now have a long offseason ahead of them with many decisions to face. The good news? The B’s still hold the number two pick overall in the NHL Draft in addition to their own number 15. The Bruins’ season wasn’t successful (since there was no Cup) but it wasn’t a complete failure either. The Bruins trudged through challenges to make the postseason but were unable to shake off the odds when going up on the Flyers by three games.
These B’s taught me to never believe in a lead all season long, hammering that point home on Friday night.
Safe was death.
Follow Mike on Twitter here: twitter.com/mikemiccoli
Mike Miccoli covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers and has been a credentialed member of the media for all Bruins’ home games for the past five years. As a former player, coach and official, Miccoli has been around the game of hockey since the age of three. Along with his work on THW, Miccoli has also been published in the New England Hockey Journal, Improper Bostonian magazine and on BostInno.