The Boston Bruins throttled the Florida Panthers on Sunday afternoon at TD Garden in downtown Boston. Yawn.
Not that it was boring, quite the contrary in fact. But the Bruins are supposedto do that, beat teams like the Panthers – and like tonight’s opponent, the Broad Street Bullies. But for the second half of this abbreviated season, that hasn’t always been the way things have worked out.
Every team has “Those” games – the ones where it just isn’t there, can’t get in sync, the flow of the game never coming, and Boston has had a few, but the majority of their moments have been due to a protracted case of sleepwalking resulting in sloppy passing and loss of focus…
…and tonight was one of those nights. The Bruins skated into Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center with a razor thin lead in the Northeast Division over the hated Montreal Canadiens, but after the Flyers opened up a 5-2 can of buttwhoopin’ on them, Boston limped out the way they came in, with yet another loss and a rash of fresh teeth marks.
Look, the Boston Bruins are one of the most talented teams in the National Hockey League. There is no subjectivity, no ambiguity. They know it, their fans know it and their opponents know it – and the only thing that could possibly bring the big, bad Bruins down is if they did it to themselves.
And they do it to themselves a lot – enough in fact that it’s mind-boggling that their 3-0 win over the Panthers on Sunday gave them sole possession of first place in the Northeast Division and, subsequently, the second seed in the Eastern Conference over the team that started this whole sleepwalking through games thing for the Bruins in the first place…
…Boston Bruins fans can look back at their team’s 4-3 loss to the Canadiens way back at the beginning of March and know that the words that spouted out of Claude Julien’s mouth about the Canadiens cheating were the impetus to to their pedestrian second half.
On the night of March 3rd, the Bruins were locked in a superb battle the Canadiens, stomping on them like a rival should, when the wheels fell off five and a half minutes into the final frame and Montreal rallied from down 3-2 to take the contest, helped in large part by 17 minutes worth of Sin Bin for Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara…
…who had some choice words – and fists – for the Habs on the ice, but left it there. Julien had no outlet. It’s not as if he could go pull a Happy Gilmore and beat the snot out of their coaching staff to soothe the savage loss, so he accused the Canadiens of “Embellishment” – a playground tactic of tattling on the bully that just took your milk money.
A move that was met by laughter and jeers from the fans all the way up to the commissioner’s office, and one that caused the Bruins to lose focus on the prize and put it squarely on their next meeting with Montreal…which they lost in a similar fashion, and so on and so on.
So with both Boston and Montreal in tailspins, both lost on Tuesday evening – The Habs getting taken to the mat by the Devils and the Bruins spanked by the Flyers for their sixth loss in the last seven games, and the Bruins inconceivable and tenuous grip on the division lead remains, but by the thinnest of margins.
Scott Hartnell scored on Anton Khudobin just 1:40 into the game, but Boston came back 3 minutes later to tie the game on Wade Redden’s third goal of the season – and it remained that way until 11:24 of the 2nd frame, when Matt Read netted the tie breaker, then Oliver Lauridsen scored the game winner just seven seconds later.
Needless to say, Khudobin didn’t have his best game in net, stopping just 14 of 17 shots he faced before being lifted for Rask after allowing the two goals in seven seconds. Flyers’ netminder Steve Mason was solid in the crease, stopping 39 of 41 Bruins opportunities.
The race for the Northeast Division title and the second overall seed is going to come down to the last week of the season, and one thing is for sure: either the Canadiens or Bruins is going to win it, whether they want to or not.