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Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Boston Bruins wrote the book on heartbreaking losses

I honestly don't know how many ways I can express the same thought I've had and written down numerous times in the last few years: the Boston Bruins find new and different ways to lose games (and series). It's just what they do. The higher the stakes, the bigger the tragically epic failure.

So while last night's 3-2 overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals was heartbreaking, I can't say it was surprising. At all. If anything, you almost have to step back and appreciate the carnage since there's nothing like a Bruins flop (ever since the Red Sox got their shit together in 2004) to get the blood boiling in this day and age.

After giving up the winning goal with 18.5 seconds in Game 1, the B's outdid themselves by blowing a 2-1 lead, hanging on for overtime but then losing in 11 seconds (the second fastest goal in playoff overtime history).

Much like the B's always remind you of their inadequacies, the NHL always seems to rear its ugly, deformed head at the worst times. Canucks forward Alex Burrows bit Patrice Bergeron in Game 1 but the NHL didn't suspend him or even fine him. Would you believe that he was Vancouver's best player last night, scoring two goals and having an assist?

So yeah, seeing that lowlife be the one to get the winning goal, putting Vancouver two wins away from its first Stanley Cup in its forty year history is about as painful an ending as any Hollywood hack could concoct for Game 2.

Handing out the blame pie for the OT goal is hard to do. Andrew Ference (who for some reason was out there to start overtime) started off the terrible play by putting the puck off the boards, right to Vancouver. Tim Thomas (30 saves) was the bigger goat though as the came flying way out of control and not only took himself but Zdeno Chara out of position too as Burrows faked a shot, whipped around the net and stuffed it in. When you blame Thomas though, you also must realize that Boston wouldn't be anywhere near the Stanley Cup finals without him. He's the best goaltender in the world right now but like Bill Belichick or anyone else, just because he's great doesn't make him bulletproof when it comes to criticism.

This was a game that the Bruins had to win. They sleepwalked through the first period with Burrows scoring a weak power-play goal (his eighth goal of the playoffs) from Chris Higgins and Sami Salo at 12:12. The shot appeared to handcuff Thomas as it squirted through his body and over the goal-line.

Boston responded with its best period of the first two games in the second. Its two most invisible forwards stepped up: Milan Lucic and Mark Recchi. Lucic tied it at one with his fourth goal of the playoffs at 9:00 from Johnny Boychuk and David Krejci. It was a simple play as Lucic went to the net (what a concept!) and was able to put in the rebound past Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo (28 saves).

A Mark Recchi power-play goal was one of the most unlikely scenarios (he hadn't scored one since January, really) entering the game but there he was, getting it done at 11:35 (his third of the playoffs). He tipped in a wrist shot by Chara, Patrice Bergeron also assisted. The goal still doesn't justify Claude Julien sticking with him for all this time when he hasn't shown a pulse on the power-play but I digress.

Vancouver predictably came out on fire in the third period since they realized the importance of the game for their side. Thomas held the fort for a while but it was only a matter of time before the Canucks tied it up. Daniel Sedin came out of witness protection to score his ninth of the playoffs at 9:37 after a sweet feed from Burrows. Alex Edler had the second assist.

I was at a bar for the game and I can admit that I had barely settled in for overtime before it was over (I'm sure most people had the same reaction). It was over before it began and the craziest part was that Boston actually won the opening face-off!

Game 3 is tomorrow night at TD Garden and needless to say, it's a must-win for the B's. Lose and they'll be swept, no question. Win and they can make this somewhat interesting. They've proven through the first two games that they can play with Vancouver. The problem is that the Canucks have stepped up when they needed to while the Bruins have choked badly in two huge spots.


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