OK to melt the ice at the New Garden before Thursday night’s Barry Gibb show. Perhaps the surviving Bee Gee can dedicate “Tragedy” or “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?” to the 2013-14 Bruins.
The Bruins dissolved in front of our eyes in Game 7 Wednesday night. They were dominated by the Montreal Canadiens, 3-1.
This one goes into the Boston Professional Sports Hall of Pain, right there with Ken Dryden stuffing the Bruins in 1971 and too many men on the ice in 1979. It goes in there alongside some of the Red Sox collapses of the last century.
Way back in 1978, when the BoSox were folding against the dreaded Yankees, Sox shortstop Rick Burleson said, “The abuse we have taken, and the abuse we must be prepared to take for the entire winter, we richly deserve.’’
Here’s what the Bruins had to say for themselves after Wednesday’s shocking loss.
Milan Lucic (zero shots on net in Game 7): “We let our fans down. We had a great opportunity with a team like this and it’s a tough one to swallow.’’
Brad Marchand (zero goals in the playoffs): “Maybe it was lack of focus or I didn’t bear down.’’
David Krejci (zero goals in playoffs): “I didn’t do my job in the playoffs.’’
Bingo. The 2013-14 Bruins were supposed to be the best team in hockey. That’s what the Hockey Krishnas kept telling us. This team won the Presidents’ Trophy for amassing the most points in the NHL. They have candidates for all the big awards. They toyed with a nice Detroit team in the first round, then took a 3-2 series lead against the Canadiens, routing the Habs on Garden ice in Game 5.
Things were going so great that Bruins veteran Shawn Thornton decided it would be a good idea to bait and humiliate the Canadiens. He squirted water into the face shield of Montreal leader P.K. Subban late in the third period of the feel-good rout. Big joke. The Bruins shortsheeted the Habs’ beds.
“I don’t think we disrespected them,’’ coach Claude Julien said. “We don’t like each other. Everything we did seemed like disrespect in Montreal. That’s gamesmanship. It’s too bad it gets blown out of proportion.’’
Who’s laughing now? The Canadiens annihilated the Bruins in Game 6, 4-0. Then came Game 7.
After six games of bad “puck luck” (had enough of that one yet?), we all figured the real Bruins would stand up Wednesday night. The Bruins’ first line would be back on track and captain Zdeno Chara would swat the pesky Habs back to Quebec.
Au contraire. In a season-defining moment, the Bruins came out with nothing in the first period of Game 7.
They were Zero. They were Coke Zero. They were Zero Mostel. They were Zero Dark Thirty. It was shocking, out of character, and totally unexpected. It will go down as one of the worst moments in franchise history.
Rene Rancourt held up his end, giving us four fist pumps after two anthems. Unfortunately, none of Rancourt’s zeal or urgency appeared on the ice in the first 20 minutes. The period was easily Boston’s worst 20-minute segment in these playoffs. The Bruins had nothing and were tagged with three penalties, including two holding calls on Chara. The Bruins turned the puck over seven times in the period. And, of course, they surrendered the all-important first goal.
The team that scored the first goal won every game of the series. Going into Wednesday night’s action, the team that scored first won 22 of 23 second-round games. So, it was no small issue when the Habs scored first.
Montreal broke through in the third minute when Dale Weise steered home a centering pass from Daniel Briere. Baby Boomers call this a table hockey goal: You twirl the knob with your left hand, fire the puck across the middle, and shoot your center straight toward the goal mouth. Bang. Goal. It’s been the standard table hockey score in dormitory lounges for more than 50 years.
The Bruins played better in the second, but still struggled. The Garden got very quiet in the middle of the period when Max Pacioretty fired a puck past Tuukka Rask to make it 2-0. That gave the Canadiens seven consecutive goals in the series. It was beginning to feel like summer on Causeway Street.
Just when we were beginning to think that Carey Price was Dryden, the Bruins broke the ice and brought the Garden back to life when Jarome Iginla tipped home a Torey Krug blast to cut Montreal’s lead to 2-1. The score interrupted a string of 103 scoreless minutes for the Bruins. There were eight penalties in the first two periods, five against the Bruins.
The officials kept the whistles in their pockets for almost all of the final period. Almost. With 4:31 left, as the Bruins were desperately trying to tie the game, Johnny Boychuk was sent off for flattening Michael Bournival at center ice. In the words of Bill Belichick, “Not what we were looking for.’’
With the penalty almost exhausted, Briere skated in on Rask and flipped the puck toward the net. The only thing standing between Briere and Rask was the captain of the Bruins. Normally, this would be a good situation, but there was nothing normal about this series. The Bruins’ best players were invisible, or worse. So naturally, Briere’s shot deflected off Chara’s skate and into the back of the net.
It was 3-1 with 2:53 remaining.