History may be lacking, but drama awaits with Bruins-Blue Jackets
On a scale of Game 7 wins, the Bruins’ 5-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs Tuesday night at TD Garden registers closer to the “simply satisfying” end of the range than it does the “Triple Bergeron” status.
The Triple Bergeron is the state of sports euphoria that engulfed Bruins fans during a previous Game 7 victory this decade, one that also left the Leafs — who have not won a Stanley Cup since 1967 — piled in their annual heap of devastation.
In a Game 7 six postseasons ago, the Bruins overcame a 4-1 deficit midway through the third period, eventually defeating the Leafs on Patrice Bergeron’s overtime winner.
That goal instantly inspired then-Bruins radio voice Dave Goucher to deliver an elated victory cry that belongs in the boxed set of the best Boston big-moment calls we’ll ever hear:
“Bergeron! Bergeron! Bergeron!”
The comeback, the goal, and the call became timeless in real time, as they happened.
Maybe hearing it still gives you a chill. It should.
This Bruins-Leafs series was not so much reminiscent of that classic as it was similar to the Bruins’ seven-game victory over the Leafs last season, when Boston won the clincher by three goals (7-4).
(Say this: It’ll never match the tradition and history of the Marathon and a daytime Red Sox game on Patriots Day, but beating the Leafs in the playoffs sure has become a welcome rite of springtime around here.)
The four-goal margin Tuesday was a bit misleading. The Bruins scored a pair of empty-net goals after Sean Kuraly gave them a 3-1 lead 2:40 into the third period.
The Bruins’ earlier goals, which staked them to a 2-0 lead in the first period, came from Joakim Nordstrom and Marcus Johansson.
Nordstrom! Johansson! Kuraly!
OK, so it might not sing like the ol’ Triple Bergeron, and no one in that trio was among the most likely Bruins to show up wearing Superman’s cape over his sweater.
But along with a stellar performance from goalie Tuukka Rask (32 saves Tuesday, .937 save percentage in the series), it was a satisfying way to prevail.
“I think we’ve been there before,’’ said Bergeron. “A lot of us, we rely on our experience, and we try to share that with the younger guys. It’s a great character win for us against a really good team.
“And now it’s about the next game. You’ve got to enjoy this, but then it starts pretty quickly to be ready for [Game 1] Thursday.”
That’s a small window for the Bruins to shift from the familiar Leafs to a playoff series against the rivaled and storied . . . Blue Jackets? All right, so next on the billing isn’t an Original Six matchup but rather a Current 31 showdown.
(It should be noted that the Leafs’ loss left the postseason without a single remaining Canadian team, meaning, for the 26th straight season, the Cup will stay stateside.)
For those among us who still have a Terry O’Reilly sweater in the closet somewhere, it might be easy to lament the lack of a traditional rival in the next round. But the Blue Jackets cannot be overlooked. Their historical register may be lacking — they were founded in 2000 — but their most recent accomplishment is staggering.
In the first round, the Blue Jackets didn’t just eliminate the Tampa Bay Lightning, who tied a league record with 62 victories this season, they eviscerated and eliminated them in four straight games, and they did it after falling behind, 3-0, in the opener.
The Blue Jackets lack collective postseason experience; ex-Bruins Adam McQuaid and Riley Nash are among just five players who have seen postseason action past the first round. The team had won just five playoff games in its history before wiping out the Lightning. But the Blue Jackets are rested — they last played last Tuesday — and Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy fully expects them to be ready.
“A long time ago it seems like, huh?’’ said Cassidy about the Blue Jackets’ recent hiatus. “My initial thought is that they beat a very good team, because I thought Tampa was lights-out.
“We’re going to enjoy this one tonight, but [Wednesday] we’ll be back in here trying to break them down.”
Cassidy noted that the Blue Jackets are relatively familiar foes, having played Boston three times over the season’s final 13 games, with the Bruins winning twice.
“That should help with our preparation,’’ said Cassidy. “We know they were physical against Tampa, they came after them. So we’ve got our hands full.”
The Blue Jackets recently drew 5,000 fans at a scrimmage. Kuraly, a Columbus native, said some of the Bruins watched the Blue Jackets take apart the Lightning and know they are a team that must be respected.
“We got to watch a lot of their series because it was on other days from ours,’’ he said. “Obviously, they’re playing really well, probably one of the hottest teams in the league right now after taking down Tampa. It’s a heck of an atmosphere there.”
The Bruins know they must give the Blue Jackets their due.
“Listen, we’re looking forward to it,’’ said Cassidy. “It will be a good matchup for us. I think the teams are similarly built. So it should be a good series.”
But for those of us on the outside, it’s hard to resist the notion that the path to the Stanley Cup Final is much clearer than the Bruins might have expected.
The Lightning are vanquished. The defending Cup champion Capitals found themselves in a Game 7 Wednesday night against the Hurricanes. The Penguins were swept by the Islanders. The Canadiens are doing whatever the Canadiens do when the playoffs proceed without their participation, which probably includes crying in their Labatt’s.
Should the Capitals lose Wednesday, only two of the six Eastern Conference teams to collect 100 points in the regular season would remain: the Islanders and Bruins.
The Bruins have sent the Leafs off to another summer of lingering laments. It’s time to discover Columbus.
One tradition continues, and maybe a new one begins.