By Matthew Cunha,
Since 2008, the Boston Bruins are a less than stellar 4-5 in game 7’s (3-4 on home ice) in the Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara and David Krejci era. Eliminate the cup run in 2011 and you’re left with just 1-5 (1-4 on home ice). That one game was a miraculous choke job by the same team they will host for their 10th game seven of the era, tonight at The Garden.
Those three guys are the three biggest constants on a Bruins team that has choked time and time again except for that one Stanley Cup run. They are the guys with the letters on their jerseys. They are the guys who have been here. If the Bruins lose tonight and choke away a 3-1 lead, Bergeron, Chara and Krejci’s legacies will take one huge blow.
It sounds crazy, but takeaway some unreal moments in 2011, and a crazy comeback in 2013, and we would be looking at the playoff choke masters.
In 2009 the 1-seeded Bruins lost a game seven on home ice to the 6-seeded Carolina Hurricanes in the second round. In 2010 the Bruins blew a 3-0 lead to the Flyers. In 2012 they lost another home game seven to the 7-seeded Washington Capitals. In the Cup Final in 2013, the Bruins allowed two goals in the final minute within 17 seconds on home ice to watch the Blackhawks hoist the trophy on the TD Garden ice. In 2014, the President Trophy winning Bruins lost another game seven on home ice in the second round to the 4-seeded Montreal Canadiens. In 2015 and 2016 the Bruins lost their last three games of the regular season and went 3-8-1 down the stretch to skate themselves out of contention.
Let’s not forget in 2011 they trailed Montreal 2-0 after losing their first two games on home ice. It took 3 overtime goals and some out of this world saves by Tim Thomas to escape that one.
In 2013 it took 3 goals and an OT goal to escape losing a 3-1 lead and a first round exit.
The Bruins veterans have no excuses. For a lot of those collapses, former coach, Claude Julien, former GM Peter Chiarelli, and injuries took a large share of the blame. Claude’s gone, Chiarelli’s gone, and the Bruins are at full strength. Bruce Cassidy proved himself during the season. Don Sweeney has surrounded these guys with all the youthful talent ever needed. In this situation, it is all on the players and the guys on the ice.
Bergeron is surrounded by two elite goal scorers in Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. David Krejci is surrounded by the youth of Jake DeBrusk, who has notched three goals this series. Sweeney even went out a got him a power forward to put next to him in Rick Nash. Chara is paired with the next franchise defenseman in Charlie McAvoy. The four other capable defensemen helped them combine to rank fourth in goals against this season. The goalie did choke away game five, but stole you game four.
This season, the Bruins had a chance to avoid playing the Maple Leafs, as they did in 2013, but they choked that away too with a 1-3-1 end to the season. Even with the tough end of the season, all they had to do was win their final game of the season versus the eliminated Florida Panthers and they came out flat. That was once again the problem in game five vs. Toronto, with a chance to slam the door shut on the series in front of the home fans.
Any Bruins fan must be on pins and needles approaching game seven. For all the great moments this season, for all the youthful talent, for the great job Cassidy did, losing another home game seven and a 3-1 series lead vanishes the progress. All of it. You must go back to the drawing board despite the accomplishments of Cassidy and Sweeney this season.
For Bergeron, Chara, and Krejci, legacies are on the line. Are they the one-hit wonders who won their one cup thanks to a hot goalie and choked every other time? Or are they a bonafide group of winning veterans capable of bringing a 2nd cup to Boston this decade? I will have your answer on Wednesday night.
P.S.- I picked Boston in seven.
Matthew Cunha is a producer of The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.