Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Capitals End Bruins' Season With 2-1 OT Win In Game 7
Following the familiar pattern from the rest of the series, Game 7 turned out to be a one-goal game (for the seventh time, an NHL record) and it also went to overtime (for the fourth time). Unfortunately for the B's and their fans, the Caps ended their season with a 2-1 OT win tonight at TD Garden.
After Patrice Bergeron couldn't shoot a fluttering puck past Braden Holtby (31 saves), moments later Joel Ward (1st of the playoffs) followed up a rebound by ex-Bruin Mike Knuble and put it past Tim Thomas (25 saves) at 2:57. The whole play started when Benoit Pouliot failed to properly dump the puck into the Washington zone. Knuble was able to block it with his body then skate in on an odd-man rush.
Seeing your favorite team's season end is never easy, especially when you feel like they left money on the table so to speak. Yes the Caps played better than the B's in the series, that's a fact since they went 3-1 on the road. Still, I find it hard to accept that the Bruins aren't a better team when they put it all together. Sadly, they never really looked like themselves for most of this series. That's what happens when you score one goal in four different games.
This series followed some weird patterns: three 4-3 games, three 2-1 games, one 1-0 game. Boston went 2-1 in Washington. The two main reasons that Boston lost were its beyond pathetic power play (2 for 23 in the entire series) and the disappearance of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Brad Marchand for long stretches of games.
The Bruins lost three of the last four games (two on home ice); they were outscored 16-15 while the first and last two games of the series all went to overtime. Boston won the first game but lost the all important final one which meant everything.
Another big factor was that Holtby vs. Thomas was a wash at best, actually check that. The 22-year-old rookie was a hair better than the guy that won the Vezina trophy and Conn Smythe award last season.
The alarming part about Game 7 was that the Bruins came out with hardly any emotion or jump, it was like they forgot this was such an important game. Sitting Shawn Thornton in favor of Jordan Caron for the second straight game probably didn't help in that regard either.
Washington took advantage as Matt Hendricks scored his first career playoff goal by tipping John Carlson's shot from the point at 11:23 of the first period. Jason Chimera had the second assist although it should have gone to Looch who started the whole Benny Hill play by overskating the puck along the boards in his own end.
Other than Dennis Seidenberg, who was Boston's best player all series, Tyler Seguin had a very solid Game 7. He punctuated it with the tying goal at 14:27 of the second period, his second of the series. He followed Andrew Ference and Johnny Boychuk's shots as Holtby left the rebound in the crease and Seguin swooped in to tap it before he was crushed.
There hasn't been a repeat Stanley Cup champion since the Red Wings in 1997-98. The Bruins followed suit of recent history as they became the seventh winner in the last nine years to bomb out in the first round of the playoffs.
I think the only way to look at that is it has become such a grind to survive and win a Stanley Cup that teams naturally have big hangover effects at some point in the next season. Once the playoffs roll around, that squad is naturally more beat up and fatigued mentally and physically.
Don't get me wrong, this is not an excuse. The Bruins should have beaten the Capitals mainly because they are a superior team. The problem was that they didn't show that at any point. They never had a two-goal lead and rarely had a one-goal lead for that matter which only fed into Washington packing it in and playing the defensive game that they wanted after they grabbed a lead.
It will be a much longer and probably more interesting offseason for the Black and Gold. I wouldn't be shocked to see them try to trade Thomas to get some high-end offensive talent. Lord knows they could use it at this point. I love Thomas but how many more great years does he have left in him? Plus, they have Tuukka Rask waiting in the wings and how much longer will he be content as Thomas' backup?
After winning three Game 7s in their magical run last spring, this felt exactly like 2008 (losing Game 7 to Montreal), 2009 (losing Game 7 to Carolina) or 2010 (losing Game 7 to Philadelphia) for the Bruins. Most of all, I'm just sad to have no more rooting interest left in the NHL playoffs. There's nothing better than them in any professional sport; I will still watch but it will only frustrate me when I see all the teams continue to advance that I know the Bruins could have potentially gotten past.