Back up the Duck Boats.
It's Tim Thomas' worst nightmare - the dreaded Washington takeover. The Bruins hope to energize their power play by the middle of Game 8. Two for 23. Sounds like Kevin Youkilis with runners in scoring position. Boston has now won zero straight Game 7s. At least Thomas doesn't have to worry about making that White House trip next year.
The denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance and recrimination triggered after Super Bowl XLVI was mercifully compressed with the Bruins 2-1 OT loss to Washington in Game 7. This was just another first-round knockout, something Bruins fans had gotten used to during the 38 years that preceded 2011. Even worse, we can't blame Gisele, fried chicken or beer.
We won't know until 2013 if '12 or '11 was the exception or the rule. This Bruins team is young and most of the players at its core - save for the starting goaltender - are either in or approaching their prime. The future is not bleak for the Bruins, it's just five long months away. The Bruins had played and/or partied non-stop since October 2010. The B's rolled through the ups and downs of 82 games last season and pulled off a historic playoff run with three Game 7 victories before closing it out with that spin around Fenway Park on Father's Day. The metaphorical debauchery of the Stanley Cup continued non-stop across several continents running until the start of training camp. The players never really had a breaks before Thursday morning. But the next time Milan Lucic tells the cops "Do you know who I am?" They can answer: "Yes, the guy who had zero shots on goal in Game 7 against Washington after being on the ice for 19:50 and even fewer goals in the series."
As a unit, the Bruins ran out of emotional gas. They lacked big, bad Bruin-ness, speed off the faceoff and the lead heading into the third period in all seven games. Repeating in the NHL is nearly impossible. As @DaleArnold noted on NESN, nine of the past 11 Stanley Cup champs haven't gotten past the first round the following season. The subdued crowd at the Garden had little to cheer about Wednesday. The Capitals put everyone to sleep. They had more grinders than D'Angelo's. The extended offseason gives the Bruins unwelcomed rest and extra motivation for next year - much like the sweep by Philly two years ago. (Depending on when Michael Felger reads this, it's been at least eight hours since the Bruins were eliminated in the playoffs.)
Watching Game 7 tied enter overtime - the only question was what was going to give first - the heart or the bladder. Dick Cheney would have gone through six ticker swaps watching this one. But Benoit Pouliot croaked first. His attempt to clear the puck was swallowed up by Mike Knuble, who beat the Bruins' defense and rushed the net before Joel Ward put away his rebound for the series-ender. Ward played the fewest minutes of anyone on the ice when it ended. How fitting.
"I don't have a picture of it in my head," Thomas said when asked about the game-winner.
It wasn't pretty.
There was splintered wood and shattered dreams all over the Garden ice Wednesday. The Bruins must have loaded up on those cheapo sticks at the Zayre Grand Re-Opening Sale:
It was another historic run for the Bruins, so to speak. The was the closest playoff series in the history of the NHL and the Bruins lost it. That one will sting for a while. Seven games decided by one goal apiece. Four games reached into overtime. Several million f-bombs. This series was tighter than Vince Wilfork's uniform. Claude needs to take the boys to power-play school sometime in the offseason. The Bruins turned the one-man advantage into too many missed opportunities. Nathan Horton's absence was critical.
Heartburn and angina meet heartache and agony.
Dennis Seidenberg momentarily saved the season with his stick-less stop ala Michael Ryder on the Capitals' power play midway through the third period. Seidenberg played better without his stick than David Krejci and Lucic played with theirs.
Patrice Bergeron had an opportunity to win it in the first minute of overtime but fanned on an open shot. That would be the last offensive opportunity of the season for the Bruins. The Garden hadn't been this quiet since it was torn down down next door. You could hear on TV the players exchange "good series" with each other after the game. "Good job, kid," Thomas told Braden F. Holtby. Then he asked Holtby for political asylum in Saskatchewan.
The Capitals never flinched - especially the 22-year-old Holtby. He killed the Bruins with steady regularity. He was neither shaken nor stirred. His play in Game 2 - won by Washington 2-1 in overtime - set the tone for the entire series. It proved to be just as decisive as any of the three victories that followed it. Holtby seemingly make all those saves Thomas made last season.
With the Bruins' exit, Thomas will be freed up to focus on Mitt Romney's choice of a running mate. Thomas, who played good but not great, will draw the ire of plenty of fans and others, who will continually make the mistake of linking his Facebook posts and political edicts to the fact that his GAA ballooned to 2.14 in the playoffs this season and his save percentage tumbled to .923. Tuukka time was likely going to arrive whether or not Thomas went to the White House and appears even more likely with Thomas' use of the dreaded "they" word while discussing his teammates last night.
The joyride of last spring - with Thomas behind the wheel - was a gift 39 years in the making. The Bruins' run as Stanley Cup champions lasted exactly 45 weeks. The Bruins denied us what could have been another month-and-a-half of thrill-a-minute playoff hockey, dammit, not to mention a legit chance at another banner given what's happened elsewhere during the postseason. NBC must be salivating over the possibility of Ottawa and Phoenix in the Stanley Cup finals. Or how about Florida vs. St. Louis? As much fun as playoff hockey can be to watch, it's going to be hard to tune into Doc, Pierre and Eddie for the rest of the spring.
For most of us, the reaction to this loss was somewhat somber, if not predictable. However, Twitter opened up a whole new world of racist filth and hate in the wake of Ward's goal. Those pigs Tweeting epithets at Ward while calling themselves Bruins' fans need to be reminded - as @BST&N did so Wednesday - that the the Bruins were the first NHL team to ever have a black player on the ice. Morons.
The only good news for most Bruins fans is that we won't have to jump off the bandwagon. Most of us never had to get back on it in the first place.
The Red Sox have won three straight. The Celtics' bench beat the Heat's bench the other night. And the Hoodie is primed to turn four of the first 64 picks in the NFL draft into two dozen ninth rounders and a can of Stickum.
Maybe those Duck Boats can stick around just in case.
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