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Party isn't over for Bruins

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff  April 19, 2011 03:38 PM

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"Welcome to the playoffs, Bruins. So, glad you could make it. We were all beginning to think you weren't going to show. It appears you just got the locations and dates confused, so the Canadiens started without you. No problem, better to arrive questionably late than not at all.

"Please, please stay awhile. We're delighted by your presence. Would you like someone to take your coats and those stylish cable-knit scarves around your necks. Wait, those are loosened nooses. So sorry for the confusion, really. Lace up your skates, grab your sticks, grow your beards and make yourselves at home. Actually, no don't. Well, you know what we mean. Just relax, have a good time and get a win in Game 4."

Okay, this conversation between the Spoked-Believers and the boys in the Spoked-B sweaters is obviously fictional, but the reality is the real Bruins didn't make it to the playoff party until last night, when they outlasted the Montreal Canadiens, 4-2, at the Bell Centre to give us a Black and Gold glimmer of hope that for the first time in franchise history they can win a playoff series after being down 0-2.

They are a Carl Crawford-esque 0 for 26.

Maybe the Bruins needed to simply get out of Boston and away from the ghosts of playoff failures past to get their postseason groove back. Bruins management and players have admitted that last year's 3-0 (series lead), 3-0 (Game 7 lead) collapse against the Flyers has been a recurring theme and a driving force this season. But when it came to this year's playoffs it seemed to drive the Bruins batty.

In retrospect, perhaps, returning to the scene of the playoff crime -- TD Garden -- for the first two games of this series was not in the Bruins' best interests. From the moment that Brian Gionta slipped the puck past Tim Thomas for the first goal of the series just 2 minutes and 44 seconds into Game 1, the Bruins have been tighter than the strings on Rafael Nadal's racquet. Self-doubt and diffidence crept into their helmets.

Don't believe me? Then believe the Bruins, ahem, beloved coach, Claude Julien. Here are some words and phrases that Julien used before Game 3 in his pregame interview with Bob Beers on the team's flagship station, 98.5 the Sports Hub: "tense," "pressure," "relax," and "fighting the puck."

That doesn't sound like a team that is embracing the pressure of the playoffs and an opportunity for redemption. It sounds like a scared bunch of skaters seizing up at the mere possibility of enduring another ignominious postseason exit, instead of seizing the opportunity presented by these playoffs.

The Bruins finally loosened up, grabbed a lead last night and resembled the team that has the talent to take another shot at getting past the second round. The only thing worse than another second-round send-off for the Bruins would be getting bounced in the first round by the Bleu, Blanc, et Ruse, er, Rouge.

The Bruins are the better team in this series. They have more talent and more ways to win. Their best is better than the best of the Canadiens, which is why this best-of-seven tilt is still quite winnable for Boston, if they don't wilt under the weight of history, both recent and ancient.

The only way the Bruins lose this series is if Carey Price channels Ken Dryden, which he has not, or they choke the series away with ghastly giveaways and offensive ineptitude. That was pretty much the story in the first two games in Boston, and it's left the Bruins with a skate blade-thin margin of error the rest of the way.

Last night was a must-win for the Bruins and they came up big, and so did their best players, who are usually the arbiters of a team's playoff fate. Dehydrated defenseman Zdeno Chara, who missed Game 2 after being briefly hospitalized with a virus, returned to the lineup and logged 26:20 of ice time, while collecting an assist on Boston's second goal.

The first line of David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, which had zero points in the first two games, accounted for the first two goals.

Krejci took a beautiful cross-ice feed from Patrice Bergeron and drilled it past Price to put the Bruins up, 1-0, just 3:11 in. Horton alertly and deftly banked a rebound off Price's posterior for goal No. 2. The Bruins built a 3-0 lead when Price misplayed a puck behind his net and the loose puck landed on the stick of Rich Peverley, who took advantage of a vacated net.

The pucks pessimists out there will point to that fluky goal and a hair-raising third period as evidence that the Bruins only delayed the inevitable -- a loss at the Bell Centre -- for a few nights.

The Bruins had to parry a furious Canadiens push after Montreal pulled within 3-2 on a pair of cotton-ball soft goals surrendered by Thomas, who has been suspect in this series. But Thomas made the saves he had to make in the third period, and looked skyward in relief when the final buzzer sounded.

A weight had been lifted off him and the entire team. So the grips on the sticks are a little looser, the laughs are little heartier and the minds a little less cluttered today in Lake Placid, N.Y., where the Bruins are staying.

They're in the series before it's over. Now, they can just go play hockey. A more sanguine and relaxed Bruins bunch for Game 4 is a reason for optimism. Thomas is capable of playing much better in net and Lucic, the leading goal-scorer during the regular season, doesn't have a point yet.

Facing a potential 3-1 series deficit, you can't say the pressure is off the Bruins. But you can say that there is proof they can perform under it.

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The word

Christopher L. Gasper riffs on the news

Dearth

...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.

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