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Wins of change for the Bruins

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  May 5, 2011 08:29 AM

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Here are some of the players who skated for Boston on May 7, 2010, the night the Bruins began their epic slide into hockey infamy:

Mark Stuart.
Dennis Wideman
Vladimir Sobotka
Blake Wheeler
Steve Begin
Trent Whitfield
Matt Hunwick
Miroslav Satan
Marc Savard
Tuukka Rask

None will take the ice tomorrow night, when the Bruins look to find redemption in a four-game sweep of the Philadelphia Flyers, proving in the process that this team is hardly what we thought they were heading into the playoffs.

Heck, they're not even the team we thought they were in the first round.

And they most certainly are not the team that they were a year ago.

Last night's dominant effort, a 5-1 win at the Garden, pushed the Philadelphia Flyers to the brink of golf season just as they were one year ago. That has Boston fans having delusions of déjà vu. It couldn't happen. Again. Could it?

Only the Bruins, whose fans have been tortured, ridiculed, and sold down the Charles far too often, could spark concern over a 3-0 playoff series lead. Only in Boston do we fear the past will once again become present, thrusting ghosts and curses into the box scores.

Really, all that matters is Friday night. But after watching the way Tim Thomas played on Monday, and how his teammates followed that game up with last night's offensive effort, it's easy to get caught up in the possibilities.

So far, there's just one team in the NHL conference finals, the Ovechkin-slaying Tampa Bay Lightning, a team the Bruins went 3-1 against during the regular season, the one loss courtesy of Rask, who'll only see the net should Tim Thomas suffer an injury or a sudden case of Boucherism. Just pointing that out is all. Assume nothing.

Over in the West, Vancouver can take a 3-1 series lead over the Nashville Predators (A Nashville-Tampa Bay Stanley Cup Finals probably isn't exactly what NBC signed up for. eh?), tonight, while the San Jose Sharks can finish off the surprisingly inept Red Wings tomorrow. The Sharks have got a guy who used to play here, you know. Wouldn't it be fun if he came to town for a few days to face this Boston Diamond Horseshoe Review?

Brakes, people.

Still, it's not drastic to say that Philadelphia is in a subjugated mood even with last year's triumph still fresh in the books. Phil Sheridan of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes:

It does not feel like 2010. A year ago, after losing Game 3 at home, the Flyers were angry. They felt they'd played very well in spite of the final scores. They believed that if they just kept that up, things would go their way eventually.
At the time, it sounded like frustration. It turned out to be determination.
After their wretched effort Wednesday night, there wasn't much defiance. The Flyers were beaten soundly, beaten up physically, and they looked and sounded like a beaten team. After three games, they know this Boston team is better, tougher, and more committed - than last year's Bruins, certainly, but also better, tougher, and more committed than the Flyers.

Last night, the Bruins jumped out to an instant 2-0 lead on goals by Zdeno Chara and David Krejci, whose presence in this series has spoke volumes about his absence in last year's debacle. They won a ridiculous 78 percent of their faceoffs against the Flyers, and I don't care if it was a five-on-one with an open net, there was indeed a power play goal scored last night. Hey, it may be Boone's Farm, but it's still wine. 

That's now 3.1 percent for the playoffs, as the Bruins leap over Pittsburgh, and out of the cellar for that statistic. Anaheim scored 36.4 percent of the time on the man-advantage in these playoffs. What did it get them anyway?

Since falling into an 0-2 hole against the International Montreal Diving team, the Bruins have gone 7-1, each win emerging as reason for optimism, hope, and dreams, all wrapped together in a nice, tidy ball of every-other day-angst. There could be heartbreak down the road, but it won't necessarily be for the same reasons as in the past.

That which knocks you down can only make you stronger, goes the old cliché. In 2003, a couple of guys named Boone and Bartman helped decide that a World Series for the ages would not come to pass. The Red Sox used that taste of bitter defeat one year later in winning their first title in 86 years. We have no explanation for the Cubs, but who does?

The Bruins have last year in the back of their minds, for sure. But it sure doesn't look like it's in their heads.

Different team. Different goalie. Different posture altogether.

Game 4, Friday night.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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