Not to be too flippant or brazen after 112:08 minutes of a game that the Boston Bruins will never get back, and maybe I'm simply waking up with a vision blurred, but am I wrong in being encouraged despite the Chicago Blackhawks’ epic 4-3 triple overtime win in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals?
You met the Blackhawks Wednesday night and despite a 3-1 third-period lead, let it get away. OK. Don’t let it happen again.
Yes, Kaspars Daugavins could have buried his sixth-period opportunity. Yes, Torey Krug did commit a “terrible turnover” (thanks, Tuukka Rask). And yes, you could have had another hour of sleep after stubbing your toe on the couch and muttering expletives when Andrew Shaw scored the game-winner at some godly hour Thursday.
Did a triple-overtime loss ever feel so good?
The Bruins are down 1-0 to the Blackhawks in this series thanks to mental mistakes, not thanks to being thoroughly overmatched by the Franchise That Saved Hockey (copyright, Sports Illustrated). This was a game where you almost felt relief, despite the outcome, if only because it finally meant rest after some five hours of intense indifference of anything else than what was transpiring away from the ultra-bright white glow in your living room. Unlike Boston’s double-overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals last week, this wasn’t an emotional backbreaker. It was Game 1.
It sucks. You move on.
The only postgame quote that matters a lick came from Bruins head coach Claude Julien, who didn’t exactly seem like he had the fear of God instilled in him after facing The Franchise That Saved Hockey. “When you look at the game, it could have gone either way,” he said.
"We had the game," Rask said. "We're up 3-1 in the third and then a terrible turnover leads to a second goal and then a tough bounce leads to the tying goal, and we just gave it away.”
Three-to-one leads are nothing to sniff at, of course, when it comes to recent Bruins history, and the lapse in Krug’s decision-making, going from postseason hero to goat, could cost him ice time in Game 2. But if Zdeno Chara’s second-overtime dink that got past Corey Crawford is the difference between the Bruins parading Lord Stanley’s Cup down Boylston Street and the thing having to travel back to the Midwest, then we’ll look at Game 1 of this series as a heartbreaker.
Right now? It’s a missed opportunity. Nothing more. If confidence is a triple-overtime loss, then Boston has an ego the size of Downers Grove in the wake of Game 1.
The Bruins knew about as much about the Blackhawks heading into Wednesday night as you did, save for some added highlight reels. There was a bit of mystery on both sides for a good while, each team trying to sniff each other out. Now, the Bruins know what they’re up against. The Franchise That Saved Hockey has a 1-0 lead in the Stanley Cup finals, and has to be frightened to Phil Esposito about what they experienced in grabbing it.
Wednesday night might suggest to most that this is going the distance, that these two teams are so evenly matched that the Cup finals are going to – have to – be decided in seven games. Nope. The Bruins might now take this thing in five.
The Bruins lost Game 1. The Blackhawks didn’t beat them. Think of it this way; if the Bruins were going to perform mental mistakes (hey, look, too many men!) as frequently as Jim Leyland sneaks into the tunnel for a puff, Game 1 is opportune. These are not the 2010 gaggers. Been there, done that.
These Bruins are all about reaction to the moment, or did you forget Game 7 against Toronto? As miraculous as that evening was though, it happened to lay the foundation for what we thought about this team’s characteristics. Resilient. Confident. Dare we say it, trustworthy.
That is this Bruins team, and a six-period hockey game didn’t destroy that. It might have made it stronger.
“Not disappointed in our effort,” Julien said.
No reason to be. The Bruins and Blackhawks gave us one for the ages Wednesday night. It brought back memories of Petr Klima and 1990. But this … this won’t go down like that.
It was a chapter in hockey history that will go down as one of the greatest games to ever be played. Tough loss. Tough break. Oh well.
There might even be another rainbow hovering over the TD Garden today, and a Cup hoisted there before the end of the month. This team has proven in the past that it bounces back from adversity after dwelling in it thanks to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Bruins didn’t make a more difficult road for themselves, they simply laid the pavement and are waiting on the paint guys to put down the lines leading to another summer of glory. That much I am certain of.
But if you tell me Nathan Horton is done, the white flag is up.