Satisfaction? Guaranteed, after this one
PHILADELPHIA — Now that the Bruins are on the verge of playing in their first conference final since 1992, it seems like an appropriate time to ask the following question:
What regular season?
I mean, really. It all seems like a six-month blur now, doesn’t it? All those injuries. All those nights when two goals would have made them feel like the 1958 Canadiens or 1972 Bruins.
All those lost evenings are utterly irrelevant now that the Boston Bruins have begun playing hockey the way their management and coaching staff always believed they could.
And the game played here last evening might have been the most satisfying triumph of the 2010 postseason. When teams are adjudged to be fairly even — and that would certainly be the implication after Games 1 and 2 of this series — all the logic, all the wisdom, and all the smart money when the home team trails, 2-0, is on them. Hockey, basketball, makes no difference. You usually can’t go wrong taking the home team in Game 3.
Two minutes and 32 seconds into the game, the Flyers had their first lead of the series on a goal by Arron Asham. See? Told ya. Buckle up. It’s going to be a long night for the Bruins and their fans.
The lead lasted for one minute and 39 seconds. Blake Wheeler deflected one home. One minute and 34 seconds after that, Miroslav Satan — nice pick-up, Mr. Chiarelli — scored yet another goal, and the Bruins would need no more scoring. The final was 4-1. Hey, conventional wisdom can’t win ’em all.
“We stayed with it and got two goals pretty quickly,’’ said (ex-Flyer) Mark Recchi, who scored goal No. 3 when he pounced on a loose puck during a third-period power play. “Good job by us.’’
The Flyers tried a few motivational tricks to engage their crowd. They jazzed up Lauren Hart’s pregame “God Bless America’’ by interspersing clips from a long-ago Kate Smith performance. They introduced injured tough guy Ian Laperriere (who nearly lost an eye this season) on the big screen during the second period. Nothing helped.
It was a clinic in crowd control. The Bruins took the heart out of the patrons with those two quick first-period goals. From that point on, every errant Flyer pass, every giveaway, and every blown scoring chance was met with that combination of groan, moan, and disgust that only truly pained home crowds can make.
There were scattered boos as early as the first period and there were Serious boos in the third. The big exodus began with 3:20 left, which means several thousand people never saw Patrice Bergeron pick off a pass and deliver the empty-netter with 1:52 remaining.
All this made those six or eight brave Bruins fans seated in the upper reaches extraordinarily happy, no doubt. As any good sports fan knows, there is no better feeling on earth than being present when your team wins a big one on the road.
The final stat sheet in this one is a big, fat liar. You look at it and see that the Flyers had 35 shots on goal to the Bruins’ 20 and you might think this game was somehow closer than the final score would indicate. This may be a tribute to how well Tuukka Rask is playing, but it never really felt as if the Flyers were bothering him all that much. He and his teammates were in total control of the game in the final 47 minutes, and that’s the truth.
They did it despite losing both center David Krejci and defenseman Adam McQuaid in the first period, and that led to the greatest source of coach Claude Julien’s satisfaction. The best Bruins period was the third, and in that period the coach used everyone at his disposal.
“The third period was the most important period of the series so far, and we were able to utilize the whole bench,’’ he beamed. “We were able to match. We had fresh guys out there. We did a good job of getting pucks out of our end.’’
Among the more pleasing aspects of this great win was the play of Wheeler, who had not been able to build on his nice rookie year, but who is starting to assert himself at just the right time. A 6-foot-5-inch, 200-and-some-odd-pound hunk of hockey manhood is a terrible thing to waste, and the Bruins were getting a bit antsy waiting for him to, you know, do something this year.
That tying goal was the product of industriousness down by the net, and that’s where the Bruins feel he can be a real asset.
“In the last half-year, he’s been willing to get down in that ugly area and get those ugly goals,’’ said Recchi.
“You gain confidence winning battles and getting pucks on the goal,’’ acknowledged Wheeler. “Sooner or later, a reward comes your way.’’
Krejci was lost in the opening period when he came out the loser in a mid-ice collision win Flyers captain Mike Richards. If he is incapacitated in any way, it will be a serious setback for the Bruins, because Krejci found his game during the Olympics and has been a very important spark in the last two months.
But that’s hockey. The Flyers began this series without mainstays Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne and the Bruins lost Marco Sturm for the duration of the playoffs the other night. It’s Agincourt. You drag the injured guy away and someone else skates out there. Everyone understands the circumstance and nobody in this game whines about legitimate injuries that are the byproduct of normal competition.
Anyway, there will be plenty of time to assess the Krejci and McQuaid situations. This morning is the time for Bruins fans to strut. The fans lived through hard times from October through mid-April. The team was often unwatchable. Now they’re thinking, “Let’s play two.’’