Tired excuse for this tough loss
PHILADELPHIA — Zdeno Chara plays a lot of minutes, and last night was no different. The Bruins captain logged 33 minutes 4 seconds and was a presence, as he is most every game, although he only took one shot the whole night and that was blocked.
Big Z was the last Bruin to touch the puck in their 5-4 overtime loss to the Flyers, and while that not only was different, it also wasn’t good. The towering blue liner pushed a pass into the neutral zone, hoping to start the Bruins up ice, and that hope quickly turned into desperation and then a loss, loosening Boston’s stranglehold to three games to one in the best-of-seven series.
“I don’t know who jumped up there for their guys,’’ said Chara, unaware it was Matt Carle who snatched his errant pass. “He got my pass and we were outnumbered in front of the net.’’
Look, getting lots of ice time cuts both ways. It leads to great moments and horrendous boo boos. That’s true with Chara as it was with Ray Bourque, when he was Boston’s captain and routinely logging his 25-28 minutes a night. Bourque made plenty of gaffes, but made it to the Hall of Fame in the express lane. Chara might get there, too, but his final play last night will not be in the highlight package.
“A mistake, a little bit of a turnover,’’ said coach Claude Julien, agreeing that fatigue probably played a factor in Chara’s handing over the goods. “We actually didn’t handle that situation very well.’’
Carle promptly dished ahead to Mike Richards, who returned a pass to Carle. He promptly fired toward Tuukka Rask’s net, where Simon Gagne appeared as if he found a secret under-ice passage that led directly to the right post. As Rask came across the crease, the Gagne shot was already behind him, the clever Flyers forward scoring on a redirect.
Game over. Boston’s bubble gone flat, which matched much of their effort on the night. They made it interesting, and entertaining, by battling back from a 3-1 deficit, and also tying it, 4-4, with Mark Recchi’s second strike of the night with just 32 seconds remaining. But overall it was, at best, a Gentleman’s ‘C’ of an evening for the Bruins, who must attempt to close out the series Monday night at the Garden and advance to their first Cup semifinal in 18 years.
“I’ve got to be better,’’ lamented Rask, who turned back 29 of 34 shots. “And I will be better next game, for sure.’’
Rask was that fraction late on the Gagne winner. He also failed to close the five-hole when Daniel Briere snapped in the equalizer, 1-1, with 54 seconds left in the first. A Chris Pronger shot through a crowd eluded him for a 2-1 Flyers lead early in the second. Claude Giroux made it 3-1 with 8:35 gone in the middle period, that came with both Boston blue liners, Andrew Ference and Mark Stuart, abandoning the front of the net to work in back of the net. Classic boo boo, the equal of Chara’s.
Stuart, playing for the first time since the start of April, needed the night to shake the rust.
“I didn’t play as well as I could have,’’ he said. “I should have been a lot better, actually. A couple of my mistakes were mental. I’ve got to be better and I will be better next game, for sure.’’
Does that have a familiar ring to it? The Bruins said much the same after failing to close out the Sabres in Game 5 of their first-round series. However, Boston’s play was far worse that night. The Bruins disappeared in that one. Here, with a chance to sweep the former Broad Street Bullies, they nipped away at the 3-1 deficit and tied it, 3-3, on goals by Michael Ryder and Milan Lucic. They forced OT with Recchi’s expert lift of a pinpoint cross-slot relay from Patrice Bergeron.
Then they booted it down the street on Chara’s errant dish into the neutral zone. Even worse, though, was the reaction to the miscue. Chara and his partner, Dennis Wideman, didn’t get back into position quickly enough to thwart Philly’s lightning-fast transition. Forwards Bergeron, Recchi, and Steve Begin didn’t make their way into the picture. Gagne was left with abundant elbow room and wasted no time, or effort, in potting the winner.
“I got my glove there, but it went under,’’ said Rask. “Tough to get that with your pad.’’
Ten games into the postseason, Rask has played every playoff minute for the Bruins. He might be a little tired. The last time the Bruins won the Cup, and did so with a goalie who played every minute in the postseason, was in 1941 when Frank Brimsek went 8-3 in wins over the Leafs and Red Wings. Mr. Zero also played every postseason minute in ’39, when the Bruins knocked off the Rangers and Leafs to win the Cup. He was 8-4 that season.
It's doubtful, if not inconceivable, that Julien would turn to Tim Thomas for Game 5. The series takes a rare two-day break, which means Rask can rest his weary bones for an extra 24 hours. If Game 5 were tomorrow, perhaps Thomas would be considered.
Rest now can only be a good thing for the Black-Gold-and-boo-boo Bruins.