In this room, no room for panic
PHILADELPHIA — It’s still there in front of them. All the Bruins have to do is win at home tomorrow night and they advance to the Eastern Conference finals to face Montreal. And they get home-ice advantage, to boot.
You would think they’d be skating with Steinway grands strapped to the backs of their sweaters. But these Bruins don’t seem bothered by the burden of history.
The Bruins lost to the Flyers again last night, 2-1, and are one loss away from abject humiliation. They are on the verge of becoming the 1978 Red Sox on skates, with Claude “The Gerbil’’ Julien barking orders from the bench.
But don’t expect Julien to put Bobby Sprowl between the pipes tomorrow night. There’s no panic in the Bruins’ house.
“If we can do what we did in the third period [last night], I think our chances in Game 7 are good,’’ said Julien.
OK, then. Let’s not panic. But won’t things be a tad . . . hideous if the Bruins lose again?
In the middle of the ’78 collapse, Sox shortstop Rick Burleson said, “The abuse we must be prepared to take for the entire winter we richly deserve.’’
Bingo. It’s good that the Bruins are calm, but they will take abuse forever if they blow this series. Boston held a 3-0 series lead when the teams went into overtime last Friday night. Since the start of that OT, it’s Flyers 3-0, with an aggregate 7-1 scoring advantage.
Every franchise has a medal platform for famous flops. If these Bruins lose this series after leading, 3-0, this goes on the B’s Wall of Shame alongside too many men on the ice in Montreal in 1979, and the shocking upset at the hands of Habs rookie goalie Ken Dryden in 1971.
Despite all of the above, the Bruins seemed oddly confident after the Game 6 loss. Maybe it’s because they were not dominated. They trailed, 2-0, with a minute to play when Milan Lucic finally got a puck past Michael Leighton after Julien pulled Tuukka Rask. The Bruins outshot the Flyers, 31-27, and Philly defenders blocked another 30 Boston attempts.
“I thought we had some good momentum at the end,’’ said Shawn Thornton. “We have to focus on the positives.’’
Thornton and Julien were not the only upbeat Bruins. To a man, the Boston skaters were calm and confident after losing for a third straight time. They don’t seem disposed to panic. None of them is talking about dubious history.
It might be another story with fans back in Boston. Sorry to bring all this baseball to the ice, but it’s impossible to be from Boston and not see this fold as utterly Red Sox-ian. It seems that the Bruins have replaced the Sox as the team assigned to break your heart. Maybe it’s because they are NESN cousins.
It’s easy to rationalize things by remembering that the Bruins were not supposed to get this far, and that they were never clearly superior to the Flyers. Boston dominated only one of the first three games. But 3-0 is still 3-0 and there is a reason that only three teams in the history of sports (1942 Red Wings, 1975 Penguins, 2004 Yankees) have ever lost a series in which they led, 3-0.
The Bruins had trouble scoring all season (second fewest in the NHL) and that’s what’s happening now. After Mark Recchi scored late in the third period of Game 4, the Bruins played 135 minutes and 12 seconds over three games without putting the puck in the net. Philadelphia scored seven straight goals, and it would have been eight if Rask hadn’t stopped a penalty shot by Ville Leino.
The Flyers have been forced to go with their backup goalie. Before he was thurst into the net in the middle of Game 5, Michael Leighton hadn’t played since March 16. He stopped 14 Bruins shots Monday and another 30 last night.
“We’re going to have to be better in Boston,’’ said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette. “We’re going to have to show more intensity than we showed tonight. We’re going to have to play a better hockey game.’’
It was interesting to hear the Flyers coach sounding uncomfortable with a team that just won three staight games.
The Bruins, on the other hand, seemed confident.
“We can’t get discouraged going into Game 7,’’ said Lucic. “The Garden is going to be rocking [tomorrow] night and we look forward to that. Now both teams are in the same boat. Everyone has to bring their ultimate best. We’re disappointed we haven’t been able to get that fourth one yet, but we shouldn’t get discouraged. It’s the playoffs and you’ve got to find a way to forget about that frustration.’’
Way to go. No one is panicking in the Boston locker room. They aren’t worried about the history and that’s a good thing.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.