We can forget about it now, right? We can stop dredging up May 2010, and the Flyers, and punted three-game leads, and regrets, and ...
Sorry. It's probably hypocritical to scold Bruins fans for dwelling on the blown three-game lead three seasons ago in the Eastern Conference semifinals, then spend my first words here after a thrilling, fulfilling, series-clinching 3-1 victory over the Rangers Saturday night to dredge it up.
It's just that the sky-is-falling mentality about this particular team – a sports-radio creation, sure, but one willingly co-opted by way too many among us – was just so unnecessary. I don't get why anyone would want to revel in misery and worst-case scenarios before trouble is anything more than a lonely dark cloud in a crisp blue sky.
It's patently ridiculous that there would be more talk about the blown series of three years ago than the Stanley Cup champions of the season that followed. But that's how it was around here this week, even as the Bruins won three of the first four games against a team that appeared to be an even matchup on paper. I've lived here my whole life – hell, my first season as a fan was spent following the submergence of the 1978 Red Sox – and still, I'll never get the mentality of reveling in misery before it exists, of preferring to rain on a parade rather than cheering one.
I say all of this with some hindsight, sure – had the Bruins lost Game 5, Game 6 at Madison Square Garden would have been unbearably tense, and the chronic reminders of three years ago somewhat justified.
But, you know, they didn't lose Game 5, and all of the worry was way too much, way too soon. In retrospect, Game 4 was the predictable last gasp of a doomed team on its home ice. When the Bruins needed an extra defenseman or two, they reached down to the minors for Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski, who have been sensational and very good, respectively.
When the Rangers needed an extra defenseman, they turned to lumpy 39-year-old Roman Hamrlik, who was the first pick in the NHL Draft the year the Bruins spent their first-rounder on – now this is ancient history – Dmitri Kvartalnov. Yeah, Hamrlik's been around awhile. Based on his disastrous play in Game 5 – his turnover led to Gregory Campbell's go-ahead goal – that may have been his farewell performance.
The Bruins did what any would-be contender must do – they came home and prevailed, and in remarkably reassuring fashion. They played with we-know-how-this-is-done poise even after falling behind on Dan Girardi's power-play goal midway through the first period, particularly goalie Tuukka Rask, whose almost casual confidence helped him overcome an epic gaffe from Game 4. Rask has now won three of four playoff series in his career. Yes, he can close out a series.
The Bruins were unrelenting Saturday, from the first line to the fourth. The latter was so consistently effectively in this series that members Daniel Paille, Campbell (two goals in Game 5), and Shawn Thornton, who totaled 10 points and countless subtle contributions, are no longer unsung. They're getting pretty sung around here, and they deserve every praising lyric.
Now, about a more pressing matter: Jarome Iginla or Torey Krug? Yes, you've got the question right: Which player would you rather have on the Bruins right here, right now?
[Note: This is just a goofy hypothetical, not a suggestion that Krug was headed to Calgary for Iginla.]
I was going to try to pretend I was asking this facetiously – after all, Iginla is an all-time great, with 530 regular-season goals to his credit. That's 530 more than Krug has in his regular-season career, which consists of all of four games. But the more I consider it, the more I recognize that there's some legitimacy to it, at least if Krug continues playing like a perennial All-Star rather than a kid who was recalled from Providence on an emergency basis after injuries to three regular blue-liners.
It would have been great to have Iginla with the Bruins, and it stinks that he sabotaged the deal here to go to Pittsburgh. But Krug, who scoring the tying goal Saturday night on a blistering slap-shot, has given the Bruins something they truly lacked – a skilled, fearless puck-moving defenseman.
One of the great joys of sports is watching a rookie burst onto the scene out of nowhere, especially when the success looks real and sustainable. Krug seems legit, doesn't he? He had four goals in the Rangers series – the same number of goals Iginla has this postseason – including three on the power play. He's been everything Tomas Kaberle was supposed to be two years ago and then some – I mean, he did this against Henrik Lundqvist, not some Jim Carey/Blaine Lacher combo.
I think I would take this version of Krug over Iginla for this series, which is a statement that would have been unfathomable 10 days ago. At the least, Krug's emergence is one of the reasons that Bruins fans should feel very good about this team's future. But that's a consideration for later, a thought to be saved for the offseason.
Right now, let's savor the present, because as Game 5 reminded us, following a winning team's trek through the Stanley Cup playoffs is one of the most enjoyable experiences in sports. The Bruins somehow flipped the switch midway through the third period of Game 7 against the Maple Leafs, and the bright lights haven't flickered since.
Funny game, hockey. The Bruins were so close to being done. But after vanquishing the Rangers against a backdrop of unnecessary concern, the ending feels like it's a long way away. If you want to make 2011 comparisons, well, maybe they're premature, but those I would love to hear.
Follow Chad on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn
Beware: It's going to be a busy day for those among us who find satisfaction in harping on harbingers.
You probably knew that. But an extra warning never hurts in matters such as trying to maintain your sanity in a world of piping-hot sports takes.
Oh, the of-course-I'm-worried-aren't-you? caterwauling will be in full eardrum-puncturing effect in the immediate aftermath of the Bruins' 4-3 overtime loss to the Rangers Thursday night.
Never mind that the Bruins lead the series, 3-1, with a chance to close it out at home Saturday against a Rangers team that saved some face Thursday night but has looked the part of the inferior team for much of this series.
The easy narrative today is that – let me make sure I get this straight – there were quasi-relevant reminders of past Bruins failures in Game 4, which means that more bad things must be ahead and history will probably repeat itself.
Do I have that right? It's just that ridiculous, right?
Hey, I do suppose those harbingers, with all their loose connections to history and reality, are there if you want to spend time looking for them. The Rangers scored their third and tying goal at the midpoint of the third period on a power play after the Bruins were whistled for too many men on the ice.
... even though the magnitude of the moments are not even close.
Then there's the fact that the Bruins lost Game 4 in overtime – which just happened to be the case three years ago in Game 4 against the Flyers. The Flyers, as you may hear a time or two, came back to win the series in 7.
Did you just shiver in fear? You shivered in fear, didn't you? It was definitely a fear shiver.
Even the recent fate of the Providence Bruins is being cited as an ominous sign for the parent club. In case you missed it, they recently blew a 3-0 series lead to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
Schrutes Penguins in the AHL Playoffs.
The kids are taking after the parents! We learned it from you, Dad!
Actually, I'm going to say the real reason Providence fell apart is because Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski were called up to the big-boy playoffs, where they have starred. It's not a choke thing so much as it is an attrition thing. You know, sort of like the Bruins-Flyers series three years ago, when David Krejci got busted up in Game 3 and Simon Gagne healed and everything changed.
So far as I can tell, the Bruins survived Game 4 Thursday without significant injury to anything but their goalie's ego – you could spend the weekend watching every game at Hockey Town USA in Saugus and you won't see a softer goal than the first one Tuukka Rask allowed Thursday.
They're fine, and they will be fine.
Last night's loss was the essence of playoff hockey. The margin between victory and defeat is thinner than the blue line. You need bounces and fortunate breaks. It's what makes it so great, and alternately so tense.
But the harbinger stuff? C'mon. None of that has anything to do with anything, unless the Bruins allow it to. And they won't. You know them. They're just upping their degree of difficulty as usual.
Like any hockey game, there's was plenty of good, bad, and ugly in Game 4. Let's slowly step away from the panic button and sort it all out.
Good: It took way too long – the 49th minute of the 11th postseason game – but Tyler Seguin finally scored his first goal of the Stanley Cup playoff. He executed a textbook give-and-go with Dougie Hamilton, then pounced on his own rebound to give the Bruins a short-lived 3-2 lead in the third period. Loved Seguin's reaction after scoring – he sucker-punched the glass behind the net, which surely scared the hell out of some New York junk bond trader who was sitting in the front row ... What else is there to say about Torey Krug other than that I'm entirely buying in? He scored the Bruins' second goal with a rocket from the high slot that completely baffled Henrik Lundqvist, who has to be the kid's biggest believer at this point. Krug, who plays with such remarkable poise given that he's appeared in exactly as many games in this series (4) as he had during his entire NHL career leading up to it, nearly got a go-ahead goal past Lundqvist with just under four minutes remaining. The offense reminds you of Greg Hawgood, but the defense is much, much better. He's going to be here for a while, folks. What a revelation.
Bad: Well, we've touched on most of it already ... It should be noted that it was an up-and-down night for Hamilton, who flashed his talent with the assist to Seguin but was outmaneuvered and outmuscled by Chris Kreider on the winning goal in overtime. He's just not strong enough yet to play with the necessary physicality. Come back soon, Dennis Seidenberg ... Zdeno Chara submitted an uncharacteristically sloppy and sluggish performance. Derek Stepan picked his pocket and scored the Rangers' second goal to tie it at 2-2 a little over a minute into the third period...
... a play that becomes more embarrassing the more you watch it. He looks like he could have benefited from the extra rest a sweep would have permitted ... So maybe Marc Savard's crystal ball isn't always accurate:
Hey, maybe it all was Brad Richards's fault after all. Good thing he has just seven years remaining on his $60 million deal.
Ugly: This, and this alone:
Rask, as you may have heard, is now 2-8 in closeout games. Four of those came in the Flyers series three years ago. He'll get his chance to exorcise that annoying ghost on Saturday and silence those who race to summon it after every aggravating loss.
One loss does nothing to convince me he won't be up to it, provided that he remembers how to stay upright.
Be sure to stop by our always lumbering Friday chat, during which we'll discuss Bruins-Rangers Game 4, the return of Tito, all that's ahead for the Celtics this offseason, and the usual media matters. Check in below to join the fun.
Before the Remy Report, there were the Remy reports.
No, this isn't a reference to RemDawg's now-infamous, beyond-hilarious Playgirl supermodel days. If you somehow don't already know what I'm talking about, a simple search on Baseball Prospectus will clue you in, and OBF also has it here. (It probably is SFW, depending upon how your boss feels about Steve Stone.)
This is about another long-lost discovery from Remy's playing days, an exhibit rather than an exhibition. Unless the 1970s Angels had a particularly unusual uniform of which I'm unaware -- entirely possible given that era -- Remy most definitely is not wearing short-jorts in any of this.
The Baseball Hall of Fame, as a companion to a new exhibit in Cooperstown honoring scouts, recently launched a website, titled Diamond Mines, that serves as a searchable database for what seems to be thousands of individual scouting reports of major league players either during their careers or as unknown amateurs.
It's not conventionally perfect. The interface may well have been lifted from a 1997 Angel Fire site. The search function has roughly a .500 winning percentage in finding what you're looking for on the first try. The list of players is incomplete. (I was bummed that there was no Lyman Bostock report. Or Butch Hobson.)
But if blunt and previously unrevealed insight and opinions from those who were trusted by big league teams to judge players is something that appeals to you, well, it damn sure is perfect.
I've been lost there more times than I can count in recent weeks, looking up all the former Maine Guides and favorite obscurities I can jostle from the back of my mind, as well as the Red Sox-related suspects and superstars you'd expect: Manny Ramirez, Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez, Jason Varitek ("A real animal"), Roger Clemens, and Ellis Burks ("Shows few star qualities").
Just when you think you're done, another player pops to mind, and there goes another 20 minutes.
One discovery that I found particularly fascinating was a series of five scouting reports on Remy after the 1977 season. He was 24 years old, coming off his third full season as the California Angels's starting second baseman, one in which he hit .252 with 41 stolen bases and an OPS of .663. In retrospect, that's the season of a player who should have had to fight to earn a job the next year, but it was a different time, one in which the perception of grit got your name on the lineup card, and he was entrenched as the starter, presumably secure in his position.
Except those five unearthed scouting reports, which appear to be the product of the Angels' self-scouting postmortem on the '77 season, suggest otherwise. And they ultimately serve as key forensic information on why Remy was traded to the Red Sox that December for pitcher Don Aase.
It's a deal that worked out OK for the Angels, fairly well for the Red Sox, and very well for Remy, who had significant statistical flaws (in seven seasons in Boston, he had a .334 slugging percentage and a .334 on-base percentage) but parlayed his popularity as a player into even greater popularity as a broadcaster.
Coming from California to Boston altered the course of his life, so in a sense it was a blessing that the Angels doubted him. And they did -- here's what manager Dave Garcia, coaches Bob Clear, Jimmie Reese and Marv Grissom, and backup catcher-turned-scout Andy Etchebarren offered in candid assessment of Remy way back when:
Dave Garcia (report here) -- Disappointed in Jerry's fielding mostly -- at times he showed fear of the ball and let too many balls play him. Complained that our infield dirt was rough. That may be true, but it shouldn't bother a major league fielder. Will have to make double play better. Offensively, has to get many more walks. Robby will work with him this spring. When he gets 100 walks he'll steal 60 bases + score 100 runs.
I tried, and I could not figure out who Robby The Walk Guru was. But Remy never approached 100 walks -- his career high actually was 59 in '77. So maybe that's why Robby remained anonymous.
[Update: So, yeah, Robby was pretty much the opposite of anonymous -- it's Frank Robinson, who accomplished a thing or two en route to a first-ballot Hall of Fame career. That's who I initially assumed it was, but a cursory search couldn't provide evidence that he was an Angels coach that year. Turns out he was, briefly -- he joined Garcia's staff after he was fired by the Indians, where he had become baseball's first African-American manager two years before. Oh, OK ... that Robby. Yes, I'm a dope.]
Bob Clear (report here) -- He is 3rd best 2nd baseman we have. Can't field good enough to put us on top. Has fear on D.P. and ground balls. Range is not good. He is not as good as he was. Can steal and runs good. Good hustler. Should be a better hitter. Move him so Grich can play second. Would have a better club. Would help our pitching.
In theory, Clear was right on, and it appears his advice was heeded. Grich, one of the most underrated players of his time, joined the Angels as a free agent before the 1977 season. He won three Gold Gloves as a second baseman with the Orioles, but moved to short with the Angels in part because of Remy's presence but also because young Mike Miley had been killed in a car accident and underwhelming Orlando Ramirez was the main holdover. But when Remy was dealt to the Red Sox, Grich returned to his natural position before the '78 season. He went on to play 10 seasons in total for the Angels, hitting 154 homers with a 124 adjusted OPS. Aase was average, going 39-39 with a 99 ERA+ in six seasons with the Angels. The Angels, who apparently didn't self-scout Dickie Thon quite so well, never did quite find a shortstop until trading for Remy's Red Sox double-play partner Rick Burleson before the 1981 season. I do wonder, though, who Clear thought was a better second baseman than Remy besides Grich. Rance Mulliniks? Dave Chalk? Mario Guerrero?
Jimmie Reese (report here) -- It may surprise you when I say that Jerry, in my estimation, has slowed up a step, particularly in the field, where ordinary ground balls are skipping by him. Also a bit timid on double plays. Could bring a valuable player if any club needs a second baseman. He is certainly marketable.''
Reese was regarded as one of baseball's great gentlemen during his wholly distinctive 77-year career in professional baseball. He roomed with Babe Ruth -- or his suitcase, as the famous joke goes -- during the early '30s with the Yankees. (No, Reese never did play with Mariano Rivera.) Decades later, he made such an impression on Nolan Ryan during his time with the Angels that the pitcher named a son after him. I suggest that's a rather gentlemanly way of saying get Remy out of here.
Andy Etchebarren (report here) -- He needs to learn not to hit so many fly balls, bunt more, and learn not to [be] afraid of ground balls. He plays to [sic] many balls to the side.
Given that Etchebarren was actually Remy's teammate in '77, the solicitation of his opinion is ... well, it's eyebrow-raising, that's what it is.
Marv Grissom (report here) Like everything about him.
Just a thought here, but perhaps Mr. Grissom wasn't the most thorough scout? At least Remy had someone fully in his corner.
Well now, this suddenly feels like it might end with a parade, doesn't it?
I know, I know, it's foolhardy business to peer too far ahead in the Stanley Cup playoff before the task at hand is complete. The Bruins' bloody, stirring 2-1 come-from-behind victory in Game 3 over the Rangers Tuesday night in their Eastern Conference semifinals series gave them a 3-0 lead in the series.
It was a win rich in both style and substance, and if you're not enthused about the Bruins this morning, I have no choice but to suspect there's a 20-year-old Mark Messier sweater buried somewhere in the back of your closet.
The Bruins' advantage seems safe and insurmountable, a suggestion to which the more cynical Bruins fans will reflexively reply: "Yeah, but the Flyers three years ago ..."
I suppose it's a fair warning, at least on the surface. If ever a reminder is needed to never take any advantage in a series for granted, the blown 3-0 lead to the Flyers in the second round of the 2009-10 postseason is always handy.
But in regard to this particular 3-0 lead, it doesn't apply. It doesn't. There's nothing to fear here. The Bruins, so brilliant at the beginning of the season, exasperating in their complacency at times through the middle and end, have found that mojo and then some that they had in the early going. They're what they were supposed to be all along.
These are not the Bruins of three years ago. But they sure are starting to look like the team from two years ago, one that stepped on the accelerator after a harrowing seven-game first-round series in which defeat may have changed everything and floored it all the way to Vancouver and their first Stanley Cup in 39 seasons.
See, it's not just that they're winning, it's how they're winning. It's with that depth that many of us presumed would be a particular advantage during the abbreviated season.
The third victory of the series was delivered in large part by the stellar play of the Bruins' Don't-Call-'Em-The-Fourth-Line of Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell, and Daniel Paille and the continued unexpected scoring touch of defenseman Johnny Boychuk. As one Twitter jokester put it after Boychuk's hard-earned fourth goal of the postseason tied the game at 1-1 at 3:10 of the third period, he's become a Manchuk in these playoffs.
That goal, a laser from the right point, was set up by the relentless forechecking of Thornton, Campbell and Paille to keep the puck in the zone and the pressure on goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who was sensational Wednesday night, particularly in the second period when the Bruins could not pierce him despite a 14-5 shot advantage.
So it was only just that the fourth line, so deserving of praise and plaudits ...
Merlot line does the little things. They take care of the puck and get to the danger areas. Simple game. #BruinsTalk— Bobby Allen (@bobby_allen2) May 22, 2013
... would score the winning goal against Lundqvist, whom the Bruins have now beaten at his worst (he allowed five goals in Game 2) and at his best (he was 12-3 career with a 1.92 goals-against average on his home ice against the Bruins entering Game 3, and he looked like that guy Tuesday night).
Paille got the winner at 16:29, a goal born from uncanny awareness and pure hustle. After Paille kept the puck in along the boards, the Bruins went on the attack, with one shot trickling behind Lundqvist but suddenly spinning away from the net after approaching the goal line. With extraordinary alertness and the quickness to beat two Rangers defensemen to the scene, Paille batted the loose puck over Lundqvist's glove to provide the winning margin.
Each member of that line could have registered as one of the three stars, but the Bruins had more nominees than that. Young defensemen Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug were again dynamic, and it makes you wonder if there are any other gems hidden in Providence at the moment.
Tuukka Rask was somewhere between steady and brilliant, and his performance continues to be encouraging given his presence in net is the primary difference between this team and the one that hoisted the Cup two years ago, when Tim Thomas defended his turf the way he now presumably defends his favorite amendments.
*** RANDOM PIERRE MCGUIRE INTERRUPTION ***
(Yes, you are reading that correct. He's not Pierre from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. He's really Regis from Jersey.)
*** END RANDOM PIERRE MCGUIRE INTERRUPTION ***
Actually, there is a segue here. McGuire was pretty great last night during NBC Sport Network's broadcast when he ripped the Rangers' disjointed and disinterested power play. The morning after, the sequence stands out as one piece of evidence that the uninspired Rangers aren't capable of making this a series. But hardly the only piece of evidence.
It's so bad for the Rangers, the end so inevitable, that coach John Tortorella, who prefers to communicate in grunts, smirks and eye-rolls, was teetering on introspection after the game. He noted that the Bruins' ability to "roll four lines'' was essential and a significant advantage against what he called his own short bench.
Actually, now that I re-consider it, that's not introspection. That's the coach recognizing the dead-end ahead and rolling out the first line of excuses. Barring an injury to the Bruins akin to David Krejci's momentum-shifting absence three seasons ago, the Rangers are not capable of coming back. They were sluggish upon returning to their home ice last night, a telltale sign of a motivational void. They were disorganized on the ice. There is no Simon Gagne on the horizon to rescue them.
Whether it happens Thursday in New York or Saturday in Boston, the Bruins will provide a favorite satisfaction in our city – ending a New York team's season.
The Rangers are done. The Bruins? Far from it. They may have only just begun.
Sure, there's a long way to go on the journey, with potential roadblocks ahead in Pittsburgh and Chicago and Detroit and on and on. Winning a Stanley Cup is the most grueling journey in professional sports. We know that. We've cherished it.
But this is starting to feel familiar in all the right ways, and it's best to be prepared. So someone with such access might want to check the oil in the duck boats. Gotta make sure they're ready. June isn't so far away.
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.