History is on the Bruins’ side, but they also know the script can flip

The 2011 Stanley Cup champion Bruins team won two series after going down 2-0.

Bruins Game 3 Hurricanes Eastern Conference Finals
According to the NHL's communications department, teams that take a 2-0 lead in the conference finals win the series 93.8 percent of the time. –John Tlumacki / The Boston Globe

It’s hard not to feel good about the Bruins right now after they took the first two games of the Eastern Conference final. That confidence was further strengthened when the NHL Communications Department tweeted that since the 1981-82 season, teams that take a 2-0 lead in the conference finals own a series record of 30-2.

That amounts to 93.8 percent, which seems about right on the face of it when you consider that the trailing team would have to win four out of five games to advance. But the Bruins have been on both sides of a 2-0 series to know that it would be unwise to write off the Carolina Hurricanes.


In fact, the 1990-91 Bruins were one of the two teams to squander such a lead. After defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first two games at Boston Garden, the Bruins looked ready to make their third trip to the Stanley Cup Final in four years. But a Pittsburgh squad that didn’t even reach the playoffs the previous season stormed back to win the next four games and went on to capture the first Stanley Cup for the franchise.

The series is remembered in these parts for Ulf Samuelsson’s nasty knee-to-knee hit on Cam Neely in Game 3. Neely was limited 22 games over the next two seasons as he tried to come back from the leg injury. Of course, that Pittsburgh team was loaded, starting with superstar Mario Lemieux. Veterans Mark Recchi, Kevin Stevens, Larry Murphy, Ron Francis, Joe Mullen, Paul Coffey, Bryan Trottier, and Scott Young were also on that roster.

It’s unlikely anyone will confuse the Hurricanes with the 1990-91 Penguins.

While that may be ancient history to some, there are plenty of Bruins on this year’s roster who have seen how the momentum can shift in a playoff series, albeit not in a conference final.


The 2009-10 team jumped out to a 3-0 lead on the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round, but dropped the next four games. As was the case 19 years earlier, an injury also helped that series take a turn, as David Krejci dislocated his wrist in Game 3 on a hit from Mike Richards.

The Bruins have not always been the victims in these scenarios. Their run to the 2011 Stanley Cup saw them overcome not one but two 2-0 deficits. The first came in the opening round after they dropped two at home to Montreal but managed to rally to defeat the Canadiens in seven games. In the Stanley Cup finals, the Bruins were down 2-0 after dropping two one-goal games at Vancouver, only to be re-energized and win the next two at TD Garden by a combined score of 12-1. The home team won each of the first six games before the Bruins took Game 7 at Vancouver, 3-0, to capture the club’s first Stanley Cup in 39 years.