We need David Stern to step in.
This is like sneaking a peek in your parents’ closet around Christmas time, only to find out those presents were earmarked for Toys for Tots. The Montreal Canadiens inexplicably just took down the reigning Stanley Cup champs, setting up an epic Eastern Conference finals showdown with…the Philadelphia Flyers?
Sorry, doesn’t cut it.
It shouldn’t have come to this, but well, it has. If Gary Bettman knew what was good for him – and let’s face it, he doesn’t – he’d encourage the on-ice officials to allow for a little, you know, encouragement from the home crowd Friday night. Maybe Simon Gagne didn’t get the stick all the way up into Patrice Bergeron’s mug, but close enough. Fine bit of acting by Dennis Wideman along the boards? That’s two minutes for you Mike Richards. Hey, it’s not our fault Thor Nelson’s contact solution went nutty and caused him double vision. Too many men on the ice, Philly.
I’m not one for fixing games, but c’mon, we’re talking about the possibility of the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens meeting in the Eastern Conference finals. The Habs did their part, burning past Pittsburgh, 5-2 at the now-defunct Mellon Arena.
Et tu, Bruins?
As Montreal inevitably burned last night, Milan Lucic netted the Bruins’ first score since Mark Recchi’s late goal in the third period last Friday, capping what could have easily been the second straight Flyers shutout. So, there’s that. On the (Mike) Richter scale of ineptitude, last night’s game in Philadelphia wasn’t the disaster we witnessed Monday night. The Bruins won faceoffs, played better defense (though you have to imagine Tuukka Rask’s thought process during Richards’ first-period goal: “Uh…guys?…Little help?), and got better contributions across the board. Then again, they continued to shoot the puck like they were aiming clear for Michael Leighton’s sweater logo.
The Flyers are clearly the better team now when you add Gagne and subtract David Krejci from the equation. But that doesn’t mean the Bruins shouldn’t be able to take game 7 Friday night in their own building in front of their own fans, who frankly better show up to the party this time. There’s an easy way to assure that of happening, of course: Score first.
As far as epic sports collapses go, the possibility of the Bruins handing over a 3-0 lead doesn’t fit into the equation with the 2004 Yankees. The Bruins are a banged-up squad, trying to eke out all they can from the month-plus of good fortune and magic they had on their side. Even if they get to Montreal, there’s no guarantee they can get by in that series, the Canadiens having kidnapped the genie who just recently resided in Boston, handing him a copy of “French is Fun,” and chortling their way to hockey history.
After two weeks of rooting for the hated Habs, I scrubbed a little more ferociously this morning. This, after all, is what we pined for. The opportunity is there for the Habs and B’s to play for the right to be in the Stanley Cup finals, something we haven’t seen since the days of Rick Middleton and Terry O’Reilly. It would be Sox-Yanks in the ALCS and Patriots-Colts in the AFC title game, the greatest, most historic rivalry in the NHL coming to an unlikely clash.
You’re going to let the Flyers stand in the way, Gary?
They’re talking about destiny today in Philadelphia, the same destiny Yankee fans assumed was always on their side back in ’04. Hate to break it to you, but karma isn’t making any saves, and fate hasn’t netted a shot on goal in decades. Besides, if destiny wants Habs-Flyers, the league office may want to give her a call and explain what’s up.
This is no longer a nice ride with which to wane away the time in between the Celtics’ possible dash to another title and until the Red Sox can consistently beat teams over .500. Friday night is the most important Bruins game since Cam Neely and Ray Bourque were in their prime. It’s the chance to play in the conference finals for the first time in 18 years, the first time since when Taylor Hall was Kingston, Ontario learning to sit up. Two Original 6 teams have not played in the Eastern Conference finals since 1986. Only the Flyers stand in the way from it happening in 2010.
It may not be good for our overall health, but it would be, as they say, good for the game.
Don’t let the Flyers deny us of it.