It’s May, right?
Judging both by the laissez-faire din of the crowd at the TD Garden Thursday night and the droll Ned Martin approach of NBC Sports Network’s Dave Strader on play-by-play, you couldn’t help but compare the atmosphere at Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals between the Bruins and Rangers to your average February tilt against the Blue Jackets. It’s the second time in three playoff games that some have complained of a less-than-boisterous fan base, likely lulled to sleep Thursday night after a first period that played like a “No, I love you more” spat between a couple.
For the second straight game, the Bruins took an overtime win when Brad Marchand took a sweet dish from Game 7 hero Patrice Bergeron and scored on Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist for a 3-2 win and a 1-0 series lead. For the second straight game, the Garden erupted in celebratory glee. Just over 72 hours earlier, the same seats were emptying in surrender with the Bruins down to the Maple Leafs, 4-1, and only 10 minutes remaining in their season. New life emerged Thursday, a second chance at moving on in the quest for the Stanley Cup.
In the end, the Bruins and Rangers delivered compelling drama in a game that most would argue the Bruins dominated, with enough posts hit on the evening to compose a commercial jingle. Lundqvist wasn’t at his best, allowing Zdeno’s Chara’s second-period slap shot to trickle past the goal line, and called out his teammates for failing in the extra frame. (“Have I played bad in overtime? No. Can I score? No. Is it frustrating? Yes.”) Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski, and Dougie Hamilton gave fresh, young legs that clearly invigorated the Bruins, the direct opposite of what the Bruins got out of Jaromir Jagr, the 41-year-old legend who is clearly out of sync when he isn’t out of gas.
Maybe that was the case in the crowd as well, particularly in the wake of Monday’s epic comeback against the Leafs. Game 5 against Toronto can be excused in some part that it was a Friday night game with a CEO crowd. And it’s not as if the Bruins and Rangers gave them anything to rock the roof off with to kick things off in Game 1. If we learned anything though, it’s that the Bruins should be able to win this series more handily than we may have initially thought. The Rangers’ power play makes Boston’s look dominant, which it bordered on Thursday with one goal and an impressive barrage in overtime. Yes, the Rangers block shots as advertised (how do you think Dan Girardi feels today) and Lundqvist probably just had an off-night coming off back-to-back shutouts against the Capitals. But the Bruins were better. Much better.
And the crowd should be too on Sunday. Now that the band is starting to play the way we know they’re capable of, perhaps there will be less Mr. Hyde and frustration over which team takes the ice on any given night. No Game 7 hangover to speak of.
‘‘I really thought our guys turned the page on that historical game,’’ coach Claude Julien said. ‘‘At the same time, they wanted to take what was necessary to start the series, and that was momentum, the good feeling that we have from that game.’’
Will there be a Game 1 hangover? Game 2? Perhaps the inconsistencies that plague this team will come back to haunt them, but on night 1, it was indeed a more concerted effort against the Rangers. For one game.
Until Sunday then. May 19. The Bruins may be starting to act like they know what time of year it is. Let’s the rest of us follow suit, shall we?