Put in the simplest terms, the Bruins need to go just 6-6 over their next potential 12 games to win the Stanley Cup; 2-3 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, whom they lead in the Eastern Conference final, 2-0, with Game 3 looming Wednesday night in Boston, and 4-3 vs. whichever team emerges from the Western Conference final, Los Angeles or Chicago.
Of course, it’s a lot more complicated than that.
Right? Isn’t it?
Cliché alert: the Penguins probably know what needs to be done, but whether they can accomplish that task and overcome the buzzsaw Bruins is the question on everybody’s mind. After what we’ve witnessed in the first two games against the belly-flopping Penguins – heck, ever since the miracle Game 7 against Toronto, the Bruins are a healthy 7-1 in the NHL playoffs – it’s easy for Bruins fans to develop a sense of security about Boston’s dominance, which is even more remarkable considering this squad was 10 minutes away from major offseason changes.
Or perhaps the confidence is astonishing simply because of recent history. The Bruins were the Penguins in 2011 against the Canadiens, down 2-0 in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals before rallying on the road in their first step toward the Cup. The Bruins had a commanding 3-1 lead on the Maple Leafs this postseason before it took divine intervention to snatch joy away from Toronto. There is the 2010 Flyers series that we no longer speak of.
But in the aftermath of the Bruins’ dominant 6-1 win over Pittsburgh in Game 2 Monday night, the Penguins sounded like a defeated bunch, frustrated by an offensive attack its defensive corps can’t handle with a goalie controversy and players consistently skating out of place. The Bruins have outscored the offensive-fire powered Penguins, 9-1, over two games, with Tuukka Rask seemingly having to do little in net thanks to the numbing approach by Pittsburgh. The Penguins, a team that spent March as the only undefeated team for a month in NHL history, need to go just 8-4 for their first Stanley Cup win since 2009, but yet it seems all the more challenging after the inefficiencies and lack of answers following Monday night.
“We’ve only won two games, so I don’t know if we have had success yet. Actually, I know we haven’t. We’re paying attention to detail and doing things as a group.
“If we’re sitting here happy about (being up 2-0) and celebrating, then we are making a crucial mistake. You can be happy and the fans can be happy and our parents and family can be happy and good for them. But we have no time to be happy right now.”
Patrice Bergeron? Brad Marchand? Zdeno Chara? Nope, that was Montreal forward Michael Cammalleri, after the Canadiens delivered a 3-1 loss to the Bruins in Game 2 of their playoff series two years ago, Boston’s sixth playoff loss in a row. There’s a reason Claude Julien is pointing to that series in particular when preparing the Bruins for Wednesday’s Game 3. To that point, the Habs had held the higher-seeded Bruins to one goal over two games, just as Rask and the Boston defense has done in this series against Pittsburgh. It took an overtime win in Game 4, a double overtime win in Game 5, and another overtime win in Game 7 for the Bruins to complete the comeback what we thought was a series for the ages until Tampa Bay. Until Vancouver.
The Bruins went 12-6 the rest of the way in hoisting their first Stanley Cup since 1972. This edition needs half as many wins for another one.
There’s another reason why Julien should remind his Bruins about that Canadiens series; it was when their character was born, particularly following the painful hangover of 2010. Suddenly, the Bruins weren’t choke-artists, a team that stared down overtimes and Game 7’s as if they were another day picking up the kids from school. If we had to be further reminded about that, there’s always Game 7 against the Leafs, even though nobody will be able to ever fully explain it.
If the Penguins are that team, if Sidney Crosby is the player worthy enough to wear an NHL “C” and provide some semblance of inspiration for his All-Star cast of characters, we certainly didn’t see any of it in Game 2, when the Penguins came out like the Bugs Bunny All-Stars, playing a defensive brand of hockey that probably had the Patriots backfield snickering.
It sure feels over.
“We are in good shape, but now we have to take care of business,” Rask said … on May 5, 2010, after a 4-1 win over the Flyers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. The records don’t seem to indicate what happened after that.
Feeling over isn’t being over. But damn … it sure feels over, doesn’t it?