BOSTON — Maybe a little sand kicked in their faces will do the Boston Bruins some good.
Finally, after five straight wins in the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Boston Bruins have tasted defeat. The Carolina Hurricanes did all the things they said they were going to do and mixed that with some brilliant goaltending by Cam Ward to conjure up a 3-0 Game 2 win at TD Banknorth Garden and even up this Eastern Conference semifinal series at a game apiece heading into Game 3 Wednesday.
Now we all know that the Bruins weren’t going to sweep their way to the Cup title (or did we?). So a defeat was inevitable. But it could also be the wake-up call the Eastern Conference’s top seed needed to get back on track going forward. The Bruins, to a man, admitted that despite the 4-1 score in Game 1 Friday, they didn’t play their best game. They wanted to tidy things up before taking the ice tonight. But they didn’t, and instead went in the opposite direction.
The Bruins pride themselves on never getting too high or too low, but to me they looked sky-high in the days leading up to Game 1 and Game 2. Those players I spoke to denied that the team had gotten too loose and lax.
“I think we’ve been doing a good job (staying even-keeled),” said goaltender Tim Thomas. “Whatever reason, right off the bat, the puck was bouncing over sticks. Whenever it would get wrapped around the boards and we’d go to pick it up along the boards, that’s when the puck decided to bounce. That kind of stuff. And I think they were working a little bit harder than us right from the beginning. So I don’t think it was a case of too high, it’s hockey.”
Defenseman Aaron Ward said: “I think our approach was, we had a lot to improve on. It’s not like we came out of (Game 1) saying like, ‘well it was great, where do you go from here?’ It was obviously, it was left up to us to figure out what it was. And that was we relaxed a little bit in the first game and we had some lapses and we had a few giant lapses in this one.”
That’s all well and good but my eyes don’t lie. The Bruins players seemed downright giddy over the last few days. They were interrupting each other’s interviews in the locker room with little jokes, arguing over the rules of their post-practice shooting game and making all kinds of lunch and dinner plans.
What went on behind closed doors might’ve been 180 degrees different. And I’m not telling the Bruins to stop having fun or living their non-hockey lives. Nor am I making a case that the Bruins turned from a USSR-like hockey machine to Delta House. In fact, a major key to this team’s success is the comraderie and comradeship these players have developed over the course of the last two seasons.
But the club might’ve lost a little perspective during it’s roll to a four-game sweep of Montreal and a one-game lead on Carolina by a combined score of 21-7. If they were in a Club Med state of mind, now they’ve been out in the sun a little too long, they’re burned and the clouds are rolling in. It’s time to fold up the lounge chairs, rub on some aloe and make sure the lifeguards don’t have to get called.
It’s only one loss and the Bruins have bounced back from far worse ever since Claude Julien came in and Marc Savard and Zdeno Chara became pillars of the organization. So there’s no reason to believe Game 2 will start a trend just as long as they don’t bury their heads in the sand and just bury their eyes in video and their brains in the on-ice system.