RALEIGH — This is the slide show you’ll have spinning in your mind if the Boston Bruins don’t buck the trend and find a way to climb out of a 3-1 series hole against the Carolina Hurricanes.
In order of occurrence, you’ll see Phil Kessel hitting the post with a shot. And then you’ll remember David Krejci dropping Jussi Jokinen for no explainable reason in front of the Boston net and then P.J. Axelsson skating end to end shorthanded, only to have Cam Ward snuff out the breakaway opportunity. Then there goes Eric Staal firing a puck under Tim Thomas’ right armpit into the net for the first goal of a 4-1 win in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series at RBC Center.
It’s not exactly the type of vacation reel one wants to live through if one has any tie whatsoever to the Black and Gold. It gets even more painful as the pictures flip past. Zdeno Chara hits the post, Chara gets called for a phantom hooking call, Marc Savard has his 2-on-1 pass broken up and Jokinen scores the go-ahead goal.
There’s more, including a too-much-to take top-shelf, backhanded goal by former Bruins winger Sergei Samsonov. You’ll reach for the metaphorical power cord in your mind to stop the projector from working. But you won’t be able to.
And neither will the players.
“Obviously games like this, it’s a game of inches. And obviously we didn’t have them,” said Chara. “It’s too bad. Maybe if we would have had a little bit of luck, we would’ve had a couple more goals. It’s one of those could’ve, should’ve, would’ve.”
The Bruins, of course, could erase these slides and replace them with some magnificent moments of a comeback that would go down in the annals of a club history that’s waited too long for something historical to happen in its favor. The Bruins blew the 3-1 lead in ’04. They didn’t make the playoffs for two seasons. They were dropped in the first round last year. Now they could win three in a row.
But the Bruins need a J.D. Drew, grand slam-type moment. They need someone unexpected to do something uncharacteristically uplifting to raise them from the doldrums. That Axelsson breakaway could’ve been such a moment. Savard beating the ‘Canes on a change and firing a slap shot toward Ward could’ve been one of those moments. But none of them were. To Savard, the only frustrating part is that we’re able to recall all these happenings so clearly. In his view, there should be a lot more opportunities.
“We’re not getting enough (chances). They outshoot us again, by a big margin. We might’ve got outshot during the year, but maybe it was by five or six shots. It was never 10 a night,” said the playmaking center. “I don’t know what happens when maybe we’ve got guys trying to do too much. Right now, I think less is more. I think we’ve just got to get back … it’s going to come down to wanting to do it.”
Savard loves to golf, but he obviously wants to put off those tee times as far into the future as he can. When he stands over a putt, he doesn’t want that save Ward made to be blocking his view of the ball. When Tim Thomas is out fishing, Shane Hnidy is relaxing at his cottage and Mark Stuart is taking in a ballgame, they just won’t be able to soak up the enjoyment they would if this is how it’s going to all end. They’ll be haunted. A regular season that every organization in the NHL dreams of could become the postseason nightmare that everyone dreads.
The Bruins players have to think about that. It just won’t be painful to lose in five games to Carolina. It’ll be a mark on each individuals’ resume for eternity. On every player and coach’s resumé, it’ll read: “Earned No. 1 seed; lost second round.”
Projection slides can be burned. But legacies can’t be destroyed unless you avoid them in the first place. Sunday night will be the Bruins’ chance to decide what’s going to be burned on people’s minds for this summer and beyond.