Now we really know why the Bruins were fighting tooth and nail down the stretch of the regular season to not only wrap up a playoff berth but also get out of that dreaded eighth slot in the Eastern Conference.
The Bruins comeback road win over Buffalo in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, and Washington’s amazing rally at home to even its series with Montreal, proved that a first-round date with the Capitals would’ve been doom for Boston.
The Capitals, who lost Game 1 in overtime, looked mostly indifferent again in falling behind, 4-1, with less than three minutes to go in the second period. Even though Nicklas Backstrom cut it to a two-goal-deficit and before the period ended, the Caps looked mortal and as though they were destined to become one of the biggest postseason flops in recent memory.
But then a funny thing happened, they turned up the dial and became the Caps again. With the exception of Mike Green — no points, even rating, basically invisible in the playoffs (again) — every Washington player looked possessed while pulling the Caps out of a two-goal, third-period hole and then battling for the tying goal after they fell behind with a tad more than five minutes to go. When Backstrom buried the game-winner, it was evident that the regular-season powerhouse was alive and breathing in the postseason.
Now juxtapose that against the Sabres team the Bruins have been dominating for the better part of six periods. Despite slow starts in both games, the Bruins haven’t been buried. Their inability to finish has been the only thing keeping them from breaking open both games during lopsided second periods. Buffalo lost Thomas Vanek and played as though the sky had fallen. And then we saw in the third period of Game 2 what it would look like if the Bruins put together an aggressive forecheck and smart plays at their own blue line with some actual goal-scoring — not that the Sabres looked too interested in stopping them.
The Caps are so talented and deep, it would’ve been difficult for the Bruins to get away with the same things against them. There would’ve been no margin for error. Washington can flip the switch at any time, while the Sabres don’t seem to a have a switch. They have two levels, both well below that of Washington’s capabilities. Unfortunately for the Bruins, if they get by Buffalo, Washington would probably be up next on the docket. Maybe by then the Bruins will have found an actual level of consistency.
But next time someone tells you that the regular season doesn’t mean anything, remember how important avoiding the eighth seed was for the 2009-10 Boston Bruins.
Elsewhere last night, Los Angeles managed to rally from 2-0 down for a 3-2 overtime win at Vancouver. That series like every other one that has played two games is now 1-1. The Canucks had to kill off three (yes, three) Andrew Alberts penalties in that game. Ugh.