There’s no doubt that deep down the Bruins want to start their next playoff series at home against Philadelphia rather than on the road against defending Stanley Cup-champion Pittsburgh.
So, if you hear the echoes of ‘Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole’ coming from a condo or two in Charlestown tonight, you’ll know who’s root, root, rooting for the Habs to make history in their Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with Washington tonight.
No team has come back from 3-1 down in a best-of-seven series to beat the No. 1 seed since the current playoff format was adopted by the NHL. If any team could do it, it’s this year’s Habs, who are proving that history repeats by riding the hot, young goaltender all the way to Game 7. Jaroslav Halak was actually pulled for Game 3 and benched for Game 4, but since then he’s been Ken Dryden Patrick Roy rolled into one. He made 53 saves in 54 shots to keep Montreal alive in Game 6.
That doesn’t mean Montreal wants to take its chances by giving up that many shots again tonight. The Habs would like to cut down Halak’s workload as part of a tightening up of their game. It would help to get some breaks too, and the Habs already got some news to their advantage yesterday, when it was learned Washington defenseman Tom Poti is going to miss the game with an eye injury.
Of course, the Caps are staring down more than just the Habs’ attempt at adding to their storied history. Washington is also trying to reverse decades of its own underachieving history.
The Washington Capitals have faced the frightening prospect of failure — and then failed spectacularly– as often, as infamously, and usually as comically as any pro team in sports in the last 30 years.
But they have never had quite the chance to fail as badly as they do on Wednesday night at Verizon Center. Before you can avoid such a fate in sports, you have to acknowledge it and face it. You can’t leave it standing behind you, tapping you on the shoulder.
In the last 25 years, the Capitals have blown a two-game lead in a playoff series six times. All six times, they finished in a total tailspin, losing either their last three or four straight games.
How about that? Not only are the Caps battling Montreal, they’re battling a quarter century of failure. That’s no exactly an ideal situation. So maybe it won’t take that much rooting from New England to push the Habs past the Caps and get the Bruins a date with the Flyers.