BOSTON – Talk about letting Bobby Orr down.
The hockey legend, whose statue commemorating his Stanley Cup-winning goal from 1970 was unveiled earlier today, probably shed a tear like the Indian chief in the old anti-pollution ads while watching his old team, the Bruins, drop a 4-0 decision to Philadelphia in a performance that was as far removed from that of the “Big, Bad Bruins” as ballet is from mixed martial arts.
You never would’ve known it was Game 5 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series and not a re-air of a game from Boston’s 10-game, midwinter losing streak had you gotten home around 8:30 p.m. and flipped on the tube. The Bruins were hitting the ice instead of hitting the Flyers, they decided to dare the Flyers to ram the pucks down their throats by turning it over every chance they got in the neutral zone, and mostly acted as though three wins in a best-of-seven were good enough.
Fortunately for them, they can redeem themselves Wednesday night by closing out the series at the Wachovia Center. Of course, first they have to do the three R’s – regroup, refocus and return to their roots. (Well maybe that’s four R’s).
No team that enters the playoffs as a sixth seed and wins just one round should ever become overconfident. But it’s obvious a little bit of that has crept into the Bruins’ psyche since they jumped to a 3-0 lead. It’s like 2009 all over again, as Boston went into a similar spring swoon against Carolina until the series was 3-1 the wrong way. Back then, the first-seeded Bruins definitely underestimated the sixth-seeded Hurricanes. A disappointing Game 7 loss seemingly taught the Bruins how quickly things can go south if they’re not on top of their games every night.
Now they have the luxury of a lead they built with their patented brand of toughness and determination, but the margin for error in their attempts to return to form is getting smaller and smaller.
“It seems like it right now,” said winger Milan Lucic when asked if the Bruins over overconfident. “I mean there’s still a job that needs to be done. Everyone always says the fourth [win] is the hardest. And it’s proving to be like that right now. I’m not going to take anything away from them. They’ve played great the last two games. But we haven’t played nearly up to par to where we need to be to win that fourth game.”
Whether Lucic’s teammates agree with him or not, no one in black and gold can deny that the last two games haven’t featured “Bruins” hockey. They let the Flyers up off the mat by not protecting an early lead and then not cashing in on their overtime scoring chances in Friday night’s Game 4. And then they get tossed around their own building by the Flyers like rag dolls by an over-hyper 2-year-old. When Darroll Powe hit Lucic on the forecheck and dropped the bulky Bruins winger as though he weighed 50 pounds early in the third period, it was pretty apparent Boston wasn’t ready to match the desperation of the do-or-die Flyers.
The stats sheet can be deceiving, but Lucic, Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk were credited with just two hits each on home ice, that’s a sign Boston isn’t willing to pay the price to put that fourth win on the docket and take on another opponent in the next round. Sure the Bruins are shorthanded after the loss of David Krejci in Game 3. However, that’s only supposed to make them bear down and step up, not wither away. They’ve been without their top offensive weapons so much this season, they shouldn’t even notice they’re missing.
Orr wasn’t the only one let down on the 40th anniversary of his classic goal, which ended 29 years of a Cup drought for the Bruins. His teammates from that ’70 club probably also had a hard time recognizing the spoked ‘B’ on the sweaters of those guys aimlessly skating around getting run over. There were close to 17,565 folks (some dressed as empty seats) that thought they were going to see a clinching and instead witnessed a lynching.
All the bitterness of tonight can be erased. The Bruins can shrink their heads back down to normal, humble size, squeeze them into their helmets, tighten up their chin straps and go to work the “Bruins way” Wednesday night. That’s what Orr and all the Bruins greats before and since him would do. It’s what they have to do. Or they could be on the brink of an historic collapse that might be worth of another statue – in Philadelphia.