BOSTON – Come on Zdeno Chara, once more for old time’s sake.
“Zee,” answer one last question about the 2010 collapse and how it affected this year’s Bruins club going into the Eastern Conference semifinal rematch with Philadelphia and hampered your club even with another 3-0 lead in your favor.
“No, I really thought this year we were just really focusing on playing our game and our style. And nobody was really, to be honest with you, nobody was even talking about last year,” said Chara. “We were just really trying to stay focused and taking it one game at a time and do our best. Like I said, some games were much closer than the score was showing, but we just find a way to win and grinded it out.”
Well, that no one was talking about last year was a lie. Because even if they didn’t talk about it behind closed door among themselves, the Bruins had to address the matter every time a puke like myself or any of my colleagues asked them a question about it.
Guess what Bruins. Now you don’t have to talk about it ever again, except to maybe reflect on the demise of that 3-0 lead as a turning point. The 2010-11 Bruins not only put down the Flyers in four straight, but they also came back from 0-2 down in the Montreal series and won a Game 7 to finish of the Canadiens.
You name a stumbling block the Bruins of recent years have had and this year’s squad will leap over it. That much has been proven. Regardless of what happens in the next round, this team has shown perseverance, determination and grit that past Bruins clubs have claimed to have until they wilted like Mother’s Day flowers left without water until Father’s Day.
The Bruins all season long talked about last season as a learning tool. Now they once and for all have put that knowledge to use.
“It feels great. It’s nice that we’re not going to have to answer any more of those questions and we can put that behind us. I think we learned a lot from last year, that experience, and I think it made us a more determined hockey club,” said forward Milan Lucic. “I think you could see it in us. In that first round, when we got down 2-0 to Montreal, to get ourselves back into it. And also in this, we were feeling good coming into this series. We went right after them … We’ve definitely put everything behind us with what happened last year, so it’s a real good feeling.”
The 2010 Bruins will always be the third team in NHL history to blow a 3-0 lead. That pain will never go away for anyone associated with the team. But as the club heads to the third round, you can look back and say it was a blessing in disguise that the team didn’t move on.
Had the Bruins won one more round and not gone any farther last spring, maybe general manager Peter Chiarelli would’ve been convinced that the team had enough offense and wouldn’t have made the deal for Nathan Horton. Maybe he would’ve thought the team could get by with what it had on the depth chart if injuries – like the one to David Krejci – weakened the Bruins at center. That probably wouldn’t have put Chris Kelly or Rich Peverley on Boston’s radar once this year’s trade deadline approached.
Last year’s Bruins just weren’t good enough. Everyone wanted them to play the Montreal Canadiens, who were a lower-seeded team with not much to offer other than goaltender Jaroslav Halak. There’s no telling what Boston would’ve done in that series, but the perception of the Bruins’ talent level would’ve been skewed by that series regardless of the result.
We saw this spring how a 3-0 lead is no longer insurmountable. Chicago came within one overtime goal of accomplishing this year what the Flyers did last year. Maybe these comebacks are going to become a better than every-35-year occurrence. That’ll let the 2010 Bruins off the hook a little.
But even if we never see another 0-3 comeback in our lifetime, the 2010 Bruins can be forgiven. The 2011 Bruins – made up of roughly half the same players from a year ago and half imported fresh blood – have proven that the collapse wasn’t an organizational failure or a sign that Chara or Lucic or Patrice Bergeron, Mark Recchi, David Krejci or Claude Julien possess some sort of gene that sentences them to be disappointments for eternity.
The mantra “last year was last year” was repeated so many times over the last week, the Bruins practically lulled us into a coma with it. That doesn’t mean there isn’t some truth to it, and now they’ve proven that slogan to be the truest thing imaginable.
There can be no more questions about the Bruins’ ability to overcome last year’s disappointment, or close out a playoff series in dramatic or anticlimactic fashion. Now there can only be questions about what it feels like to take a step no Bruins squad has taken in 19 years, what it takes to beat Tampa Bay and how many goals can the power play score now that it’s on “fire.”