It started in oh-so-promising fashion, but boy, did the wheels ever come off of this one!
At some point, you just have to give the Philadelphia Flyers credit. They didn't make excuses when they went down 3 games to 0 and they battled back in this game like they have all series long.
As for the Bruins, they had this game. Had it. And then they stopped playing and opened the door.
Tuukka Rask was not "Cool Hand Tuuk", the defense was unable to do anything offensively after the two power play goals put them up early. And Patrice Bergeron? Completely ineffective, along with the rest of his line. Yeah, sure-- they had some sporadic moments, but at the end of the night, when you look at who came through for Philly (Scott Hartnell, Danny Briere and the dagger goal from Simon Gagne) it was the same song, different night for Boston. The Flyers' big-time players (including captain Mike Richards, who was a force in the series overall) made a difference, the Bruins' did not.
So, we're left with the epic chokejob of epic chokejobs.
It isn't that the Bruins lost in the second round of the playoffs...it's how they lost that will sting for so long. It's almost as if ripping the hearts out of fans in losing a Game 7 wasn't enough...they had to witness the B's go up 3-0 in their own building and appear to be about to cruise into a showcase matchup against Montreal, only to see it all snatched away in such cruel fashion, with Rask surrendering several softies that were so uncharacteristic of his play down the stretch.
It is therefore, even more twisted irony to consider then, the rumors of a Tim Thomas-for Gagne swap at the trade deadline that was allegedly nixed by Thomas, who was given a non-movement clause after his Vezina Trophy season a year ago. Thomas spent the playoffs stapled to the Boston bench, while Gagne wrote himself into near-legendary status by bringing the Flyers back from the brink of elimination with his four memorable goals in as many games. I don't know if those rumors of a Thomas to Philly trade were true, and maybe if he's in net for the Flyers, his team sweeps the Bruins in four straight. But the bottom line is, if he could have fetched Gagne, what Boston fan wouldn't be jumping for joy at that thought?
The way the series played out is almost too sickening to truly contemplate.
So again, I tip my hat to the Flyers. They earned this, and who knows how far they'll go? For the Bruins, this is one more kick in the gut for a franchise that has known so many of these types of losses.
The show will go on, and the B's now own the 15th overall pick in every round, the lowest of any of the playoff-seeded teams, which doesn't even begin to erase the stench of what happened over the past seven days, but is at least a start.
And, it could always be worse, I suppose. The high-flying Windsor Spitfires are up 9-1 against the Brandon Wheat Kings in the first game of the Memorial Cup tourney after just two periods. Perhaps the kind of thrashing that the Manitobans are getting at the hands of the OHL champion tonight would've been preferable at the TD Garden than the way things played out in the 4-3 collapse.
Oh, and do you think the B's could have used Taylor Hall (he has two highlight reel markers and may turn the trick in the third)tonight? You can't win in this league without offense, and the kind of pathetic, uninspired performance we saw from the Boston forwards over the last 40 minutes and really, in the last three games when you get down to it, should serve as a wakeup call to Boston management.
The biggest indictment of Peter Chiarelli's performance as GM this season was the fact that he didn't adequately address his team's scoring woes, and failed to make a move of substance at the trade deadline. He did, however, surrender a high second-round (36th overall) pick for 17 games of Dennis Seidenberg and a "tough" defensive defenseman prospect in Matt Bartkowski. Tonight, the fear that Boston's lack of pop up front would come back to haunt did just that.
The season is over. There is a lot of work to be done. Beating the Buffalo Sabres was nice, but given the way things could have gone for Boston with all of the top seeds taken down, fans will only wonder what might have been for years to come. And they'll agonize over it. If you thought getting swept by Buffalo in 1993 was bad, you don't know the half of it.
The only way the Bruins can begin to ease the pain of this signature failure is to make the right calls at the draft next month and see those choices bear immediate and long-lasting fruit. That's going to be a tall order, and given the way things have gone of late, don't expect the Bruins "faithful" to exhibit much faith.
That will have to be earned back.