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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Bruins Commentary

Through six, it’s complementary twin peaks

“When darkness turns to light, it ends tonight.”

-The All-American Rejects

Yes, for better or worse, Monday will be the night where the Bruins and Canadiens speak their final words and put the definitive end to yet another mind-jarring, soul-sweating playoff series.

Regardless of who seizes Game 7, a gratifying bushel of bombshells has already accumulated in this series.

Obviously, for one thing, it wasn’t supposed to go this far. Even the staunchest Bruins Buffs needed to predict six-pack of grudge matches in C-cut fashion. Defending a team that spilled all eight regular season meetings against its first round adversary is as deserving of a strange glare as choosing Mystery, Alaska over Slap Shot for puckhead movie night.

Of course, you know the cliché notion: the regular season and the post-season have the power to be different as January and June. But not with this matchup, it seemed.

Just to stress that point, the two rivals –only 12 days removed from their final and most evenly matched regular season showdown- reeled back to old form. The Habs pierced two goals in less than three minutes against a timid-looking Bruins team with their captain looking like the discomforting Fawlty Tower that he was all last year, their flashy young phenom Phil Kessel earning his way to a brief “suspension” if you will, and their goaltender prone to excruciating bounces.

Montreal proceeded to stamp a deceiving 4-1 victory, mostly by salting their half of the ice, and prompted one of my buddies on campus to send me this one-line e-mail: “That, my friend, was an ominous beginning to the playoffs.”

Tough case to oppose, indeed, and you have to think that even the guys in the Bell Center visitors’ dressing room could sense the crows flying in the wrong direction. Those first two minutes must have given them the same here-we-go-again feeling that it did all the rooters, even if they did not outwardly admit it.

But that’s the key. Being the pros that they are, they most naturally didn’t admit it. And that, my friend, explains Games 2-6.

In five events of board-to-board, seat-to-seat anarchy, the Bruins have battered out three wins, including the last two to slurp away a 3-1 series deficit.

That’s odd. Didn’t something along those lines happen a little while before the thankfully forgotten NHL lockout? Didn’t it happen in something like the following order?: two Boston wins, Games 3-4 split, Montreal hustles back to force the decider?

Yep. And as NESN’s Sportsdesk pointed out, the Habs’ table-turning Game 5 win in 2004 was a 5-1 decision at the then-FleetCenter. Last Thursday, the Bruins stalled Montreal’s victory party with a 5-1 win at the Bell.

Furthermore, in 2004, the Bruins started off with a decisive 3-0 Game 1 win followed by an uplifting OT decision in Game 2. This time around, they fell into a 2-0 hole after Montreal ran off with a connection in the bonus round.

The two Game 4s we’re looking at were not quite brothers but cousins at the very least. Remember the hilarious highlight of Montreal’s Alexei Kovalev and Sheldon Souray blindly colliding at the blueline, Glen Murray seizing the loose biscuit and depositing the OT winner? I’ll bet the Garden visitors from the North similarly smirked at the Garden on Tuesday when Andrew Ference went off for tripping late in the second, setting up Patrice Brisebois’ bar-down snapper for the 1-0 final.

When the Canadiens morphed the win count from 3-1 to 3-3, they split ten goals over those two games. The Bruins just came off 5-1 and 5-4 epics.

Oh yeah, and current Boston coach Claude Julien was the Canadiens conductor last time these teams had a springtime series.

And one more thing, just to finish this marathon of quirks in style: the deciding game for the series will be on the night of Patriot’s Day. Recall once more that when the Bruins spilled their lead and bowed out in ’04, it spoiled –absolutely party-pooped- a day otherwise highlighted by the Marathon and the Sox’ morning triumph over the Yankees. (The anniversary of that letdown, by the way, was Saturday).

Do you smell momentum? Redemption? Bleu, blanc, et rouge blood trickling in the frozen water?

Well, if educated –or even novice- Bruins Buffs now anything, it’s how to be cautious. So let’s grant that anything is far from sealed.

Although, this much has been accomplished: it’s obvious that pro hockey is of considerable importance in New England again. I have two specimens to prove it. For Game 6, the Garden masses was far less bipartisan than the first two home dates, when Hab fans slithered down and usurped an embarrassing number of unclaimed seats.

Additionally, in the small hours after Boston’s epic sprint to the finish line that made Monday’s match possible, I heard something new out of the nightly parade of party animals that always stalls my slumber. I swear I heard the words “Bruins” and “Rangers” exchanged in a semi-sober shouting match.

New York isn’t even in the equation for once, but according to what I was hearing, the Blueshirt fans around here want to see the spoked-B crumble again and the locals will have none of it.

Let’s just see what happens.

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