Forget it Philadelphia, not this time. All you have on your side is history, and that's exactly what the Bruins are about to make you tonight at TD Garden.
There won't be any hockey hearts broken here this year in the Eastern Conference semifinals by the Flyers. These Bruins have the same 3-0 advantage in the same round against the same antagonist, but these are far from the same old Bruins. They're a better, bolder, gutsier Black and Gold.
They are the Spooked-Bs no more. This Bruins team has a resiliency that prior playoff models haven't come equipped with, which is why Philadelphia's 3-0 voodoo isn't going to work this spring. It's not 3-0, uh-oh. It's 3-0-ver and out.
With each shift this postseason you can see the Bruins' team culture shifting from one of apprehension and underachievement to one of confidence and accomplishment. Like the 2004 Red Sox, they're not just enjoying bucking history; they're reveling in it. This team is already the first in franchise history to rally from a 2-0 deficit to win a playoff series, a feat made doubly sweet by the fact it came at the expense of the Montreal Canadiens. Now, they're going to reach the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1992, and avenge their epic collapse from last post-season in the process.
The pucks personality makeover started against the Canadiens.
After losing Games 1 and 2 at home, the Bruins rallied to win the next two in the boisterous and combative confines of the Bell Centre. They easily could have folded up like a lawn chair in Game 4, when Montreal scored two goals in 55 seconds to take a 3-1 second-period lead, and the Bell Centre was buzzing in anticipation of their demise. Admit it, you thought they were done.
Then coach Claude Julien called The Timeout. The Bruins battled back to tie the game twice and took it in overtime on Michael Ryder's tally.
It was the first of their four overtime wins this postseason. The Game 7 overtime win against the Habs cemented their new-found resiliency. The Bruins' undefeated overtime mark this postseason speaks volumes about the their ability to handle pressure and overcome adversity.
"This group has been very composed. Nothing really rattles this group too much," said forward Chris Kelly to reporters yesterday.
When is the last time you could say that about a Bruins team?
The Bruins owe their new mentally-tough mien in part to the presence of New-Bs like Kelly, Nathan Horton (didn't think I'd be saying that in December) and in particular Brad Marchand, who has a lot of Dustin Pedroia to his personality. Those guys weren't around for last year's 3-0, 3-0 collapse, and they haven't been Bruins long enough to be infected by 39 years of frustration and disappointment.
The Flyers experienced Boston's resolve firsthand in Game 2 of this series. After being "embarrassed" by the Bruins in the words of Scott Hartnell, Philadelphia came out racing in Game 2 and had a 2-0 lead just 9:31 into the action. The Bruins looked like they were going to get blown off Broad Street. Instead, they scored two goals of their own, and the game was 2-2 after a period.
That was the defining moment of the series. The Bruins had withstood the Flyers' best haymaker, and Philadelphia was both surprised and bewildered. Tim Thomas took it from there, and David Krejci's overtime BB delivered another OT triumph for Claude's Club.
It's all pointing towards the Bruins tonight. Thomas is rebuffing vulcanized rubber at will. The Flyers have poured 92 shots on him in the last two games. He has stopped 89 of them. Krejci plays like Sidney Crosby against Philadelphia, and has 4 goals and 4 assists in the first three games of the series. The Bruins even snapped their 0-for-30 power play drought in Game 3 with a 5-on-3 strike. At this point, the only thing missing from their postseason portfolio is the return of Milan Lucic, still scoreless in 10 playoff skates.
The Flyers will point to the fact that they're 6-1 in elimination games in the Stanley Cup playoffs over the last two seasons, and they'll talk about how they're overcome a 3-0 deficit before against the Bruins, so they know what it takes. But Philadelphia is desperate. They're proffering up the past and resorting to mental gamesmanship to try to plant a seed of doubt in the Bruins' locker room because nothing on the ice has worked against them so far.
"I think just one win would give us that confidence, and it's going to make them think about what happened last year," Flyers center Claude Giroux told Philadelphia reporters. "Just one win would just put us back in the mix, and then going back in front of our fans, I have no doubt that we can get a win" at the Wells Fargo Center.
Hartnell opted for the black magic approach to Game 4 as well, telling the Philadelphia Inquirer that the Flyers were "going to try to relish this opportunity and go out there and disappoint these fans in Game 4, and then they'll start thinking, 'Oh, man. Oh, man. What's going to happen here? Is it going to be a repeat of last year?' "
History is all the Flyers have left to cling to because in the present the Bruins are a better team, period. Lightning isn't going to strike twice, and the Bruins are moving on to face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference finals, with home-ice advantage no less.
The second-round is no longer the final stop on Causeway Street.
Bruins president Cam Neely boldly proclaimed a while back his was a Final Four team in the chase for Lord Stanley's chalice, and he was right. Chutzpah starts at the top.
The Spoked-B sweaters are exactly the same, but the look of this year's Bruins is totally different.
...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.