The Boston Bruins are one night removed from an absolute beat down of the Pittsburgh Penguins. A 6-1 rout of superior competition has the Bruins up 2-0 in the series as it heads back to Boston tomorrow.
The pundits are, to say the least, stunned.
Pittsburgh came into the series scoring at an astronomical clip. Now they’re two games in and have only tallied one goal. To this point, their stars have been ghosts, their power play has been shut down, and the goalie situation has become a carousel.
This alone against any team would be a shocker. But the fact that it’s coming at the hands of the Bruins is an absolute twist that even M. Night Shyamalan couldn’t write.
Make no mistake; this is not a slight against Boston. The Bruins have a solid amount of talent, full of core players two years removed from a Stanley Cup.
It’s the way Boston had been playing coming into the playoffs that makes this such a surprise.
The last two months of the Bruins’ season was wrought with under performing, turnover loaded, migraine inducing hockey. Sure, they finished a point out of first place in the Northeast division, but they didn’t exactly look like contenders.
Things didn’t change much as they entered the first round of the NHL Playoffs against the Toronto Maple Leafs. If anything, the series was a microcosm of Boston’s regular season. The Bruins would dominate, and then flail.
As the series fell into Game 7 after Boston blew a 3-1 series lead, confidence around the Bruins fan base was minimal at best. And as the Maple Leafs stormed off to a 4-1 lead in the third period, Boston was looking mortality in the eye.
With only 10 minutes remaining, players began pondering if this was the end of the line for this group, and coach Claude Julien‘s seat reached a boiling point.
And then Nathan Horton scored to make it 4-2. And then Milan Lucic made it 4-3. Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, a Patrice Bergeron goal tied the game with seconds left.
The TD Garden exploded, the Bruins breathed new life and Toronto fans lining up to buy tickets for next round were forced to hide their wallets for the time being.
Boston completed hockey history when Bergeron sent the Leafs home for good in overtime. As the minutes waned as Boston began contemplating summer plans, the tide turned like there was no tomorrow.
As the Bruins prepared for their second round match up against the New York Rangers, everyone was wondering the same thing; was a lesson learned? Did Boston, pulling itself off life support, finally right the ship? Or was it just another chance for the Bruins to sleepwalk through a series?
Almost a month later, I think we have our answer.
Since one of the greatest comebacks fans have ever seen, the Bruins have become a different team. Gone is the squad that looked lost on the ice. No longer was Boston giving away leads at discount rate.
If you don’t believe it, just look at the stats. The Bruins followed up Game 7 against Toronto with six wins in seven contests. Even in the lone loss, you could contend Boston was the better team.
Goaltender Tuukka Rask has only allowed 10 goals in this span. As mentioned above, only one has come from Pittsburgh. Not only has he cut down on his GAA, he’s simply looked outstanding. Just ask Sidney Crosby how he likes lining up a shot against Rask.
Not to be outdone, the Bruins’ forwards have ignited.
David Krejci has practically lead the league in points wire to wire since the start of the postseason. Horton, who would disappear at times throughout the regular season, is showing his 2011 playoff form with seven goals and 10 assists. Bergeron, along with linemate Brad Marchand, have finally arrived after struggling through most of the Toronto series.
These aren’t the Bruins we saw at the start of the regular season. No, these Bruins are reminding many of the group that hoisted the Cup two years ago.
They can’t get too ahead of themselves, though. This series with a dangerous Pittsburgh team is far from over.
But make no mistake; the only reason Boston is even in this situation is because they gained new life and never looked back.