David Krejci enjoys a heapin' helpin' after scoring in Game 3
For a full calendar year, the Boston Bruins and their fans heard it: Chokers.
The Bruins couldn’t finish off the Philadelphia Flyers after taking a three games to none lead in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals. They were the worst chokers in the history of sports! They were the first NHL team EVER to lose after taking a 3-0 advantage! (Actually they were the third, but to some ::cough::Puck Daddy::cough hyperbole is much more fun than reality.) This would hang over their heads FOREVER!
Well, not quite. More like 360 days, to be exact.
Lessons learned by the Bruins, changes made. By the front office, which over the summer brought in a big, sniping wing in Nathan Horton and a solid, grinding center in Greg Campbell. Which added even more forward depth at the trade deadline in Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly. Not this year would the Bruins be left to depend on a European reject (Miro Satan), a fourth-line PK specialist (Dan Paille) and a player who never should have seen the ice (Marc Savard) as a “first” line.
And lessons learned by the players (those who remained; almost half the roster turned over this season). Never, EVER take your foot off the gas, and never take anything for granted.
But probably the biggest factor in this series was the simplist: The good health of David Krejci, aka Flyer Killer (since last year’s playoffs, Boston is 10-0-1 vs. Philadelphia with Krejci in the lineup). Four goals (three game-winners), five assists, plus-6 in four games. The Flyers targeted Krejci (and let him know about it), but with Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton on his wings, this time things were different. As Scott Hartnell discovered in Game 4, when he tried to put Krejci over the boards into the Bruins bench, only to have his head almost removed from his shoulders by Lucic.
Other than goalie Tim Thomas, who stole Game 2 (Boston’s only real difficult game, which they won 3-2 in overtime), the other beast of the series was defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, who led all skaters in ice time (29:02, 36:26, 28:16, 25:43), recorded three assists, and finished at a staggering plus-10. One Boston TV sports announcer reminded us, in tones tinged with surprise, that, oh yeah, Seidenberg missed the playoffs last year (severed wrist tendons). No shit, Sherlock.
Some (not the majority, to their credit) Flyers fans and media have protested that the Flyers couldn’t overcome their myriad injuries. The biggest factor in the series, some say, was the loss of Chris Pronger. Sure, I’d accept that, if you weren’t all shouting “CHOKERS!” at the Bruins last season. Live by the sword, die by the sword. Nobody who thumbed his or her nose last year can use injuries as a excuse. Sorry. The Flyers lost because the Bruins outhit, outhustled and just flat out outplayed them, at every position.
Pass the sugar.
(Photo courtesy of slidingsideways at bestlaidplans.org)