Well, it’s the day after game 6, and Boston as a collective fanbase is exhausted in the best way possible.
Just as no one expects the Spanish Inquisition or Chara’s stickhandling, in no way, shape or form did most people expect the Bruins to rock the Sabres in 6 games in round 1. With a young corps of defensemen in the absence of Seidenberg and Stuart, it was up to Tuukka Rask and the forwards to find some hidden gear within themselves, some fire and will to win that maybe borderline wasn’t there during the regular season.
It’s said that playoff hockey is an entirely different beast. And, okay. Last year the Bruins went in as the #1 seed; expectations were high, of course, the Bruins had swept the season series against the Canadiens, so a playoff sweep, while amazing, wasn’t entirely unexpected. This year was the ultimate flipside; a Bruins/Sabres series, a season series that had been basically split between the two teams. Anything could happen, and doubts ran rampant. Who would be the better goaltender between the two whose stats had basically been identical throughout the season? Whose PK would prevail, two of the best in the league? Whose special teams would be most effective, as that would most likely be where a good deal of goals would be scored?
Playoff hockey is a different beast. Suddenly through six games the Bruins are six for 22 on the powerplay. That’s a jump from 16.3% effectiveness in the regular season to 27.3% in the playoffs, and although six games isn’t the biggest sample size, it’s still incredibly inpressive.
These players, these Bruins who lost ten straight games in the regular season, they’ve been infected with something. Hope. Determination. Defiance. Underdog grit. Whatever you want to call it. It’s playoffs. It’s the reason Johnny Boychuk’s hits are even more impressive than they were in the regular season. It’s the reason Vladimir Sobotka’s getting increased ice time, and the reason Dennis Wideman is starting to connect, the reason David Krejci has begun to score, and maybe most impressively, it’s the reason Blake freaking Wheeler is starting to use his 6 foot 5 inch, 210 lb frame to actually HIT people. The combination of hitting and his insane puck moving abilities may have only combined to get him a ridiculously failed open-net attempt last night, but it’s building up, it’s getting better.
Tuukka Rask is living up to the hype, improving during games instead of tiring out. Baby Adam McQuaid is keeping up with the play, making a name for himself, always in the scrums after the whistle. Michael Ryder’s picked it up, and what more can I say about Miro Satan that hasn’t already been said? It’s like the bear woke up in October, was sort of groggy for the whole season, and then someone annoyed him at the end of the season. He’s awake now, and he’s putting the fear of Boston into the NHL.
Marc Savard will be back for round 2. That means 3 or 4 days to work him back into the lineup. The big question now is who sits for Savvy? Thornton and Begin seem like automatic options, but are their intangibles actually necessary to the lineup? What about sitting Sturm, or Wheeler? (note: I am not advocating these things) Does it depend on whether we play the Penguins or the Flyers?
After tomorrow night, we’ll know who the Bruins will face. For now we’re in tiny limbo, and all that can be done right now is wait and hope….and cheer for the Coyotes!
Sabres: slain. My love for Mike Grier has emerged unscathed. I hate Ryan Miller a little more now. But most importantly it was a hard-fought, well-won series. Round 2, here we come.
Double-Edged Sabres: Good Morning Buffalo (a great recap from the other side)
The Good, the Bad, the Coyotes: We Made it 7 (just…read this whole blog. Funniest Coyotes blog out there.)