No NHL team had ever won a playoff series without scoring at least one power play goal. That is, until the Boston Bruins, who were 0-for-21 with the man advantage, beat the Montreal Canadiens in a memorable and dramatic seven-game series in the NHL’s first round of the 2011 playoffs on Wednesday night in Boston.
Just as it did earlier in the series, it took overtime for the third-seeded Bruins to win the series-deciding game (by a score of 4-3) and ultimately pull off the unexpected and unprecedented in hockey history, overcoming an 0-2 series deficit to win a playoff series. And it beat its arch-rivals to do it!
Nathan Horton was brought to Boston by free agency in the offseason to help the team score more goals this season. And though he didn’t show up much on the score sheet this past series, he got the game winner in Game 7, as well as the game winner in a double overtime classic in Game 5 last Saturday night in Boston, that at the time put the Bruins in the series lead three games to two (before it lost Game 6 in Montreal on Tuesday night, which left the series tied 3-3).
But it’s Tim Thomas who is and will have to continue to be the star for the Bruins in net as it faces the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round of the playoffs for the second season in a row. He will likely win goalie of the year (the Vezina Trophy) thanks to his historic and NHL-leading single-season save percentage (.938%) and goals against average stats, the former of which beat Dominik Hasek’s regular season record set with the Buffalo Sabres in the 1998-1999 season. However, the Bruins defense, particularly big man Zdeno Chara and mid-season acquisitions like Tomas Kaberle have to be more productive and lead the charge, while minimizing turnovers in their own end. Thomas can’t do it all.
Having blown a 3-0 series lead in seven games to the Flyers last season in round two of the playoffs, the Bruins have the chance it was looking for to avenge that embarrassing end to a season. This year’s team needs to now make it to at least the Eastern Conference final round, or the season will be a major disappointment yet again.
Any team that has the NHL’s top goalie in net, has stars on defense, and a future Hall of Famer in Mark Recchi on offense and others that can put the puck in the net—Horton, 30-goal scorer Milan Lucic, and Patrice Bergeron come to mind—should be favored to go far in the playoffs, and especially now when it is facing a team in Philly that is weak in net, having to use three different goalies lately. The Bruins also won three of its four regular season games against Philly.
The Bruins got the Game 7 monkey off its back in beating the Canadiens the other night, but the wound from last year’s elimination at the hands of the Flyers is still fresh in hockey minds everywhere. It’s now or never for the Boston Bruins to put that behind it, starting tomorrow afternoon (3:00 p.m. ET) with Game 1 in Philadelphia.