When the Boston Bruins were called for too many men on the ice in the third period of the seventh game of their Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinal series against Philadelphia, was there any doubt in your mind that Philadelphia was going to score on the power play and win the series?
When the penalty was assessed, you murmured “Guy freakin’ Lafleur.”
In 1979, the Bruins were on the brink of eliminating the hated Montreal Canadiens in Game 7 of a Stanley Cup semifinal series when the same penalty set the stage for Lafleur’s game-tying, power-play goal with 1:14 left. The Habs won in OT.
Bruins coach Claude Julien should have played Tim Thomas in goal in the seventh game instead of rookie Tuuka Rask.
Even though Thomas hadn’t played since a 4-3 shootout win over Washington in the regular-season finale on April 11, desperate times require desperate measures and the Bruins were desperate.
They had squandered a 3-0 series lead.
This isn’t to blame Rask for the historic collapse.
His 2.61 goals-against average and .912 save percentage in the playoffs were certainly respectable, especially considering he was a rookie.
But Julien should have sensed that the momentum had shifted in favor of the Flyers.
The Bruins would have rallied around Thomas, knowing he hadn’t played in more than a month, and the fans would have done so, too.
Flyers goalie Michael Leighton is 3-0 in the playoffs after replacing the injured Brian Boucher and he hadn’t played in a regular-season game since March 16.
Thomas won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top netminder last year but lost the job to Rask, rightfully so, due to his inconsistent play this season.
However, Rask had three chances to close out Philly before Game 7 and he didn’t get the job done. The embarrassing 4-0 home loss certainly wasn’t his fault but a few more key saves in the other two games might have sent the Bruins into the Eastern Conference finals.
And he didn’t come up with the key saves in Game 7, either.
His teammates also failed to sew the game up after building a 3-0 lead. That’s inexcusable, especially at home.
— Larry Mahoney
Boston’s Rondo deserves recognition
Can we FINALLY retire a catch phrase that is not only no longer accurate, it hasn’t been relevant for two years?
It’s time to deep six “The Big Three” of Boston Celtics fame.
If you hadn’t already noticed, Rajon Rondo rates at least a whole number all his own next to Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
Boston’s 6-foot-1 point guard has more than come into his own the last two seasons. This season he became an All-Star-caliber guard during the regular season and has elevated his play so much in the playoffs, fans and reporters are even starting to use the acronym “MVP” before or after his name.
The hypersonic Celtic was a matchup problem for Atlanta and Cleveland in the playoffs, then became an unguardable, one-man wrecking crew and singlehandedly led Boston to victory over the top-seeded Cavaliers with an historic triple-double (29 points, 18 rebounds, 13 assists) in Game 4.
After averaging 13.7 points, 9.8 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game in the regular season as the Celtics’ fourth-leading scorer, Rondo has gone ballistic in the postseason with 17.2 points, 10.8 assists and 6.1 rebounds. Oh, and he’s now Boston’s No. 2 scorer behind only Allen (18.0).
Clearly, Rondo has more than proven himself a weapon opposing teams can no longer lose track of or leave lightly guarded in order to double-team the other (not big) three.
And if you’re looking for another moniker, Fearsome Foursome was taken long ago by the Los Angeles Rams’ Hall of Fame defensive line, so keep thinking. Don’t even think about Final (or Frozen) Four, and if you’re waiting for me, well, I’ve got nothing. I don’t think “Quintessential Quartet” will catch on.
Whatever it becomes, it’s strike three on The Big Three.
Ah… I feel much better.
Now I can concentrate on ridding the world of the phrases “grand slam home run” — have you ever seen a grand slam double or triple? — and walk-off home run or single — most of the time, they’re running hard. When you start hearing walk-off walk, it’s time to run away or run it down. Enough already.