Now that the final tear has been shed inside the Igloo and the final window has been smashed in Montreal (well, until the end of next round), the puck world turns its attention to the plummeting Hindenburg of hockey otherwise known as the Boston Bruins.
Wednesday night's 2-1 victory by the Philadelphia Flyers forced a Game 7 in a series that looked over and out after the Bruins went up 3-0. Which is why they removed their collective foot from the accelerator. Which is why it's now 3-3.
Is this cosmic justice for Bostonian sports fans six years after the Yankees' collapse against the Red Sox? Is this some new hockey theorem in which the better Joe Thornton does in teal, the worse the old mates in Boston fare? Is this [expletive] really going to happen for the first time since 1975? (No, not the Flyers winning the Stanley Cup ... the comeback thing.)
There are many reasons why the swagger has disappeared in Boston faster than a bread bowl of chowder, and why the Bruins have more egg on their face than Philadelphia women have hair on their upper lips. But here are five reasons the Bruins are choking their way out of the playoffs against the Flyers.
1. Losing Sturm hurt; losing Krejci crippled their offense
Marco Sturm(notes) had 22 goals in the regular season, but hadn't done a thing (0-0-0) in seven playoff games before seeing his season end to a knee injury. Yet he was part of a line with David Krejci(notes) and Miroslav Satan(notes) that had played well during the Buffalo Sabres series -- a line that would suffer another huge blow when David Krejci went down with a dislocated wrist following a Mike Richards(notes) hit.
Losing Krejci has become a seemingly insurmountable loss to the Bruins' offense. In his nine playoff games, the Bruins were 7-2 and averaged 3.11 goals per game; since his injury, they're 0-3 and averaging 1.67 goals per game.
His injury's affected Satan, too: He hasn't scored a point since Krejci went down, and is trying to rediscover his groove with Marc Savard(notes) and Milan Lucic(notes) after an MVP performance in Round 1.
The Flyers weren't going to win this series without both Jeff Carter(notes) and Simon Gagne, who were injured at the end of the New Jersey Devils' series. But getting Gagne back reenergized the team just as Boston got fat and happy. From the Boston Globe after Game 5:
Working on the top line last night alongside left wing Ville Leino(notes) and center Mike Richards, Gagne tied for a team-high four shots. Passes have been crisper between the three, and there is a heightened sense of urgency.
"He has definitely energized us," Leino said.
On the power play, Gagne has provided a much-needed boost, too, logging 6 minutes 15 seconds of ice time last night on the man-up. Below the hash marks, he has provided some much-needed traffic.
He's a difference-maker, to the tune of 6-1 in the playoffs.
3. Leadership matters
Say what you will about Chris Pronger's(notes) character, but the notion has always been that his teammates will go to war with him and for him. And we're seeing that again in these playoffs, as Pronger leads all NHL players with 29:27 in average ice time and does things like this, via the Courier Post:
Laviolette saw it first-hand Tuesday morning. Flight complications in Boston Monday night delayed the Flyers' return trip to Philadelphia by about 45 minutes, getting the players into their homes around 2 a.m.
Pronger was one of the first players to arrive at the Skate Zone in Voorhees Tuesday morning and was all business when he hit the ice.
"The way he comes to practice, the way he works in practice," Laviolette said. "He goes out there and there's no slack. He practices full speed. Every pass is on the tape. When you're a professional, others see it and follow."
As the Canadiens have shown, criticism of terrible contracts has no place in the postseason. The Flyers may still regret the Pronger singing this season, but they certainly can't regret the trade for him at this point.
4. Losing is infectious
It's as simple as this: Losing begets losing. The Bruins allowed the Flyers back into the series, were knocked on their collective asses, and now can't find their footing again. It's exactly what happened to the Reading Royals down in the ECHL, as Cincinnati rallied from 3-0 down to win their series.
Reading, of course, being an affiliate of the Boston Bruins.
5. We're seeing the "real Bruins" again
Stanley Cup of Chowder said it best: "This looked like the regular season Bruins team we all know and loathe."
Before the injuries, before letting up on the Flyers, before three straight losses, this Bruins team looked laser-focused, physical and ready to contend for a Cup. Now, they look like the team that couldn't get out of its own way in struggling to make the playoffs.
Are these actually the Bruins we thought they were? If so, the Flyers are going to make history.