If you've ever ignited a stink bomb, you know it begins with a spark that's quickly replaced by vapors. Increasingly odorous vapors. Your first whiff makes you stagger; your second makes you wonder if this was a good idea; your third has you searching for exit strategies; and by the fourth, you're looking for a bucket or an old boot in order to expel the poison.
Welcome to Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals for the Boston Bruins.
It was a stink bomb on home ice, the sort of effort found during the B's weeks-long backing into the postseason but seemingly expunged from their repertoire once they relocated their cajones in the playoffs. They went up 3-0 and figured the Flyers would roll over and play dead as easily as the Devils did for Philly in Round 1. They took their foot off the gas and ended up back in a ditch off Broad Street for Game 6.
The Flyers deserve credit. They scored early. They were the aggressors all night, with 60 shot attempts (31 on goal) to Boston's 41 (23 on goal). They saw Brian Boucher(notes) helped off the ice 24:31 into the game and seemed to play harder in his absence. Oh, and welcome to the playoffs, Mr. Leino; you'll find they're exciting when you participate.
But to watch the Bruins was to watch a sluggish, undisciplined unraveling that made Chicago's effort in its Game 5 look positively stalwart by comparison. The fans sensed it, and added tension in juxtaposition to Montreal fans elevating their team Monday night at Bell Centre.
The Bruins' effort is better reason than any the Flyers provided for why Rich Hoffman of the Philadelphia Daily News is thinking history Tuesday morning:
For only the 11th time in the 155 series in which an NHL team has fallen behind by three games to none, there will be a sixth game. And if no hockey team in 35 years has pulled off the greatest comeback in professional sports since the 1975 New York Islanders -- we are still beginning to tread on the edges of historic ground.
Coming up, optimism in Philadelphia and a lack of swagger in Boston. What is this, opposite day?
There's plenty of reasons to believe for the Flyers. Sure, Boucher's out, but Michael Leighton(notes) was Brian Boucher after Ray Emery(notes) went down. Claude Giroux(notes), injured on a Steve Begin(notes) hit, is expected to play in Game 6.
The parallels between this game and Game 5 of the Flyers-Penguins ECQF from last year are pretty clear. In both cases, the Flyers went into Game 5 down 3-1, having lost the previous two away games in the series, one of them in OT. Then they stun their black-and-gold wearing opponent with a shutout road win in Game 5, handing the opponent its first loss at home of the playoffs on the back of goals from some pretty unlikely sources. Let's just hope the comparisons don't continue into Game 6...
Late in the third period of Monday's 4-0 Flyers victory, Richards cleanly wiped Savard out of the play on the corner boards. Savard took exception to the hit and went back after Richards by cross checking him in the mouth and throwing a flurry of weak, gloved punches and head grabs. Milan Lucic(notes) joined the fray by taking a couple of shots until the rest of the players came in relief. Richards was left bleeding after the play and the Flyers received a power play.
"I just got fired up," Savard told the Boston media. "I got one the other night in Philly from behind [a boarding call on Darroll Powe(notes)], and then I was facing the glass again in the same situation and then I look back at [David] Booth, [David] Krejci, those guys ... I mean, enough's enough. I mean, I don't know. That's all."
Beyond Savard, are the Flyers and the pressure of closing out the series getting to the Bruins? That's what Tim Panaccio asked the orange and black after Game 5:
Think the pressure is getting to the Bruins?
"They have to feel it. They would not be human if they haven't been feeling the heat a bit," said Danny Briere(notes), whose line with Scott Hartnell(notes) and Ville Leino(notes) set the tone for the Flyers. "On our side, we're trying to survive another day. We have nothing to lose."
When the Flyers play like that, it seems nothing can stop them. "It's not easy to lose players, but as a team, we've come together," Kimmo Timonen(notes) said. "It's been like that the whole year. It's been up and down with the injuries. We're kinda used to it."
Meanwhile, the tone from the Bruins and their media is decidedly different. They ruined Bobby Orr's day. Rookie goalie Tuukka Rask(notes), exhausted from having carried this team through the last few months, said the loss "reminded me when we lost 10 in a row."
In short, the Bruins were slugged by the Flyers on Monday night, and need to respond. From ESPN Boston:
It shouldn't have come to this. Boston had a 3-0 lead before losing the last two games. Even after dropping Game 5 in overtime, the Bruins should have been energized coming back to the Garden. They should have played with more purpose and certainly more passion.
Instead, the Bruins were lifeless. Boston's play lacked energy. "We lost battles from start to finish," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "They were the hungrier team tonight and when that happens you get those kinds of results."
A lot of that is on Claude Julien, who needs flash cards and an abacus in order to figure out how to juggle his lines with the losses of Krejci and Marco Sturm(notes), not his strongest selling point to begin with. As for the fans, as one Twitterer put it last night, "Pink Bear Nation." Maybe there's something to that. After all, what better time for peripheral fans to show up than a possible clincha in order to say they were there?
In the end though, blame falls on the players, who were simply out-gutted by the Philadelphia Flyers. Roll credits.
But please. Stop with the 2004 nonsense. On one hand, yes, the Bruins couldn't do a thing against Michael Leighton, who entered the game in relief of Brian Boucher, who suffered a season-ending injury to his ankle. On the other, they get to face a goalie in Game 6 who has one game (Monday night) under his belt since pre-St. Patrick's Day.
Though it shouldn't have gotten to this point.