It was, most naturally, a sweet moment at the time for the Caps. But if Julien’s pupils can evoke a new batch of a rematch formula from past seasons, facing Boston could turn sour in the follow-up campaign.
All the Capitals need to do is consult the previous three teams who beat the Bruins in the latter half of April or the halfway mark of May.
Between the Montreal Canadiens (2008), Carolina Hurricanes (2009) and Philadelphia Flyers (2010), Boston’s current core has posted a cumulative 11-1-2 record in the season series following their elimination from the playoffs.
The Bruins have twice clinched their next playoff berth with a win over the team that ended their preceding postseason and twice swept the same team that knocked them off in Game 7 just 12 months earlier.
While the past can never hold unassisted sway on the present, a recurring pattern like this is worth noting and watching for again as the Bruins open their 2012-13 season series with the Caps on Tuesday.
This trend indicates that Boston plainly keeps its hardest-stinging losses in mind, allows the ensuing offseason to let the latest loss linger and then comes back with carbonation when they meet the crest that shook their hands after that season finale.
Only once in Julien’s tenure has defeat befallen the Bruins when it should have been logically expected. In 2007-08, after claiming 16 of the 17 points doled out in the season series, the top dog Montreal Canadiens endured a surprisingly competitive grind before claiming the rubber game, 5-0, in the first round.
After a regulation tie/shootout loss in the first “rematch” of 2008-09, Boston turned the tide with nine straight wins over the Habs. That string began with a 6-1 throttling at TD Garden on Nov. 13 and ended in a Game 4 clincher in the first round of the 2009 tournament.
The first-place Bruins tripped and fell against Carolina in the following round, going down in overtime in Game 7. After opening the next season with a flat 4-1 loss to Washington, they nabbed their first win of the clean slate in the second game, a 7-2 triumph over the same Canes.
The Hurricanes missed the 2010 playoffs and lost their regular-season series to Boston, 1-3-0. The finale of that series, the penultimate game on Boston’s schedule, was a 3-2 home win for the Bruins that cemented their postseason passport.
That passport expired in mortifying fashion when, on the one-year anniversary of Scott Walker’s sudden-death strike, the Bruins let a 3-0 advantage devolve into a 4-3 downfall at the hands of the Flyers.
Fast-forward about six-and-a-half months, when those teams crossed paths again in Philadelphia. The Bs sculpted another 3-0 lead and kept it this time.
Facing the Flyers in the second round for the second straight season that spring, the Bruins again raised a 3-0 upper hand and finished the sweep at TD Garden.
They would not be on the wrong side of another handshake until Joel Ward raked in a backhander to stamp Washington’s 2-1 Game 7 victory on Apr. 25 of last year.
What happens next in this matchup has yet to be determined, but the new chapter will start taking shape with Tuesday night’s faceoff at the Verizon Center.
Julien and the holdovers from his first season―including alternate captain Patrice Bergeron, captain Zdeno Chara, defenseman Andrew Ference and forwards David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Shawn Thornton―have lived through it all. Others have been through at least one or two of the franchise’s relatively recent reversals.
Can the Bruins bring out the same intangible, vinegar-rinsing potion a fourth time? It’s a question that packs intrigue, even if it is one that can only have a definitive answer penned on the ice on Tuesday, a week from Saturday at the Garden and in the 2012-13 season finale Apr. 27.