There are certain moments in time that define a team. There are games that truly illustrate the genetic makeup of a champion.
In this series, one game will be analyzed from each series of the Boston Bruins 2011 Stanley Cup championship run. Each contest showcased the Bruins’ resolve and resiliency. This edition of the Boston Bruins was much different than their predecessors.
They learned how to overcome…
April 21, 2011.
The Boston Bruins were trailing their best out of seven first-round series against their division rival Montreal Canadiens. After two lackluster efforts at home, the Bruins found themselves in a very deep 0-2 series hole going to the Bell Centre in Montreal.
They would have to win both games in Montreal to have any realistic chance. History was also working against the Bruins, no team in franchise history has come back from a 0-2 series deficit and won the series.
In Game 3, Boston held on to win 3-2. The Bruins skated out to the dreaded three-goal lead only to see the Habs close the gap to one, 4:08 into the final period. However, the lead stood up mostly due to the remarkable goaltending of Tim Thomas who made 34 saves on 36 shots. Montreal now held a 2-1 series edge with Game 4 on home ice.
The Bruins were in another must win situation. Would they rise to the occasion or fold under the pressure? If Boston lost, the Habs would have a 3-1 series stranglehold and another fruitless Bruins’ postseason would be on the horizon.
Game 4 did not start out the way Boston wanted. Montreal carried the play in the first period out-shooting Boston, 15-8. The Canadiens took a one-goal (scored by Brent Sopel) lead into the intermission. Montreal had all the momentum and Boston was on their heels.
The Bruins wasted little time answering the bell. Michael Ryder scored a goal, just 2:03 into the second period on a great tape to tape pass from Tomas Kaberle. However, the ice shifted back in Montreal’s favor as they scored two goals in less than two minutes to take a commanding 3-1 lead.
Most teams of Bruins’ past would have crumbled under the pressure of going down by two goals so quickly in a hostile environment. However, coach Claude Julien always told his team not to get too high and don’t get too low. This method of mental equilibrium helped the Bruins keep their composure and it showed the rest of the game.
Defensemen Andrew Ference shot a laser past Montreal goalie, Carey Price at 9:59 of the second period cutting the lead to 3-2. This was the birth of the “Unintentional Bird.” Ference flipped his middle finger at the Montreal crowd basically saying, “We Aren’t Dead yet!” This gesture which could be considered lewd by most was a sign of the Bruins’ swagger.
Bruins Alternate Captain Patrice Bergeron closed the scoring late in the second period bringing Boston even at 3-3 going into the final frame.
The second period was a tale of two halves, Montreal took the first half and Boston dominated the second. There was no doubt the last frame was going to be a dogfight. The Bruins would be playing for their playoff lives.
What playoff game defined the Bruins?
Just like the first period, the Bruins came out sluggish. Patrice Bergeron took a bad penalty by hauling down Montreal’s James Wisniewski and the Canadiens coverted shortly thereafter. P.K. Subban beat Tim Thomas on a see and eye shot under the cross bar. The Bruins found themselves trailing for the third time in the game.
It was put up or shut up time again for the Black and Gold.
Boston began to the carry the play peppering Carey Price with quality scoring chances. David Krejci had an opportunity hop over his stick. Johnny Boychuck had the puck on the goal mouth after a scramble, only to shoot it right into the Montreal netminder’s waiting glove. Price was beginning to find his groove and time was running out on the Bruins.
However, during the most dire times, players find a way and Chris Kelly did just that. With less than seven minutes left in the third, Chris Kelly found the puck lying in the crease and drove it past an unsuspecting Carey Price.
The game was now tied at four, but the Bruins were far from out of the woods. Their three comebacks in the game would go for naught if they didn’t finish off Montreal and sent the series back to Boston tied.
Ghosts of Montreal past cropped up yet again with less than three minutes left in the game. Bruins defenseman, Dennis Seidenberg was whistled off for interference and the Bruins found themselves behind the eight ball yet again.
Boston and Tim Thomas staved off Montreal’s final regulation push and Game 4 was going to sudden death overtime.
Plain and simple for the Bruins, win they have new life and lose, well for this Bruins team losing was no longer an option. Michael Ryder made sure of that. Ryder, the former Canadien, corralled a Chris Kelly pirouette pass and rifled a shot past the helpless Price for the game-winner.
The Bruins did the unthinkable. They went to a hostile Bell Centre in Montreal and won BOTH games. There isn’t a Bruins fan alive that thought this team would come back Boston all tied up. However, this Bruins team defined who they would be throughout the postseason.
They were resilient, stubborn, confident, reinvigorated and scrappy.
The Boston Bruins began to develop the traits of a champion.