A Tough “Post” All Around: The Boston Bruins & Playoff Puck Luck

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @00EvanMichael

PING!

You could hear it vibrating from the balcony to the broadcast booth — the goal post behind Anti Raanta after Trent Frederic’s would-be game-tying Game 7 goal clamored and clanged its way to infamy.

Instead of a 2-1 score becoming 2-2 midway through the second period, the Bruins found themselves only seconds later down 3-1 to the home ice heroes the Hurricanes. And that two goal lead proved insurmountable despite the B’s late-game efforts.

All puck. No luck.

“Ay, there’s the rub,” to quote Shakespeare’s Hamlet. And oh, what a Shakespearean tale it is to examine “puck luck” when it comes to the historic Boston Bruins franchise. Especially in the playoffs when it matters most.

As Billy Jaffe and Andrew Raycroft so entertainingly espoused on a recent Morning Bru Podcast, “the B’s are overdue for a bounce to go their way.” In this particular series against Carolina, those bounces favored the home team and Boston unfortunately had one fewer Garden game to play.

And looking back at previous games, from the Boston Garden to TD Garden, and on the road from The Molson Centre to PNC Arena, it’s been a pretty consistent puck luck result — at least in my lifetime of B’s memories (the Neely/Bourque years to the would-be end of the Bergeron Era).

To say the Bruins used it all up in 2011 for a lone Stanley Cup Championship despite a 15-year window of top talent and opportunity would be about as accurate as a No. 77 All-Star Game bullseye snipe.

So, without further ado (to again sound Shakespearean since there’s truly much ado about nothing these Bruins hockey-less days), let me introduce you to the most memorable — or perhaps forgettable — “puck luck moments” in Black N’ Gold history… at least as far as this bemoaned blogger is concerned:

“Lights Out” on Lord Stanley – (5/24/1988)

“When the lights go down…” is a great start to a Journey song, but proved for an unlucky ending to the Boston Bruins Stanley Cup journey in 1988 against the juggernaut Edmonton Oilers.

With the game tied 3-3 toward the tail end of the second period of Game 4, the Boston Garden suffered a power outage that led to a postponement of play.

Instead of giving the B’s a chance to get back in the series in Boston (sometimes all it takes is winning ONE game at home, as we’ve learned from hockey history), “Game 4” resumed after being rescheduled to Edmonton, where the Bruins naturally lost, getting swept from the Cup Finals.

Odds are the B’s would not have been able to come back against Gretzky’s team of Alberta All-Stars but it doesn’t get any unluckier than a puckin’ power outage at home when you’re tied in a do-or-die game!

“May Day” OT Mayhem – (4/24/1993)

Brad May. He’s the “lucky loser” who fought his way to a playoff series victory for the Buffalo Sabres against the heavily favored Boston Bruins in the spring of 1993.

It was a series where the near-Cup-winning B’s (two losses in the Finals and two in the Price of Wales Championship the previous seasons) saw every bounce go against them, losing three of four games in OT by the truly thinnest of margins.

None thinner than Pat LaFontaine’s one-handed-while-falling swipe pass that miraculously made its way to May before the bulky behemoth swerved around (almost through) a stunned Ray Bourque for the easy empty-netter past a sprawled-out-in-surprise-and-shock Andy Moog.

Thus ended the game, the series and the impressive (but ultimately fruitless) run of the Neely/Bourque and Moog/Lemelin era, as the B’s wouldn’t contend again for nearly a decade.

Friend or Da”Foe?” – (4/29/2002)

We all know the Montreal Canadiens were never friends of the Black N’ Gold. In fact, the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge were the ultimate foes, defeating the Boston Bruins in a record 21-out-of-28 playoff series ahead of the East Quarterfinals back in April of ’02.

Unfortunately for B’s netminder Byron Dafoe, his “Lordship” wouldn’t get the chance to pursue another thanks to back-to-back games where the iron bar behind him might as well have been the iron throne — impossible to conquer or overcome.

In games in which he saw only 13 and 18 shots (making 11 and 16 saves, respectively), the Bruins couldn’t score more than a single goal out of 44 and 35 shots against Jose Theodore. They put five pucks past Theodore in both games, but only two actually crossed the line.. the others spoiled by the post.

None more painful than the “how did that actually NOT go in” puck of period three during Game Six as seen below. Brutal.

“Walker” of Shame – (5/14/2009)

To say Scott Walker was in the right place at the right time would be Hockey 101 for Dummies: go to the front of the net and get the dirty goals, right? It’s where all the bounces happen!

Well, in Game 7 of the East Semi’s back in 2009 — a year in which the near-Presidents’ Trophy-winning Bruins were favored to go all way — Walker got perhaps the best and luckiest bounce of his career just as the first OT period was expiring.

A seemingly harmless half-slapper sailed into Tim Thomas’ bespoked home sweater with the goalie, like everyone else at TD Garden, expecting it to nestle in tightly for a stoppage and face off. Instead, we wanted to rip our faces off as it caromed outwards and sidewards, forcing him to try and swat it away.

That swat deflected the puck off a reaching-in-for-the-win Walker stick, flipping it up and over Thomas and into the back of net. Devastation Station = the new stop of the “T” in Boston.

No “Flyer” Zone – (5/7/2010)

When you’ve got the chance to put a team away and win a series… do it. The B’s learned that lesson in perhaps the most painful of ways back in 2010 when their Second Round series lead of 3-0 evaporated into the unthinkable 4-3 series loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. And on home ice. Oof.

But it was on the road at the Wachovia Center in early May of that year where Boston’s fortunes truly started turning toward the red… literally.

In what should have been a momentous rally to close out Game 4 after a last-minute Mark Recchi goal, the B’s spent the first OT period near-missing against Brian Boucher in every possible way — on the PP, off the odd-man rush, a tip too high, a pass too low.

That led to a Simon Gagne redirect that slipped beneath a stretched-out Tuukka Rask by an inch–if that–to give Philly life in the series and eventually the victory. Had that puck slid under Rask’s glove instead of through and by, who knows what could’ve happened the rest of the ’10 playoffs?

My bet? Tuukka would have his Cup and B’s fans would’ve been spared a decade’s worth of moaning and groaning about No. 40’s “clutchness” or “big game play.” Some puck luck there!

A “Black”hawk Mark – (6/24/2013)

This one still haunts many a B’s fan. And it should. It felt like the puck had eyes for the final 90 seconds of Game 6… one in which the B’s were up 2-1 and needing to win to force a historic Game 7 on the road in Chicago versus the Blackhawks.

But “Alas, poor Yorick,” we know that not to be the case. A flitter off the stick of Dennis Seidenberg. A deflection up the shaft of David Krejci. And the puck doesn’t get out of the zone nor even near Corey Crawford’s empty net. Rather, it ends up right at the back of Tuukka Rask’s net.

And in the blink of an eye and the ring of a post, it finds its way back there again less than 30 seconds later. From up 2-1 to down 3-2 and with practically no time left to mount a comeback. Lord Stanley gave all the puck luck to another Original Six team that day. Tears.

Feeling The “Blues” – (6/12/2019)

I guess that’s why they call it “The Blues.” Elton was right. This was the bluest day in my life as a B’s fan. Partly because everyone and their cousin from Dorchester thought the Bruins were winning. Game 7. At TD Garden. Tuukka’s Last Stand. All the storylines were there. Or so we thought.

“Oh, but the bounce did not favor Johannson.” I haven’t been able to get those Doc Emrick words out of my mind. It’s safe to say whoever scored first in this game was going to win The Stanley Cup. The series had that feel all throughout. And it was never more prevalent than after the puck dropped in this one.

The B’s had numerous opportunities to pot that pivotal initial (if not game-winning) tally: a bounce over Noel Acciari’s stick as he barreled in alone to the right of Jordan Binnington; a wrister whipped wide by Brad Marchand with a screen in front; and the Marcus Johannson missed empty netter. You gotta be kidding me, right?

Not one of those pucks could’ve caromed the B’s way? Especially after the worst missed tripping call in the annals of ALL hockey games (mite, squirt, ECHL, AHL, basement, roller, you name it) just a few games earlier? That’s when I realized it.

All the puck luck was gone. Used up miraculously and joyously in 2011 by the likes of Tim Thomas and Nathan Horton; Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara; Claude Julien and Peter Chiarelli. Will we ever see it again in Boston for the Black N’ Gold? Well, based on this rate it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see the bounces go the B’s way.

But somehow… I still enjoy them. Forget the puck. I’m lucky to be a Bruins fan.

“This is the chase; I am gone forever.” Shakespeare couldn’t have written a more “B”-fitting ending!

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