Thursday, May 13, 2010

B's can still get an "A"

Not to despair, Bruins fans. Sure, you all want to jump off the Zakim Bridge, or maybe impale yourselves on the Bunker Hill Monument (both within visual contact of the TD Garden, for you out-of-townahs).

But it says here the Bruins will not become a footnote for posterity when they take the ice Friday night for Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Flyers -- for history's sake, if nothing else.

First, there would be the ignominy of becoming only the third team in Stanley Cup Playoff lore to lose a seven-game series after gliding to a 3-0 lead. For the record, the only teams to accomplish that dubious feat were the 1942 Red Wings, who were overtaken by the Maple Leafs in the Cup Final, and the 1975 Penguins, who were similarly victimized by the Islanders in the quarterfinals.

By the way, it should be noted the Islanders lost the first three games and stormed back to force a Game 7 twice in consecutive rounds in '75. After they stunned the Pens, they forced the Flyers to a deciding contest in the semifinals, but lost Game 7. The "Broad Street Bullies" went on to down the Sabres in the Finals to win their second straight Stanley Cup.

From the Bruins' perspective, they've already staved off such an embarrassing defeat once in their history. In 1939, they jumped to a 3-0 series lead on the Rangers in the Cup semifinals before being forced to a Game 7 by losing the next three. But the B's won Game 7, and led by Roy Conacher and the "Kraut Line" of Milt Schmidt, Woody Dumart and Bobby Bauer, beat the Leafs in five games to win the Cup.

Here's a historic look at the six times we've found ourselves in such a situation, with the Team that forced Game 7 listed first:

Year / Team / Opponent / Result
2010 / Flyers / Bruins / ?
1975 / Islanders / Flyers / lost
1975 / Islanders / Penguins / won
1945 / Red Wings / Maple Leafs / lost
1942 / Maple Leafs / Red Wings / won
1939 / Rangers / Bruins / lost

The 2010 Bruins are also carrying the standard for the Original Six Clubs. Should they repel the Flyers and advance, they would face the hated Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Finals, marking only the third time since 1980 that two O-Six clubs would meet in a conference final, and it would also be the first time since 1979 that three Original Six teams would reach the conference finals, with the Canadiens and Blackhawks already holding their stamped tickets.

Original Six teams in Stanley Cup conference finals since 1980:

2009 - Red Wings def. Blackhawks, 4-1
1995 - Red Wings def. Blackhawks, 4-1
1986 - Canadiens def. Rangers, 4-1

So, Bruins, it's all up to you. The spirits of Eddie Shore and Dit Clapper wouldn't have it any other way.

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