When Tyler Seguin made a move around Braden Holtby in overtime on Sunday night and buried the game-winning goal in Game 6 of the Bruins' first round playoff series with the Capitals, I wanted to react like I usually do when something great happens in the world of Boston sports.
It would have been nice to run around my brother's apartment - the venue I chose for Sunday's game, after getting good vibes while watching Game 7 of the Montreal series there a year ago - shotgun a beer, wake up the neighbors, scream obscenities, whatever.
Instead, I let out a quick "Yeah!" followed by a weak fist pump that would make make Tiger Woods think I was on Ambien. That was it. I had no interest in going crazy, even though the moment probably warranted a Kobe Bryant under-bite and a some screaming.
I just didn't have it in me. As excited as I was, I was even more relieved. It felt - and still does, hours after game ended - like it was an uphill battle, and that feeling of impending doom has just now left my stomach. Even though the Bruins out-skated the Caps the majority of the time, and had three one-goal leads before eventually winning, I still never felt even close to comfortable.It was downright scary, man.
For a series that, on paper, looked like it should be one-sided, this one has been anything but. The Capitals have been every bit the Bruins' equal, not backing down when the Bruins ratcheted up the physicality (Game 3) or when the Bruins drastically out-shot them (Game 5). In Game 6, the Caps didn't back down when they fell behind 1-0 early, or when they trailed 3-2 late.
They just kept coming. The Bruins couldn't shake them, and with a deciding Game 7 set for Wednesday, they still haven't shaken them. The Capitals are like that dog pulling down the girls' pants on the suntan lotion bottle. The B's have been exposed, a least a little bit, and they just can't seem to break free.
And still, here they are, one game away from advancing despite not playing their best hockey, not getting a single vintage Tim Thomas performance and having no answer for the Capitals' top-line players.
It's survival. That's the best word I can come up with for how the team has even been able to get to this point. It's a testament to the Caps for making it this difficult, but it's also a testament to the Bruins for being able to maintain despite the obvious pressure to fold.
They haven't won. They've survived.
All around the NHL, top seeds have fallen. The Penguins - the odds-on Stanely Cup favorites when the postseason started - dropped out of the tournament on Sunday with a loss to the Flyers. The West's top seed, Vancouver, got bounced by the eighth-seeded Kings. The East's No. 1 team, the Rangers. They're dropping faster than a Canucks' player does when he feels a gentle breeze.
Not the Bruins. At least not yet. They've found a way to get the job done, and a lot of it can be chalked up to toughness and just sheer will power. The Bruins may lose, but they sure as hell aren't going to go quietly, and they aren't going to lose to a team that doesn't earn it. You want proof? All you have to do is flip on the game on Wednesday night, and you'll see toughness in droves.
Or, just think back to Sunday. It's all there.
Facing elimination against Capitals team with all the momentum, on the road, coming off a devastating Game 5 loss, the Bruins were the quintessential "backs against the wall" team. Another team might have simply seen the task ahead as too much of an uphill battle.
Captain Zdeno Chara took a cross-check to the face in the first period, and was bleeding from the bridge of his nose. For all we know, it's broken, but the Bruins have followed in the Patriots footsteps and don't reveal anything about injuries. Either way, it was a painful hit.
Chara skated to the bench (not right away, of course. He waited for a change), and got a little medical treatment right there. Some buy put some gooey like stuff all over the wound, pinched it a little bit, and Chara never even grimaced. He returned to the ice for his very next shift, without anything covering the nose. There was still blood between his eyes.
Chara played 30 minutes and 33 seconds on the day.
Take Patrice Bergeron. Bergeron got hurt in Game 5, which was played the day before. Considering a tough, defensive-minded center, the pain in his undisclosed injury (again, the tight-lipped thing) was so great that he couldn't play basically the entire second half of the game. The Bruins had to use three centers the rest of the way.
He was officially listed as questionable for Game 6, and skated through warm-ups without much of a hiccup. He asked to play, and head coach Claude Julien okayed the move. When the puck dropped in Game 6, Bergeron was on the ice.
Yet, he wasn't in the faceoff circle, where he always is. He was on the right wing. It turned out that Bergeron's upper-body was in so much pain that he wasn't physically able to take faceoffs for the entire game. Well, I shouldn't say the entire game.
Because, with time-winding down in the third period, the Bruins were called for icing. There was 1:02 left a tie game, and a single goal from the Capitals would end Boston's season. With the faceoff coming in the Bruins' zone, Bergeron skated up to the faceoff circle without asking, and nobody kicked him out.
He buckled down, won the faceoff for the team, then basically skated right to the bench. It was the most important faceoff of the game - and the only one he took all day - and Bergeron knew that the team's season could rely on that faceoff being won. As one of the best faceoff men in the game, and far and away the best on a Bruins team that has struggled on the dot for much of the series, he took it upon himself to get the job done.
Bergeron played 19 minutes and 41 seconds, the fourth most of any of the team's forwards.
Pretty cool, and pretty inspiring if you ask me. It's why their still skating, and why teams like Pittsburgh, and a bunch of other so-called contenders are back at home.
The downside to the Bruins gritty performance is that they still had to fight into overtime to get the win. They've played six one-goal games, have gained no separation, and should prepare themselves for the exact same type of game on Wednesday.
But at least for them, there is a Wednesday. There is a Game 7. The Capitals are still right there, hanging on to the Bruins' bathing suits, but the Bruins aren't going to get naked without putting up a fight.
The good news is that they've been here before. With almost the same roster as last year's championship team, the Bruins know what a do-or-die game is all about. They won three Game 7's a year ago.
And if they do happen to win this particular Game 7, I promise I won't be nearly as reserved in my celebration, although I know the same feeling of relief will be there again.
That's how it goes when you're fighting to survive.
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