May 5, 2011

Bruins ready to lay talk of last year's collapse to rest

by Jesse Connolly

Bruins goalie Tim Thomas. (Getty)

BOSTON -- You could say the talk revolving around the Bruins historic collapse last spring has now intensified, given the Flyers current, oh-so-familiar 0-3 disposition in this series, but when has it ever truly gone away?

The answer, quite simply, is never. Not since the moment Simon Gagne's third-period strike in Game 7 was cemented into the box-score as the game-winning goal. Not since the Bruins left the ice at TD Garden on May 14 of last year to a chorus of boos, as a heap of rally towels came cascading down upon them from the sea of disappointed, shocked fans.

Each and every member of the Black and Gold, both old and new, is tired of talking about last year and with good reason.

This is a different team; a wildly different one, in fact. If you include defenseman Shane Hnidy, who made his second postseason appearance on Wednesday in Game 3, there are currently nine Bruins that didn't see a single millisecond of  ice time in last year's series against Philadelphia.

There are newcomers like Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly, Tomas Kaberle and Nathan Horton -- the team's leading goal scorer in the postseason. There's rookie Brad Marchand, who is currently tied for seventh in points in the playoffs. There's Dennis Seidenberg -- injured before last year's run began -- who has logged a whopping 285:18 of ice time in this postseason, second most among all NHL players.

Let's not forget David Krejci, the pivotal center whose season ended early in game 3 last year. In three games so far in this series, the 25-year-old forward has a whopping eight points and has scored the game-winning goal in each contest.

And, of course, there's Tim Thomas, the Vezina Trophy shoe-in who has stood on his head since breaking out of a mini-funk at the onset of the team's opening-round matchup with Montreal.

"We have already been through it," Thomas said of the talk of last year. "We have half of our lineup that is different than last year."

Asked if he planned on drawing anything from last year's series, one he spent the entirety of at the end of the Bruins bench with an undisclosed hip injury, Thomas' response was obvious.

"Not really," the netminder said. "I am focused on this year. I am focused on what we as a team want to accomplish this year and what I as a player want to try to accomplish this year. I will leave the comparisons to you guys."

Thomas, however, had no qualms with discussing how hard it is to nail down the fourth win in a series, especially against a never-say-die club like the Flyers.

"Hopefully we just hit the reset button in our mind and the games before don’t mean anything," he said. "That motto I just said about one game at a time, one period at a time, and one shift at a time, we approach it like that."

But surely they tried the same approach last year, right? If it failed then, couldn't it fail now? Gosh, don't the Flyers have the Bruins right where they want them? Why, oh why, aren't the Bruins trembling in their skates with thoughts of last year dancing in their heads?

The answer? They don't call it a miraculous comeback for nothing. Everything that could conceivably go wrong for the Boston Bruins last year did and, conversely, the Flyers caught every break needed to accomplish the unspeakable feat.

"I answered that question the first day (of this series)," Shawn Thornton said when asked to reminisce of the last 3-0 series lead his team had over the Flyers. "You guys promised me I wouldn’t have to answer it again."

With just one more victory for the Bruins, much to Thornton's and all of his teammates' delight, talk of the 2010 collapse will finally be laid to rest.