If you’ve ever Netflixed a James Bond movie — any of them except the one where they try to pass Denise Richards off as a nuclear physicist — then you know the formula. Every cat stroking, gold smuggling or SPECTRE-leading supervillain has attempted to off him in countless improbable ways, but he always escapes at the last possible second, typically without creasing his suit pants, scratching a cufflink or having his Thunderballs shot off.
During last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, the Boston Bruins were the 007s of Game 7s, somehow slipping past Montreal, Tampa Bay and Vancouver in what was, for me, a Lorazepam-fueled run to the Cup. Now after sneaking past the Washington Capitals in overtime Sunday, the Bruins are in their fifth Game 7 in their past six postseason matchups.
This is the scenario the then-defending champion Chicago Blackhawks put themselves in last year, when their Cup defense ended on a flight back to the Windy City after a seven-game loss to Vancouver in the first round.
Of course, the Canucks, last year’s Cup runners-up, have already taken turns kicking their Presidents’ Trophy down an airport concourse after their own early exit.
Boston will face another day’s worth of reminders like this, of hints and suggestions and radio-callers with regional accents who will happily point out there hasn’t been a back-to-back Cup winner since the Detroit Red Wings did it in 1997 and 1998. Since 1990 — almost two full years before Bruins forward Tyler Seguin was conceived — only the Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins have earned two straight parades.
If the Bruins do it, they would be the first team to successfully defend Lord Stanley’s four-tier cereal bowl since the 2004-'05 lockout, the first since the introduction of the salary cap (which, this season, was $64.3 million per team, or just over four Ryan Seacrests).
Ask the Blackhawks how hard it is to repeat, keep your team together and stay under the cap. Some players’ names hadn’t even been engraved on the trophy (or spellchecked) before they’d been dealt to other teams two years ago.
You’d think that Boston’s own recent history would be on their side. There were those three Pepto-chugging Game 7s last year, but that’s the thing: history sometimes makes a first-round exit and experience doesn’t always leave with the W.
Braden Holtby wasn’t supposed to be out-Tim Thomas-ing Tim Thomas either. He’ll make his seventh playoff start tomorrow, which matches his number of regular-season appearances. A kid who spent most of the year in net for the AHL’s Hershey Bears has stopped 202 of 216 shots for a .935 save percentage and he’s been showered with at least 97 percent of the obscenities I’ve shouted.
But just getting back to the finals could take anywhere from 15 to 21 games, along with all kinds of endurance and an unreal amount of luck, largely of the “keeping our guys healthy variety.” It’s brutal. When the playoffs are called the second season, that’s because they are. Last year, Boston had 25 extracurricular games — including five that went to OT or 2OT — which adds up to almost a third of a regular season schedule.
Since 1990, only three teams have even made it to the Finals in back-to-back years (Pittsburgh, twice; Detroit, twice; Dallas). And say it with me and the caller on Line 1 and move your mouth while you read it in another article: “Only two teams have won two consecutive cups in the past twenty years.”
It’s not impossible, just improbable.
James Bond might’ve lived twice, but even he’d only have one Cup.
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Video: NHL from NBC Sports
Rask credits a team effort on defense
Without the need for an overtime period, the Bruins won Game 3 over the Blackhawks, 2-0. Bruins coach Claude Julien credits Tuukka Rask for his preparation and extreme focus, while Rask appreciates the guys in front of him covering their ice and blocking shots.
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