Tonight's the night the Bruins can close out the Leafs - end their first playoff appearance since 2004. The question is, will we see a handshake at center ice tonight or should the Bruins plan a short plane ride to Toronto?
Closing tonight would mean a few extra days of rest which the Bruins could use after a schedule weighted towards the end of the season. It was heavy prior to three rescheduled games. Jaromir Jagr's recovering from the flu, Johnny Boychuk could probably use some rest after blocking a billon shots, Milan Lucic and Chris Kelly are missing parts of their face. Rest, time off would certainly be good for the Bruins if they can close out the Leafs tonight.
But how have the Bruins done in these situations in the past? It's no doubt we've all either walked out of the Garden with hanging heads or simply turned off the television in a few game seven losses in the last few years. The Bruins also picked their best time to string together a few of those game seven wins, resulting in a wonderful summer for all of us in 2011.
Since 2008 (the Bruins reentry to the playoffs) the Bruins are 6-10 in closeout games. 6-10! That's not exactly reassuring, but lets see how they got there shall we?
2008 - The Bruins came back after being down 2-0 vs the Habs to force a game seven - winning 2 possible elimination games - resulting in one of the most exciting games that you could argue put the Bruins back on the map in Game 6 at the Garden.
2009 - The Bruins closed up shop to end the Habs centennial celebration with a 4 game sweep, winning their only opportunity to close out a series. The series that followed vs the Carolina Hurricanes had the Bruins forcing a game 7 after being down 3-1 eventually losing game 7 in OT on a stupid Scott Walker goal in an opportunity to close out the series.
2010 - This playoff run is the most painful as it hits the most in the loss column for the Bruins. In a 6 game series with Buffalo, the Bruins missed out on the opportunity to close the Sabres out in game 5, eventually winning game 6 at home and giving us the opportunity to see the handshake at home. In the second round match up the Bruins had 4 opportunities to close out the Flyers and lost all 4 - eventually losing game 7 at home despite being up 3-0 in the series and 3-0 in the game.
2011 - The Bruins took on the hated Habs and quickly went down 2-0. They won the 3 following games and lost the opportunity to close out the Habs in Game 6, but won Game 7 at home. The Bruins next opponent they wasted no time with, the Bruins won the series in 4 games against the Flyers, ensuring there would be no opportunity to let the Flyers back in the series. The Bruins next opponent the Tampa Bay Lightning went 7 games, with the Bruins missing the opportunity to close out the Lighting in Game 6, but Nathan Horton came up big in Game 7 at home in one of the best hockey games we'll ever have the opportunity to witness. In the Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins overcame a 2-0 defict to the Vancouver Canucks to force a game 7 in Vancouver. There was a big old trophy, angels sung, duckboats...it pretty much owned.
2012 - The Bruins faced the Capitals in the first round. The Hunter coached Capitals had found defense like a prisoner finds Jesus. It was the most boring series of hockey ever played. The Bruins lost their only opportunity to close out the series losing in OT at home in Game 7.
The argument can be made the the Bruins have turned the corner and last year's team was suffering from the dreaded Stanley Cup Hangover. From 2005-2012 each of the Stanley Cup finalists have gone only as far as their opponents have gone. Boston and Vancouver were both eliminated in the first round in 2012 after both appearing in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
So what's tonight hold for the Bruins? Let's find out if this Bruins team has learned to close. We'll see tonight, but the Leafs have a lot of fight in them and a lot of speed and shouldn't be overlooked. Either way, should be a great hockey game, this has been a fun series to watch.