You know you're dealing with a pessimistic fan base when your team takes a 3-0 series lead and the reaction is equal parts glee and paranoia. "Oh no, we have a 3-0 series lead! Just like 2010! Also, my wallet won't hold all my fifties, and my diamond shoes are too tight!"
Gimme a break.
The obvious thing to look at is hockey history. Teams that hold a 3-0 lead are 170-3. That's not an advantage, that's Globetrotters vs. Generals. Of course, we can't do that. No, because in 2010, the Bruins pissed away a 3-0 series lead, and a 3-0 lead in game 7, for that matter, to the Philadelphia Flyers. And that's going to stay with us like a bad case of herpes.
Personally, I hope that's all the Bruins hear about for the next day and a half. (The 2010 Flyers series, I mean. Not herpes. Eww.) I hope Arron Asham has round-the-clock TV appearances lined up with talking heads asking him how his plucky Flyers team pulled one of the greatest comebacks in sports history. Doubtless, all his answers will contain some combination of the words "never give up", "one game at a time" and "believe in each other". Crash Davis would be so proud. I hope the guys at MSG play highlights from that series on the jumbotron during game 4. I hope Claude Julien has games 4-7 of that series playing on loop in the locker room. I hope the Bruins see all this stuff and come out for game 4 determined to rip someone's head off just so they never have to see that shit again.
But I'm not in that locker room, and neither are you. We have the luxury of looking at this on a rational basis. And the rational mind tells us that there's no way Boston's losing this series. If the historical weight of 170-3 isn't enough for you, I'll give you two good reasons why you can shove those awful thoughts about 2010 back into the dark recesses of your brain.
1. This Bruins team is much better than their record and their seeding.
The somewhat uninspiring second half of the season obscured this, but this Bruins team is pretty damned good. They have a +22 goal differential, 4th in the NHL. They were 4th in Fenwick close. 4th in hockey-reference.com's Simple Rating System. But, some bad bounces, the nature of a compressed schedule and the NHL's fetish with pretending that the Southeast Division champion is a legitimate contender condemned the Bruins to 4th in the East.
I would submit that more than anything else, the compressed schedule hastened Boston's movement down the standings ladder. The Bruins had the benefit of added rest early in the season, usually playing every other night, and getting as much rest as a somewhat compressed schedule would allow. In the second half of the season, the Bruins played a murderous schedule, paying the iron price for their softer first half. Boston's first half record? 17-4-3. In the second half? 11-10-3. In the first half, the Bruins played the dreaded 3 games in 4 nights just 3 times. In the second half, 8. Their overall record on the third game in four nights was an horrific 2-8-1. This isn't coincidence; rather, it confirms what any Bruins fan saw from this team in those games. If you had a dollar for every time Jack or Brick would say the team lacked energy, or had dead legs, or needed a jump in their step, you could make a very respectable down payment on a 3 bedroom home in Beacon Hill.
Understand, I'm not trying to say that the schedule makers had it in for the B's; they had a tough job and did the best they could. And there were surely times when the Bruins took advantage of a team that was exhausted. The point is that you have to factor in that brutal second half schedule into Boston's record, a record that certainly looks to be artificially worse than it ought to be. In the playoffs, the Bruins would be facing a team almost every night that was on the same footing when it came to how much rest they had. Coming into the playoffs, I felt confident that what the Bruins needed more than anything else was some rest. So far, that's proven correct.
2. The 2010 Bruins team was not very good, and nowhere near as good as this group.
I've said this before, and I will again: the amazing thing about the 2010 conference semifinals was not that Boston blew a 3-0 lead, but that they had it in the first place. They had a modest +6 goal differential in the regular season, and ranked 15th in SRS. It all started before the season when they traded their best goal scorer with no clear plan to replace his production. Yes, this series loss was part of the price paid in the Phil Kessel trade. As well as the deal turned out for the Bruins, it's hard not to think that a 30 goal scorer might have made a difference in a series where three of Boston's four losses came by a goal. Then Michael Ryder went into a funk that he never came out of until the 2011 playoffs. Tim Thomas had been battling a hip injury most of the season. Milan Lucic had been fighting an injured foot. Marc Savard came back too soon from his concussion and wasn't the same (nor would he ever be, alas). Marco Sturm, who led the team with a modest 22 goals, was lost in game 1 of the Flyers series, and David Krejci was lost in game 3. Dennis Seidenberg never saw a minute of playoff ice time. Mark Stuart played in the final 4 games, but was coming off a finger injury. Adam McQuaid missed the final four games of the series with a knee injury. By the end of the series, Matt Hunwick was seeing 24+ minutes of ice time, Blake Wheeler, before he was good, was playing on the top line and Daniel Paille was playing on a scoring line. Miroslav Satan was the team's third leading playoff scorer. Steve Begin was playing regular minutes, and Trent Whitfield, of all people, was the fourth line center for the final four games.
I'm going out on a limb and saying that the 2013 version is a little better than that.
The 2010 team had a 3-0 lead on the Flyers because they were fortunate. And when their luck ran out, so did the lead. The 2013 team has a 3-0 lead because they're really damned good, and they're dominating the Rangers in all aspects of play. Last night, the Rangers should have been a desperate team. They had to know that it was a must-win game for them, and the Bruins still jumped all over them and dominated most of the game. It was a 2-1 score and probably would have been 5-1 if the Rangers hadn't secretly swapped out Henrik Lundqvist for a mutant octopus with cocaine-fueled reflexes.
Relax, we got this.