Rangers-Bruins Can Rekindle Bad Memories

Freshman year of college in Boston my roommate watched me watch the collapse of the 2004 Yankees in the ALCS. The Yankees and Red Sox haven’t met in the postseason since then, but the Giants have beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl twice, which has been sweet revenge and a decent attempt at closure to October 2004. Now we have the Rangers and Bruins meeting in the playoffs and another chance for a New York sports team to end a Boston sports team’s season. I decided to email my freshman roommate Mike Miccoli, who covers the Bruins for The Hockey Writers, to find out what his mood is entering the series and his memories of nine years ago this fall.

Keefe: I lived with you during the darkest period of my life as a sports fan: 2004-05. The NHL was locked out for the entire season despite us living 0.6 miles away from the then-FleetCenter, the New York Football Giants picked some kid named Eli Manning first overall and gave him the starting job halfway through the season on the way to a 6-10 season and then there were those four nights in October during the ALCS that will never be erased from my memory no matter how much therapy I have or how many times I google “How to forget things forever.” I just have to find a way to deal with it.

Since the 2004 ALCS as sports fans we have only had two Super Bowls as a reason to go head-to-head for a series since neither of us are living and dying by NBA results. But now we have Rangers-Bruins for the first time in our lifetimes and the first time since 1973.

I know you said that the Bruins’ Cup run in 2011-12 would buy a decades-long grace period for you and the B’s, but would a loss in this series to the Rangers, the city of New York and me put an end to the grace period?

Miccoli:Can I just put this out there? You can try to forget, but I won’t, because my favorite memory of you was when you walked out of our dorm room without saying a word after the Red Sox won Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS. I don’t think I saw you for days after that. It was actually pretty nice.

But ANYWAY, grace periods are tough. In 2011, I think my attitude around the team’s success was a little different. You could have probably gotten me to agree to permanently live on a diet of nothing but kale and beet juice (both of these things are disgusting to me) in exchange for a Bruins win. Seriously. There wasn’t much I wouldn’t agree to. With that said, a loss to the Rangers wouldn’t be the end of the world for the Bruins because really, it’s not too far out of the ordinary.

Remember when the playoffs started in what seems like years ago for both of us? I felt okay about the Bruins’ chances against any first round opponent team with the exception of the Rangers. Don’t get me wrong, I loved watching the Rangers/Bruins games over the past two years but the matchups just don’t favor the Bruins. While it helps that Marian Gaborik, another Bruin haunt, is long gone, Boston’s defense is limping into the series. Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug have played a total of five career playoff games between them. Five. Five! Nobody knows what’s wrong with Dennis Seidenberg and both Andrew Ference and Wade Redden (hey! remember him?) seem to be out for Game 1. If the Rangers jump on the Bruins quick and actually feel like scoring like they did in Game 7, the first game of this series could be a long one.

Keefe:Correct me if I’m wrong, but you just mentioned Wade Redden possibly being unavailable for Game 1 as a bad thing. Yes, that just happened. The same guy the Rangers were paying top dollar to play for their AHL affiliate in Hartford. Maybe this series will be easier for the Rangers to win that I thought it would be.

You had the opportunity that only only around 18,000 people had in seeing Game 7 of the Bruins-Maple Leafs series in person. (Well, I guess it’s really less than that since you have to figure the people who left early and are going to regret it for the rest of their lives.) During the third period of that game (and I watched a lot of it since the Rangers were blowing out the Capitals), I told my girlfriend when the Bruins went down three goals that there was still a lot of time left and I had seen this team come back from similar deficits before (just not in as big of a spot). When you look at the way the Bruins played in the final minutes of all the games they lost in the series, if they had only played with that same urgency for entire games, Game 7 would have never come down to an epic comeback because there wouldn’t have been an epic comeback.

So take us through your night leading up to Game 7 and through it in person and after it since I know you weren’t confident leading into the game. And why do the Bruins wait until time has almost run out on them to play with urgency?

Miccoli:Wade Redden has been nothing but solid in a Bruins uniform. This pleases me.

Game 7 was like nothing I have ever covered or even witnessed in my life. I woke up the next morning after three hours of sleep thinking that there was no way it was real because it probably shouldn’t have been. The Bruins had no business being in that game after flat-out giving up midway through the 2nd period. It’s weird to see everyone in Boston go crazy over Game 7 aside from the last few minutes. They stopped trying for a good portion of it and only came to life in the last 12 minutes or so. I distinctly remember going up to other media members in the press box telling them to have a nice summer in between the 2nd and 3rd periods. I doubted that they’d be able to recover from two straight losses and rebound in the third. Then, the Maple Leafs remembered they were the Maple Leafs, so now here we are.

You could probably argue that the Bruins had every opportunity to wrap up the series in Games 5, 6, and in the first two periods of 7, but why not put everyone through hell with a win like that? It’s because the Bruins are inconsistent; wildly inconsistent. They were dominant in Games 1 and 3 though, and you watched what happened when they had their backs to the wall in Game 7. When they need to, they have the ability to show this incredible passion and power through. Remember the last time the Bruins and Rangers played each other? They almost did it then. Down three goals late in the third period, the Bruins came back to force overtime before eventually losing in a shootout. I guess these third period heroics are nothing new for Boston. Better that than to have the lead going into the third. They blew enough of those games this year. Checks and balances, just like the Rangers, right?

Keefe:Last year you were certain that the Rangers would play for the Cup, if not win the Cup, and your level of certainty was rejuvenated in July when they finally traded for Rick Nash. Then starting at the beginning of this season and throughout the 48-game schedule, you have reiterated your fear of the Rangers on several occasions to me.

The problem is here in New York I don’t think anyone in the city is as confident in you in the Rangers or has ever been dating back to last season because of the team strategy of “Score One Goal and Hope it Stands!” You have been overly optimistic about a team that maybe overachieved last season and underachieved this regular season. But now we will find out just how good this Rangers team is with a test against the Bruins.

Why have you been so adamant about the Rangers going on a run and fearful of them standing in the Bruins’ way? It can’t just be Henrik Lundqvist.

Miccoli:My roommate, also a Rangers fan ironically, called me the most pessimistic Bruins’ guy he’s ever met. While that might have something to do with it, I just really don’t like the matchups for the Bruins against the Rangers.

The Bruins and Rangers are incredibly similar, which makes the games so much fun to watch. They both suck on the power play, rely way too heavily on their goaltending, and play a physical game. But when it comes down to it, I think the Rangers are a notch above the Bruins. The Bruins have better depth, but the Rangers’ secondary scoring this postseason has been crucial. Aside from the Bruins’ top line of Lucic-Krejci-Horton and Patrice Bergeron, the offensive production hasn’t been there. There have been way too many passengers and not enough players who have stepped up. If the Bruins got all four lines clicking at the same time, then yes, I’d give the edge to Boston. I just haven’t seen that yet.

Plus, Lundqvist scares the hell out of me. He’s 21-7-2 all-time vs Boston with a 1.69 G.A.A. and .943 save percentage. He’s white hot right now and gets to face a Bruins team that he’s completely owned in the past. It certainly helps that any blueshirt will get in front of a puck to block the shot. Watch Boston closely here. One of their biggest weakness in the first round against Toronto was that when they shot the puck, it was right at James Reimer. There was no deviation or creativity what so ever.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m not giving the Bruins enough credit, but I just don’t like them against the Rangers. The series will go seven and every game will be close, but ultimately I think the Rangers pull it out.

Keefe: It’s going to be a long series, which has the potential to go all the way until May 29. I will be in Nantucket for Memorial Day weekend and Games 5 and 6 (if necessary, of course) and I’m sure the rivalry will be alive and well there.

This series obviously doesn’t have anywhere near the same implications and possible consequences that the ALCS did almost nine years ago. I have always said that I don’t enjoy the Yankees playing the Red Sox because the Yankees are supposed to win and there is no glory when you have everything to lose by losing and nothing to gain by winning. But with these two teams meeting for the first time since number 4 was still playing, I couldn’t be more ecstatic of what this series presents and what it will entail.

It’s not the same as if a trip to the Cup was on the line, but a trip to Pittsburgh is still good enough to me. We haven’t agreed on something since you made the pact that if the Bruins won a championship in 2010-11 you would be OK with the Red Sox being absolutely terrible for the next 10 years while the Yankees won five World Series. The Yankees have yet to win one of those five in the 10-year window, but the Red Sox had the worst regular-season collapse in baseball history and followed it up with arguably their worst season in franchise history. I’m glad we agree on something again: Rangers in seven.

Miccoli: You’re right, the series will be long. I’m planning on keeping a tally of your “Ladies and gentlemen…!” tweets directed at Brian Boyle and John Tortorella. (Have I mentioned how terrified I am of Tortorella yet? I am.) This could also be the lowest-scoring series in the history of the NHL. Would a total of 10 goals surprise you? I know it wouldn’t for me. It seems like there’s always at least one 1-0 game between these two teams. We’re due for one here.

I started to think about the Rangers’ offense a little bit more since our last email. Gaborik is gone, Nash is invisible and Richards is still overrated. Maybe this won’t be so bad for the Bruins. I mean, if they find their scoring touch and Seguin remembers how much potential he has and all of a sudden, this could be a series. These teams really are similar and I look forward to biting my nails and flinching whenever something exciting happens.

Do me a favor though: please remember to take your cell phone with you when you inevitably walk out of whatever bar you’re watching Game 7 in. You know … just in case the Bruins win and you decide to disappear for a couple of days. It’s happened before. It could happen again.