Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Big Z's Illustrated Guide To The Top 10 Games of 08-09

Before we close the books on the 2009 regular season, and start playing the games that REALLY matter, let's take a look back at the Bruins' best season in 35 years:

This game didn't count for much in the final standings, but it was one hell of a fun ride. Five minutes into the game, the score was 2-2. After falling behind 4-2 in the first period, the Bruins took over and scored 5 straight goals for the win.

Much like the 11/19 game against Buffalo, this falls into the "wild ride" category. The score was 3-3 after the first period, and Toronto eventually took the lead on three different occasions. Boston reeled off 4 consecutive scores in the second period in this defense-less free for all.

It seems weird to include a loss on this list, but this was a classic David-vs-Goliath game that had it all.

The Bruins came into the game on an unbelievable 28-5-1 roll, and the Blues were in the Western Conference basement. Surprisingly, St. Louis brought a 2-1 lead into the third period. Boston exploded for 3 goals in just over a minute, and looked to have won the game with 1:30 remaining and a 4-2 lead. Nevertheless, the Blues mounted a monumental comeback -- the tying goal with only 0.8 seconds left, then a win in the shootout. Since then, the Blues have gone 23-8-6 and made the playoffs by 1 game.

We might remember this game after we've forgotten the rest. Tuukka Rask, in his only appearance of the season, drops a 35-save shutout on the Rangers. This was around the same time that the fans really started to turn on Manny.

Too bad we don't get to see Anaheim more often! The Bruins seemed almost clinical in picking apart the Ducks, getting 2 goals each from Ryder and Kobasew and a 35-save shutout from Thomas. But the most memorable action was Lucic going batshit crazy on Mike Brown, in response to an unprovoked jab to the honker. Looch managed to throw five bombs at a squirming Brown before the refs arrived; thankfully none of them landed or this would be an obituary instead of a game summary.

Even before the puck was dropped, this was already a feel-good night in Boston. Bergeron, Lucic and Ference all returned after long absences, just in time for a 1-vs-2 matchup. Despite Krejci's improbable OT winner, the most memorable moment was the deafening sound of every member of Caps Nation simultaneously shitting themselves when Ovechkin appeared to have been seriously injured. Fortunately he popped up, threw some equipment in the tunnel, and returned later in the game.

Of all 53 wins this season, this might have been the sweetest. When Habs management decided to schedule Patrick Roy Night, they undoubtedly thought this would be a crowd-pleasing win over their rival. Guy Carbonneau played into the hype by shadowing Lucic with Laraque, a notoriously unsuccessful move that haunted him for the brief remainder of his career in Montreal. Lucic ended up scoring, Boston won a tightly-played game, and by the end of the night the Bruins had moved permanently into first place.

The significance of this win was mostly symbolic -- after an unbelievable November, the Bruins were just beginning to get cautious recognition from the media. But it wasn't until after they beat the Wings that they had the feel of a Cup contender. The game itself seemed anticlimactic, all but over after Ty Conklin gave up 3 goals on 9 shots, but the Bruins clearly had a new sense of self-confidence after this huge win.

Even though it was a glorified exhibition for the Bruins, this had the feel of a playoff game. Only a week before their actual playoff matchup, both teams were sending messages loud and clear. Montreal desperately needed a point to make the playoffs, so things got a little out of hand when Boston began to pull away in the second period. Several ugly incidents later, the Habs had scored three consecutive power-play goals to take the lead. Boston rallied in the third, and won on a brilliant play by Bergeron. The full significance of this game will not be known for at least two weeks.

This was where it all began.

The Bruins came into the game with an ordinary 5-3-3 record, having played 8 of their first 11 on the road. Dallas was under .500 and in a surly mood. The better the Bruins played, the chippier the play became -- and vice versa.

There's not enough space to run down all the emotionally-charged moments in this one, but perhaps the most significant involved Marc Savard coming to the "rescue" of Milan Lucic after he had been hit from behind by Avery. That was the moment when Savard truly became a Bruin in the eyes of the masses.

There comes a point in every championship season where a team finds its identity. That process began when the Bruins realized they could stand up to Ott and Avery while also destroying their team on the scoreboard. From that point on, the Bruins seemed invincible -- an 11-1-1 record for the rest of November and 12-1 mark in December followed.

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