Claude Julien summed it up perfectly following Sunday’s Game 6 loss. “We’ve been a Jekyll and Hyde hockey club all year, and that’s what you’re seeing right now.”
No one should be surprised that the Bruins have allowed a comfortable 3-1 series lead to slip away. Since having a six-game winning streak come to an end on March 2, the Bruins have at no point even come to close to playing good hockey for two straight weeks.
They’d sprinkle in a good game or two here and there, just enough to remind us that they still had the potential to do it. But then either the offense or defense would disappear for a few games — sometimes both.
The Bruins just happened to sprinkle in one of those good games in Game 1 of this series. They dominated the Maple Leafs in every facet, outshooting them 40-20 and outscoring them 4-1. We thought maybe they had figured out how to flip the proverbial switch, but we should’ve known better. We had two months of evidence telling us they wouldn’t play that way for a whole series.
And sure enough, they haven’t. The defense fell apart in a Game 2 loss. Tuukka Rask and the offense were great in their wins in Games 3 and 4, but the defense was still giving up too many chances. Rask continued to play well in losing efforts in Games 5 and 6, and the defense actually got a little bit better, but the offense went silent and the team didn’t show any real desperation in either game until it was already down by multiple goals.
So now the series comes down to a do-or-die Game 7 in Boston on Monday night. It would be easy to call the Maple Leafs the favorites at this point. They’ve won the last two games. They’ve already won two games in Boston. They’ve been the hungrier team. And on top of that, the Bruins’ usual routine was interrupted by plane troubles that prevented them from flying out of Toronto on Sunday night.
But then there’s the possibility that the Bruins find a way to channel their inner Dr. Jekyll for one night. Maybe playing in a Game 7 brings back that dominant team from Game 1. If it does, the Leafs don’t stand a chance.
Even if the Bruins don’t bring their best game, it’s unlikely they get blown out. Even when they’ve played poorly in this series, the games have still been close. The Leafs deserve all the credit in the world for working as hard as they have and pushing this series to seven, but they’ve needed a little help from the Bruins as well.
Anyone who says they know what’s going to happen Monday night is lying. The Bruins’ inconsistency over a stretch of games has become predictable, but how they’re going to perform in any one game is a mystery. They might come out and dominate. They might barely squeak by. Or they might come out flat for a third straight game and finish off the collapse.
The series never should’ve gotten to this point. The Bruins should’ve finished it off at home in Game 5. Once they lost that one, it should’ve woken them up for Game 6. Neither of those things happened, and the Bruins know they’ve made this much harder than it should’ve been.
Will they find a way to put those missed opportunities behind them and play in Game 7 the way they should’ve played in Games 5 and 6? Or will their inner Mr. Hyde do them in for good? None of us know the answer, but it will be interesting to see how it unfolds.