While the rest of the hockey world rushes to anoint the Bruins as “Most Likely To Hoist The Cup,” many of Boston’s die-hard fans are more inclined to curb their enthusiasm … at least until after the opening round.
At play here is more than just the legendary fatalism of New England sports fans, the caution born of heartbreaks caused by Bucky Dent and Bill Buckner, Eli Manning and David Tyree/Mario Manningham and –for Bruins fans in particular — “Too many men on the ice.” Indeed, the first round has become almost an annual tripwire for the Bruins, with lower seeds extending them to overtime of Game 7 in each of the past three springs. They survived the scares in 2011 and ’13. But in 2012, one round is as far as their playoffs went.
So a spike in the collective anxiety of New England is understandable as the Presidents’ Trophy winners take on the Red Wings on Friday night in the opener of a series that could be treacherous for the Stanley Cup favorites.
It’s not just that Detroit was the only team to beat Boston three times in regulation this season, or even that the Red Wings’ puck possession game is the Kryptonite to the Bruins’ physically punishing style. It’s that these Wings might be better than they were at any time during the regular season. They’re still missing some key players — word now is that Henrik Zetterberg has almost no chance of skating in this series — but Detroit is deeper and healthier than it has been almost all year.