It’s not unusual for championship-caliber NHL teams to take several days, maybe even a couple weeks, to find their playoff identity.
For the Boston Bruins, it’s become a bit of a trend.
In 2011, when they eventually trounced the field to win their last Stanley Cup, they struggled early against the sixth-seed Montreal Canadiens, coming within an overtime goal of a first-round exit.
Last year, it was déjà vu all over again versus Toronto, as they waited until late in Game 7 of Round 1 to elevate their game to the place that makes them so formidable.
The team they lost to in last year’s final, the Chicago Blackhawks, weren’t quite themselves through the first and second rounds in 2013, needing to overcome a 3-1 series deficit against Detroit in Round 2.
So it might come of something of a shock that the Bruins are awake, alive and angry so early this year.
In Game 1 against Detroit, the tone was subdued for a club many are picking to win it all this year. But considering their track record, not overly surprising.
In Game 2, particularly in the first period, it was the Bruins team we’ve come to know in May and June in recent years. Big, bad and ballsy.
For Detroit, TD Garden at times must’ve felt like the old Boston Garden, a rink with an ice pad nearly 10 feet shorter than today’s standard. Time and space shrunk dramatically, Boston won the majority of the battles, the crowd rocked. Zdeno Chara even toyed with Brendan Smith in a near fight that scared Smith’s unborn children.
In the first period alone, scoring chances were 13-3 for Boston.
The question, of course, is whether this is already the turning point for Boston. Is it the moment at which they separate themselves from the Eastern Conference herd and stampede to the final…again?
Momentum can be a slippery fish in the NHL playoffs. Just when you think one club is a juggernaut, a puck bounces strangely, a bad penalty is taken, a soft goal is allowed, and the pendulum swings the other way.
And in this series, it’s far too early to discount Detroit. After all, this is a club that endured a horrendous run of injuries to practically all its key players and still found a way to get to the final eight. They pushed back in the second period of Game 2 and while they came up on the short end of a 4-1 contest, they go home tied 1-1, having theoretically snared home-ice advantage.
But if Boston already has its mojo sorted, it’s a scary proposition for the rest of the league. We all know how deep they are, how strong they are in all areas of the game. Throw in angry and overwhelming and they just may be unbeatable, particularly in the East.