Enter the TD Garden in Boston and you will inevitably hear someone talking about not poking the bear. There is some truth to this–as each time another team causes the Boston Bruins to become even more emotionally invested by causing them to hit harder, threaten fisticuffs, or actually drop the gloves to avenge liberties taken on one of their skill players. The Bruins are the epitome of the hard hat, work boots, blue collar team and they often take pride in doing things the hard way. They take a sense of accomplishment in working as a team. As a result, if an opponent pokes one bear, he in essence is poking a sleuth of bears. Don’t poke the bear.
Bears are tough. Let’s consider that the only mammal who may even consider taking on the impressive 6′ 9″ Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara is perhaps an actual bear. At least the bear might stand half a chance. Such strength and belief in your abilities can on occasion cause a little pain, and there was a little pain involved in Monday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
To say there was not emotion–at least on the part of the fans who were looking at this as another opportunity to remind the Penguins that they had been measured and come up lacking during the Eastern Conference Finals of last season–would be a falseness. However the Bruins themselves seemed to struggle throughout much of the game, allowing the Penguins plenty of opportunities to try and get one past Tuukka Rask. At one point, the shots on goal were ten to three in favor of the Penguins. And though not everyone noticed, Rask had offered some advice to Penguins James Neal early in the first. After catching Neal’s shot, apparently Rask suggested that Neal “shoot harder next time.”
The next two shots on Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury would result in the Bruins capitalizing on first an even strength goal at 12:27 of the first, by Loui Eriksson, followed approximately three minutes later by the power play goal of Reilly Smith just eight seconds into the power play. As the two teams headed to their respective locker rooms for the first intermission the shots on goal showed 10-5 in favor of Pittsburgh, but the score told a different story as it stood at 2-0 in favor of Boston.
However apparently Neal didn’t appreciate the advice from Rask in the first because just 37 seconds into the second Neal had a snap shot past the Bruins’ net minder and had cut the Bruins lead in half, where the score would stall for the remainder of the second and a little more than 11 minutes into the third. At 11:09 into the third Neal with another snap shot found the back of the twine again and just like that the game was tied.
When Chara got a wrist shot past Fleury, from the assists of David Krejci and Milan Lucic, the look on Lucic’s face spoke to what every fan was thinking–that perhaps the Bruins could hang on and win in regulation.
Of course the Penguins were equally determined to ensure that such an outcome would not happen. And just as it looked like the Bruins had hung on by their teeth, Sidney Crosby got one into the net with–after review–just .3 left on the clock. The hockey gods can be cruel sometimes.
The air seemed to get sucked out of the arena as Bruins fans tried to wrap their minds around what had just taken place, while each team focused on the upcoming four-on-four five-minute overtime period.
Two faceoffs later, both won by the Bruins, and a snap shot from one of the Bruins cubs–first year defenseman Torey Krug–at just 34 seconds into the overtime period and the Bruins were cheering, as were their fans. And the Penguins? They headed off to their locker room to get changed and head out, glad to be taking a point out of the tilt.
The moral of the story? Perhaps bears shouldn’t poke penguins. And if they do, be sure to have a cub with a snap shot just aching to use it.