It’s not an enviable position for the Boston Bruins to be in. They’re down 2-0 in the Stanley Cup finals to the Vancouver Canucks and since the expansion era began in the NHL in the 1966-1967 season only two teams have battled back from that to win the Stanley Cup. 25 of the last 27 teams that jumped out to a 2-0 lead went on to win Lord Stanley’s most prized possession.
The Bruins have already fought out of a 2-0 hole this year in the first round of the playoffs against Montreal. There the teams took care of each other on one another’s home ice through the first four games before seeing Boston win their final two home games in Games 5 and 7 to take the series, culminating with a Game 7 win in overtime thanks to Nathan Horton. But when it comes to the Stanley Cup finals, they’ll have to dig a bit deeper to find inspiration to comeback and win the series.
In 2009, the Pittsburgh Penguins dropped the first two games of the finals to Detroit and fought back from being down two games twice in those finals to win the series in seven games. Evgeni Malkin helped lead the charge for Pittsburgh while Marc-Andre Fleury stood on his head to help keep the Red Wings off the board. Malkin’s play was so inspiring that he took home the Conn Smythe Trophy at the end of everything. Considering that Pittsburgh had to win twice in Detroit in the final three games of the series to do it makes their feat all the more impressive.
The first team in the expansion era to pull off the 2-0 comeback was, of course, the Montreal Canadiens in 1971. That year the Habs got down 2-0 to the Chicago Blackhawks before winning the next two at home in Montreal. Home teams would all win each game except for Game 7 when the Habs beat Chicago 3-2 to take the Stanley Cup thanks to the work of Ken Dryden in goal and brothers Frank and Peter Mahovlich on the ice. Captain Jean Beliveau would make that Stanley Cup his tenth and final one as captain of the Canadiens.
For Boston, they’ll need to draw on the legacy of those Canadiens legends who defended their home ice perfectly and gutted it out to win on the road in Game 7, something that’s only happened three times in Stanley Cup history. Those Canadiens, the 1945 Maple Leafs, and those 2009 Penguins are the only ones to pull that off. Sure the Bruins don’t necessarily have to go seven games, they could rattle off four wins in a row and end it in six, with the way they’ve been outplayed at times through most of the first two games, seven games makes far more sense to work things out.
Much like with those past teams it’ll come down to goaltending and Tim Thomas will more than have his hands full dealing with the Canucks attack the rest of the way. While he’s played out of his mind, he’ll need better support from his defense and hope that they can eliminate the mistakes and not come up with bad turnovers and penalties that can lead to goals. Don’t expect Bruins captain Zdeno Chara to dwell on what’s been a rough couple of games for him.
History has shown that it can be done and while it hasn’t happened that often, the opportunity is there for Boston to take but it starts with one win.