John Tomase

A reminder for Bruins: Losing heartbreaking Game 7s is what Leafs do

It's time for head coach Jim Montgomery to give his team a history lesson.

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We're about to find out what happens when the movable object meets the resistible force.

The Bruins are trying not to choke for the second straight postseason, the memory of last year's epic failure vs. the eighth-seeded Panthers still boring a hole in the part of their brain that processes terror.

The Maple Leafs are like, "Hold our Molsons." Their history is as tortured as any team in the four major sports. They've won one playoff series in the last 20 seasons and one championship in the last 60, their run of futility stretching from the Prince of Wales to the Clarence Campbell and beyond.

One of them will be wailing, "Why us!?!?" again on Saturday, and despite the events of Games 5 and 6, it's not foretold it'll be the Bruins, even if it feels that way.

The last two games make zero sense. The B's improbably have been dominated by a team that as recently as Game 4 was fighting on the bench, losing its best player to injury, and drafting the press release relieving head coach Sheldon Keefe of his duties. The Leafs were cooked and yet the Bruins are playing like the ones with everything to lose, saving their two worst periods for the starts of Games 5 and 6, when they were outshot something like 150-1.

So now we're on to Game 7, which is exactly where the Bruins were last year, and exactly where they didn't want to be again this year. It would help if they stopped acting like they've already lost, all hangdog and finger-pointing and fake defiant.

The Bruins need to stop hyperventilating and remind themselves that the Leafs, in fact, suck at this.

They're the team that overcame a 3-1 deficit vs. the Bruins in 2013, only to blow a 4-1 lead in the third period of Game 7 before losing on Patrice Bergeron's overtime dagger. They're the team that overcame a 2-0 deficit vs. these same Bruins in 2018, only to blow another Game 7 lead in Boston. They're the same team that lost yet another Game 7 to the B's a year later.

It's in Toronto's DNA to lose this exact series in this exact way, and if I'm Montgomery, I'm rolling highlights on all three Game 7s to remind the Bruins that they shouldn't be afraid of history repeating itself, because history is actually on their side.

I wish I could say I'm as confident as I was a couple of days ago, but the Bruins are playing so scared, they've turned one of the league's most middling defenses into the 1995 New Jersey Devils of neutral-zone-trap fame. They suddenly have little room to operate. It would be one thing if they were the victims of a hot goalie, and Joseph Woll has certainly outshined erratic veteran Ilya Samsonov, but the Bruins have made Woll's life easy by failing to test him.

That might be related to the fact that they look like they could use some milk crates to remain upright. When they kept falling down to start Game 5, I blamed the Garden ice, even though it only seemed to be tripping up one team. When they continued stumbling in Game 6 like so many baby fawns – Pastrnak crumpled behind the net at one point after being pushed with all the force of a feather duster – we could only conclude that they're wound tighter than an abused Slinky.

They must find a way to relieve that tension let their forecheck go to work, because goalie Jeremy Swayman has played well enough to win all five of his starts and the Leafs aren't exactly generating A-plus scoring chances with regularity. The Bruins could win Game 7 with just two goals.

So relax and remember who you're playing. The Bruins may fear a repeat of last year, but the Leafs have been blowing games like this forever. Get out of your own way and let them.

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