All season long, they've tried to put the bitter memory of last year's collapse behind them, tried to drown out the constant questions about how they could possibly have let a 3-0 series lead slip away. Questions that grew louder by the day as they found themselves facing the exact same foe in the exact same round just one year later.
And once again, the Bruins took a 3-0 series lead on the Flyers.
There would be no collapse this time. Not even a hint of letting Philadelphia think it could pull off another miraculous rally. And most importantly, no questions about what they had done so horribly wrong.
Instead, everything is right in Bruins Nation on this night. Boston dispatched Philadelphia 5-1 on Friday to complete a four-game sweep. There was no doubt about which was the superior team this time around, as the Bruins outscored the Flyers 20-7 over the four games.
"It feels great," said Bruins forward Milan Lucic, who scored a pair of goals in the Game 4 victory. "It's nice that we're not going to have to answer any more of those questions and we can put that behind us. I think we learned a lot from last year, that experience, and I think it made us a more determined hockey club. I think you could see it in us. … We've definitely put everything behind us with what happened last year, so it's a real good feeling."
After insisting all series that they had put last year behind them, the Bruins could finally admit just how much that defeat had weighed on them, now that the weight had been lifted with a win that was equal parts revenge and redemption.
"It was a way to get revenge, to kind of show the city that we were sorry for it," Bruins forward Brad Marchand said. "It was great to get this one."
Marchand wasn't actually on the ice for last year's collapse, as he was a healthy scratch throughout the playoffs. He's made up for that this season, with 5-6-11 totals through 11 games. Tim Thomas was a spectator last year too, backing up Tuukka Rask. Thomas has also made a huge difference with his stellar play this spring, and shared the relief of ending the questions about last year.
"To be quite honest, as a player you hear all the talk about what happened last year and you have to ignore it to be able to do what we just did, winning this series," Thomas said. "But to be honest I'm glad that it's over. I'm glad that it's done with. Because the longer that series would have went the more talk about last year. So I'm glad that is put behind us as a team, as an organization and [for] the fans. I am glad the fans can put it behind them too. And I'll say it, hopefully it exorcised some demons."
There were more than just the demons of that series haunting the Bruins though. Boston hasn't gotten past the second round of the playoffs since 1992. Each of the last two years ended in agonizing Game 7 defeats on home ice, continuing a string of playoff failures and disappointments.
"Well it's a big relief I think for all of us," Bruins forward Mark Recchi said. "We put a lot of work into this year and been through a lot. A lot of guys have been through a lot together the last couple of years, so to finally get over the hump and get to that next level is a great feeling for all us. We're excited but we know that there is still some work to do. We'll enjoy the next couple of days and then we'll get ready for the next series."
Recchi knows better than most the road that still lies ahead. He's played 22 seasons in the NHL and has won a pair of Cups. But his wisdom has rubbed off on his younger teammates, who also recognize that as glorious as exorcising the demons of that Philadelphia series may have been, there's even greater glories — and greater challenges — ahead.
"We're very proud of what we've accomplished so far, but at the same time we're a long ways away right now," Marchand said. "We're only halfway there. There's a lot of hockey to be played, a lot of great teams that we still have to play ahead of us. We have to make sure we don't get too ahead of ourselves. We're not here to get to the third round. We're here to go all the way, so we've still got a lot of work to do."
There is still plenty of work to be done, but this is the time of year when no hockey player will ever complain about extra work.
"No, I hoped, but I've just been taking it game by game and series by series," center Gregory Campbell said when asked if he ever expected this kind of run once he finally got to participate in the playoffs for the first time in his sixth season in the NHL. "It's been quite a thrill for me. The excitement of seven games and overtime in the first round, then this series with kind of a déjà vu feeling going on and how we handled it.
"Now going forward, another great challenge and being one of the soon-to-be last four teams left, it's a pretty special accomplishment," Campbell continued. "There's 26 teams that will be at home and we're one of the four that will still be playing. It's an exciting time, but there's a lot of work ahead."
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