BOSTON — Like the rest of the region, the Bruins watched in horror on Wednesday night as the Red Sox completed their epic collapse by failing to reach the playoffs in shocking fashion on the final day of the regular season.
But unlike most viewers, the Bruins could relate to just how devastating that collapse was.
The Red Sox made history by becoming the first team to blow a nine-game lead for a playoff spot in September. They added some extra special anguish on the final day when they squandered a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth for a 4-3 loss in Baltimore, while Tampa Bay rallied from a 7-0 deficit to beat the Yankees 8-7 on Evan Longoria‘s walk-off homer in the 12th.
“It was almost like it was scripted to be as hurtful as possible,” Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference said. “But what can you do? That’s sports. I don’t know what else you can say about it. It’s a bad feeling to go through as a player. You’re not trying to tank. It’s almost like you’re trying too hard to turn things around sometimes and you just get worse, and I feel that’s kind of what happened there.”
Ference speaks from experience. In the spring of 2010, the Bruins held a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 edge in their best-of-seven series with Philadelphia in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. They even led 3-0 in Game 7 at the Garden before the Flyers became just the third NHL team ever to rally from three games down to win the series 4-3.
So might the Bruins offer the Red Sox any tips on how to overcome such a setback?
“I don’t think they need any advice,” goalie Tim Thomas said. “I think it will simmer in those guys all [winter] and help their motivation for next year. That’s what I think happened with us.”
And while the Bruins can relate to the despair the Sox are feeling right now, don’t expect them to be offering any condolences either.
“I don’t think athletes take a pat on the back too well after going through something like that,” Ference said. “You’re not looking for sympathy or anything like that. I think if you’re honest with yourself you know you’re disappointed in yourself. I don’t think there was a guy here when we lost that was looking for a shoulder to cry on. We were mad at each other. More than anyone on the outside could be disappointed, we were disappointed in ourselves.
“But it’s a matter of getting over it, sucking it up and taking responsibility for it,” Ference continued. “You only get in trouble if you start pointing fingers and trying to look for excuses. But if you take accountability and own up to not getting the job done, then I think you can move on from it.”
The Bruins did just that, rebounding the following season with a run to the club’s first championship in 39 years, sweeping the Flyers in four straight along the way.
Can the Sox do the same next year? At least one Bruin thinks the Sox can get stronger from suffering through such adversity as the Bruins did.
“There’s a lot of reasons why those kind of things happen,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “But I guess as outsiders the natural thing to do is always to attack that team. But they’re the only ones who know inside the real reason. It’s tough. We’ve been through it and it’s tough to swallow. And I’m sure those guys are certainly not happy and proud [Thursday], but they’re going to bounce back. This is a proud organization and I’m confident they are going to bounce back.”
The Sox may rebound next season, but this fall they couldn’t avoid ending up on the wrong side of history in a playoff chase not soon to be forgotten.
“With the way it worked out with Tampa Bay coming back like that, I hate to say it, but it seems like it was meant to be,” Thomas said. “That’s why sports are sports. You don’t know what the outcome is going to be.”
The Bruins know how firsthand tough those outcomes can be. And if offering condolences to the Sox isn’t going to help, what would a Bruin say if he runs into one of his baseball counterparts in the coming days?
“Let’s get a beer,” Ference said. “That’s about it.”