The Boston Bruins’ bid for the 2013 Stanley Cup certainly didn’t get off to this kind of start.
Especially considering they came into the playoffs considered one of the best defensive teams in the league.
You’ll recall that, with 14 minutes left in regulation in Game 7 of the first round, the Bruins had already allowed 18 goals in 413 minutes of play, good for only a 2.62 goals-against average that was far higher than the 2.21 they had posted during the season.
Something was wrong, and it looked like it would cost them their season.
They were trailing the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 in that deciding game, as the speedy Leafs found holes in the Bruins defensive game and in Tuukka Rask's normally impenetrable presence in goal.
Zdeno Chara looked mortal.
Patrice Bergeron had been awfully quiet.
And many, including hundreds of fans who left the building early that night, were already writing them off.
Then came the Meltdown in Beantown – and everything changed.
Boston scored four unanswered goals in the final 17 minutes of that game to move on to Round 2, allowing only five Leafs shots on goal in that span as the start of what’s now become one of the best runs of defensive play ever in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Ever since Toronto’s Nazem Kadri scored that 4-1 goal, Boston has allowed only 17 goals in 864 minutes of play, the equivalent of 14.4 games with all the overtime factored in.
Their goals against average in that span is barely above a goal a game (1.18).
And their save percentage is a nearly perfect .960.
Can't beat the Bruins
Since a higher scoring first round series against the Leafs, Boston has shut the door, allowing just 17 goals in 13 games as its goals-against average has plummeted and its save percentage has soared.
Not that the Bruins being defensively dominant is anything new.
Five years ago, Boston allowed the fewest goals in the league during the regular season. The next year, they were second best. The year after that, they were second again and went on to win the Stanley Cup.
Last season, they fell to sixth overall. And this year, they were third.
No other NHL team has a track record like that, and a big reason for it is their strength at every key position.
The Bruins are one of the few teams in this era that has consistently had (a) one of the top five goalies in the league, (b) one of the top 10 defencemen in the league and (c) one of the top 10 centres in the league.
That combination of Rask, Chara and Bergeron – in addition to the other defensive players littered throughout the lineup – has always been tough to beat, as the Chicago Blackhawks are finding out now in the finals.
But what they’ve done over their past 13 games – without a single loss in regulation and so few goals against – is a whole new level of shutting the door.
And it may just win them another Cup.