BOSTON, MA – Frequent visitors to MTM know of my affinity for ice hockey. And because I’m a hockey nut, I found a parallel between 1982 and 2013 – in NHL playoffs history. Moreover, on a day in which we lost renowned psychologist Dr. Joyce Brothers, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and more specifically head coach Randy Carlyle, could have used her services for the events transpiring Monday. History indeed would eerily repeat itself on the TD Garden ice in Boston, as it did on a fateful night at the Nassau Coliseum in 1982.
Randy Carlyle, the player and reigning Norris Trophy award winner as the NHL’s best defensemen for the Pittsburgh Penguins, broke a thirteen-year run of the award being presented to guys named Orr, Potvin, and Robinson. On the thirteenth day of the opening round month of the 1982 NHL playoffs, the big-time underdog Penguins found themselves two and a half minutes from eliminating the back-to-back Stanley Cup winning N.Y. Islanders on Coliseum ice, in a deciding Game 5. The magnitude of the upset made greater by being blown out of the same building in Games 1 and 2 just wouldn’t happen. The long-haired Carlyle raced to the right wing corner in playing an Islanders dump-in with plenty of time to play the puck like a defensemen does a few dozen times a game. On this occasion, the puck hops over the stick blade and the gaff gives birth to the stomach-turning legend that becomes John Tonelli. The play is one you don’t expect a Norris Trophy winner to screw up but judge for yourself…
So, Tonelli pots the game-tying goal and OT winner (BARF!) – with Carlyle on ice for both – thus erasing the two-goal 3rd period lead his team blew. Vivid are the memories because yours truly and my pals despised those Islander teams.
Fast forward to the thirteenth day of this year’s opening month of NHL Playoffs where Randy Carlyle, a previous Stanley Cup-winning bench boss, had his current team on the cusp of wiping out a 3-1 series deficit with a three-goal third period lead on enemy ice with ten minutes to play. Lacking dynasties in today’s NHL, the Boston Bruins are the most successful post-season team over the last five years with a Cup to their credit making them the closest equivalent, albeit miles away from being an actual dynasty. Like 1982, this upset just wouldn’t happen because of another Carlyle gaff, as he obviously opted for his team to play a prevent defense and offense – the ultimate version of sitting on a lead. In this process, Boston Bruins Selke Award winner (for best defensive forward) Patrice Bergeron became today’s Tonelli, filling the net with the late game tying and OT goals and sending Grote2DMax and moi into hysterics over our team’s improbable win.
The heroics of Tonelli and Bergeron set up their respective team’s dates in the following round against… the New York Rangers. The Isles dispatched of the Blueshirts and goalie Eddie Mio moving closer to Cup #3. The Bruins are one up early against a better goalie heading into today’s game. Here’s to hoping history repeats itself, again.
DJ Eberle and some sad Rangers fans, tomorrow.