Monday, April 21, 2008

April 19, 2004 - The Day Boston's Sports Luck Changed?

With the Bruins on the verge of coming back from a 3-1 series deficit on the Canadiens, it came to mind the last time a team came back from such a deficit in the NHL. That was done by the Canadiens against the Bruins in the 2004 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, the same round as the teams are meeting in this year. The teams met in Game 7 on Patriots' Day in Boston and things have changed for Boston sports fans since that fateful day when the Bruins collapsed.

The Day Boston's Sports Luck Changed

April 19, 2004 - a day that should live in infamy in Boston sports lore. That's the day when the city of Boston went from having the worst luck in the world to having all the luck in the world. And they should thank the Boston Bruins for it.

It was Patriots' Day and earlier that day was the annual Boston Marathon and was a day the Red Sox played the Yankees. The first pitch was thrown out by Connecticut basketball coach Jim Calhoun, who had just guided the Huskies to their second National Championship in a Final Four that saw them beat Duke in a classic comeback before easily defeating Georgia Tech in the Final
The Red Sox would come back from a 3-0 and 4-1 deficit to win the game 5-4 on a RBI single by Gabe Kapler in the bottom of the 8th inning off Tom Gordon. It wouldn't be the only comeback the Red Sox would make against the Yankees that year. More on that in a moment.

Later that day, the football Patriots threw their name into the mix. They traded a second-round draft pick to the Cincinnati Bengals for running back Corey Dillon, who was unhappy in Cincinnati. All Dillon would do in that 2004 season was rush for a career-high 1,635 yards and a then career-high 12 rushing TD as he helped guide the Patriots to their second straight Super Bowl victory.

But that night was the low point on what would be a memorable day. The Bruins came into their own building for Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with their rival, the Montreal Canadiens. They had blown a 3-1 series lead and were now sent to the brink of elimination thanks to a 5-1 loss in Game 5 followed by a 5-2 loss in Game 6.

With the game scoreless into the third period, Richard Zednik would break the tie for Montreal, scoring on Boston rookie netminder Andrew Raycroft. Zednik would then add an empty-net goal as the Canadiens would go on for the 2-0 win, becoming the 20th team to come back from a 3-1 series deficit in NHL history.

The Sports Gods must have thought Boston had suffered enough. The Red Sox hadn't won a World Series since 1918, the Celtics were in the midst of a major rebuilding stage and although the Patriots had won two Super Bowls, it still seemed the jinx was in on Boston.

But after that day when the Bruins bit the bullet, everything has come up in spades. Just six months after the Bruins collapse in the playoffs, the Red Sox completed the greatest comeback in MLB history against the hated Yankees. They trailed the series 3-0 and were down to their last outs in the ninth in Game 4 when they tied the game against the greatest closer in the history of baseball, Mariano Rivera. They would tie the game and win it in the 12th inning on the first of consecutive walk-off hits by David Ortiz.

Then came The Bloody Sock of Curt Schilling and the Grand Slam by Johnny Damon in Game 7 and before you knew it, the Red Sox would sweep the Cardinals to win the World Series.
The Red Sox aren't the only local area team to enjoy success in the wake of the Bruins collapse. As said earlier, later in the Fall and Winter of 2004, the Patriots would go on to defeat the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXVIII, their third Super Bowl victory in the Bill Belichick era.

While the Bruins haven't delivered a Stanley Cup to Boston since 1972, Boston College got into the mix on the ice since that Bruins collapse. It advanced to three straight Frozen Fours since 2006, finally coming away with the National Championship with a win in 2008 over Notre Dame.
All the luck may have come to a head in Boston in 2007. The Red Sox won the World Series again and they didn't have to come back from a huge deficit or beat the Yankees to do so. Although the Patriots ultimately failed in their Pursuit of Perfection, they still became the first team to finish a regular season 16-0 in NFL history. Then the Celtics went out and traded for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen and alongside Paul Pierce, resurrected the retired ghosts of Bird, McHale and Parrish. The Celtics would go on to complete the greatest single-season win turnaround in NBA history.

There were even some close calls to titles in the Boston area in sports not familiar to the pre-Patriots' Day 2004 jinx. The New England Revolution have advanced to the MLS Cup the last three seasons, but have not come away with the title. The Boston College football team, led by potential top draft pick Matt Ryan, received a No. 2 ranking in the BCS at one point in the season. The UMass soccer team lost in the National Semifinals 1-0 to Ohio State.

So maybe all this luck in the area can finally rub off on the one team that's lay dormant in the Boston area for many years, the Bruins, who look to come back from a 3-1 series deficit against the team that did it to them four years ago, the Canadiens. They don't have to look far. Their coach, Claude Julien was the Canadiens coach when they pulled off the three-game comeback.
Hopefully for many Boston fans, maybe this Patriots' Day will be just as memorable as that one four years ago.

1 comment:

Nick Loucks said...

The Earth should open up nad swallow the city of Boston... I'm just saying...