Ever since the Boston Bruins absolutely decimated the Philadelphia Flyers in game three of their Eastern Conference semi-final series to take a commanding 3-0 series lead, anybody with an internet connection has suddenly become a historian.
Yes, history is repeating itself - last year, through three games in the Eastern Conference semis, the Bruins held a commanding 3-0 series lead, only to watch their goaltending struggle, their offense fade and their Stanley Cup hopes die as these same Flyers won the next four games, including coming back from a three-goal first period deficit in game seven to win the series.
Only, these aren't the same Flyers. Philadelphia doesn't have last year's Game 4 hero Claude Giroux, they may or may not have their top defenseman in Chris Pronger and they have Jeff Carter only operating on one good wheel. Not to mention, they don't have a surprisingly hot Michael Leighton in net, and Brian Boucher and Sergei Bobrovsky aren't exactly the Edge and Christian of tag-team goaltending tandems.
And these definitely aren't the same Bruins. B's fans favorite target Dennis Wideman is long gone, replaced by a suddenly hot Nathan Horton and always-reliable Gregory Campbell. The young Tuukka Rask isn't in net, and although Tim Thomas may be 13 years older than Rask, he's not shown any signs of wearing down, having allowed only one goal in the past 125 minutes of playoff hockey. A less-than-fifty-percent Marc Savard is - regrettably - nowhere to be seen, as are Trent Whitfield, Vladimir Sobotka, Byron Bitz and scores of other 2010 goats.
Dennis Seidenberg, who wasn't available in last year's postseason because of an arm injury, has revealed himself as a monster, logging over 25 minutes of ice time and blocking shots just as well as he's ever done. alongside him, captain Zdeno Chara has been a physical force, getting into the offense with three points Wednesday night and getting into the faces of any Flyers who care to make a run at Thomas. Patrice Bergeron has been quietly strong all series, playing great two-way hockey and making his linemates better in the process. The Black and Gold are now 12-0-1 in their last 13 games against the Flyers with number-one pivot David Krejci in the lineup, and Krejci's put up eight points in three games of this series, including the game-winning goal in each game of the series. Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly continue to prove why they were brought in at the trade deadline, bringing a speed game that's really worn down Philadelphia's defense and swiss cheese goaltending. And Brad Marchand continues to prove why he shouldn't have been snubbed in Calder Trophy voting.
It's safe to say that Marchand doesn't care much for the Calder, though; he and the Bruins both have their eyes set on a much bigger trophy. They all know about last year, but nobody in the room is fearing the worst; as Marchand says, "we're writing our own new chapter."
The Bruins have looked very good in the past two weeks; Boston has won seven of their last eight playoff games, averaging nearly four goals per game and allowing just over two goals in that period. 21 of their goals in the postseason have come from players who weren't on the Bruins' roster in games four through seven against the Flyers last year, and ten of the team's 12 goals scored in the third period or later have been scored by skaters who weren't donning Black and Gold sweaters at the end of last year's Flyers series.
The power play is still an area of concern - one goal in 32 chances isn't a very good percentage, and that one was a garbage-time goal in a two-minute five-on-three power play at the very end of the third period of Wednesday's blowout, anyway - but it's a concern for both teams at this point, and the Bruins haven't found much trouble scoring at even strength, which is where they plan on playing most of their game.
Bruins' head coach Claude Julien, when asked if he was happy with where the Bruins are at right now, responded succinctly: "We are never happy."
Julien knows what's behind, but he also knows what is - and what could be - ahead. Heading into game four, none of the statistics matter, none of the past performances mean a thing. What matters is only that his team goes out and does it.
"To finish off a team, you need your best game of the series and that is what we are going to need Friday."