Both Boston Bruins losses in these Stanley Cup finals followed a similar script.
The B's have either equaled or outplayed the Vancouver Canucks for nearly the entire game. But then, almost inexplicably, someone makes an error that results in a goal.
It's these critical mistakes that have the Bruins staring at a two game deficit. If they can't fix those errors, they're dreams of a Stanley Cup comeback will quickly end.
Pinpointing an exact reason for their late-game failures isn't simple. The Bruins routinely turn the puck over, making careless mistakes in their own zone. The breakout struggles to move the puck up ice, and the Canucks dominate possession time.
The mistakes aren't committed by inexperienced fourth-liners or first-year rookies. Zdeno Chara, a Norris Trophy finalist, has been the victim of both late-game errors. In Game 1, he allowed Jannick Hansen's pass to go under him and to Raffi Torres, who beat Tim Thomas with 18.5 seconds left in regulation.
Saturday night, Alex Burrows made Chara a victim again. He blew past the towering defenseman, forcing Thomas to dive and challenge the Canucks forward. He easily beat Thomas, then deposited his wrap-around chance into the open net for the win.
It's a team-wide epidemic, but Chara has become the poster boy for Boston's third period futility. Usually a great third period team, Boston is breaking down at the worst possible times. The mistakes can be credited to the speed of the Canucks, which has the Bruins worn down by game's end.
"All season the Bruins have been aces in the final 20 minutes of games and shown the ability to finish strongly against the opposition," Jim Haggerty of CSNNE.com said. "But Boston's defenseman and forwards are so worn down by the frenetic pace of the Canucks that they've been outscored 3-0 in the the third period and overtime of the first two games of the series."
Boston skates on home ice tonight, and Claude Julien will get the last change. Maybe that'll help keep his players fresh into the third period. The support of the home crowd may refocus them.
One thing remains clear - if they can't turn the tables and force the Canucks' hand, they'll be making summer vacation plans without Lord Stanley.