PHILADELPHIA — There was a point, Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard would admit, where the 2009-2010 NHL season couldn’t end soon enough.
There was a point, Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Brian Boucher acknowledges, that it looked like his would never even start.
Duelling testaments to perseverance, both players are intriguing factors in an Eastern Conference semifinal that may not be quite done yet.
The Flyers avoided elimination with a 5-4 overtime win here Friday to shift the series back to Beantown Monday night at the TD Garden.
If these playoffs have proven anything, it is that all bets are off in the Eastern Conference. The smart money looked pretty stupid when the Habs upset the top-seeded Caps and only a little less so when the Flyers bounced No. 2 New Jersey.
However unlikely, it is still possible that a No. 7 seed (Philly) could meet a No. 8 seed (Montreal) in the conference final.
So little in this Flyers-Bruins series has made sense, which makes the remaining one, two or three games near impossible to predict.
The Flyers played perhaps their worst of the four games on Friday, yet won in overtime on Simon Gagne’s dramatic return to action just 15 days after having surgery to insert two pins into his broken right foot.
Two nights earlier, the Flyers had their best game of the four but fell 4-1, the largest winning margin in the series.
The first two in Boston were settled on late Bruins goals, first in overtime and then with less than four minutes remaining. So, who knows what to make of the rest of it.
For Savard, each additional game represents a chance at redemption in a season that has been miserable at almost every turn.
Like in December, when the Canadian Olympic team was announced and his name wasn’t on the list, a slight the quietly fuels him to this day.
Or the long stretches in the season when the Bruins offence was so woeful it didn’t look like they would even return to the playoffs, a year after finishing first in the conference.
Worst of all was the concussion suffered in early March after Savard was clobbered by Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke, an injury that sidelined him until the opening game of this series.
“It has been a tough year for sure,” said Savard, whose ice time and impact has gradually increased as the series has progressed. “When these things start to happen, you always question yourself. ‘Do you still have it? Is this what I want to do?’ All those things come up.”
“The last one was the toughest, the concussion. I’ve bounced back from that now and to be in this situation, I’m enjoying every day.
“I know I can still contribute and do things in this league. I’m excited to keep playing.”
Think Boucher might feel the same way? Twice he has had to come up big in heart-stopping moments, first to get his team in the playoffs and second to keep them there.
The Flyers only made it in to the dance, remember, when they won a shootout against the New York Rangers in the last game of the season. On Friday, Boucher had some shaky moments but also came up just big enough in the crucial stages to give his team new life.
“When you play professional sports, that’s what you are trained to do,” Boucher said of forgetting about the highs and lows, be it in a career, a game or even a period. “We talk about having a short-term memory, good and bad.
“That’s part of persevering.”
Boucher, by the way, hasn’t been as bad as feared or as it has appeared. While not the shut-down goaltender that emerged from nowhere in the Flyers’ opening-round series against New Jersey, he has been at the least, steady. And from a guy who began the season as a third stringer at best, he’s just happy to be here.
As Marc Savard will attest, he’s not alone.