By Mike Miccoli, Boston Bruins correspondent
It’s been a long season.
Since the drop of the puck in Prague on Saturday, October 9, this Boston Bruins have played 99 games. Friday’s Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning will be game number 100 for the Bruins. Their 100th game of the year, just happens to be the 60 minutes they’d need to win in order to earn a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1990.
It’s been a long season. It’s been an even longer series.
By now, we’re familiar with the Lightning’s 1-3-1 strategy, Dwayne Roloson’s perfect record when playing in an elimination game and the abundance of bandwagon fans picked up on both sides of the series. We understand that winning faceoffs are more important than ever, that no plastic objects should ever be given to fans (for Tampa apologists, see opening night of the 2005-06 season for the Bruins where Boston fans threw plastic Stanley Cups onto the ice—it goes both ways) and that this has been one of the most exciting, yet excruciating, series to watch if you’re a B’s fan.
For the common Bostonians devoid of a fourth title to add to their own personal Mount Rushmore of Championships, this is the perfect opportunity for an acquisition. With all of that title talk of the past decade, it seems bizarre, almost flat-out wrong that the Bruins actually haven’t won…something. Preposterous! But for Bruins fans who have followed the team since their last legitimate Cup campaign in the early 90s, this season has been something much more. And if you can’t recognize that, you haven’t been watching the right sport.
The players change often, but the team stays the same and with that is a sort of enigma that follows the Bruins. Ask a displaced, former fan and they’ll tell you about how they stopped following due to cheap ownership (Bruins have the 7th highest cap in the league), the poor coaching situations (Julien is quirky, but his team in his the Conference Finals for the first time in 19 years) or the team’s constant ability to not be able to win when it matters most (I got nothing for you there).
And what if the Bruins lose on Friday? It’s just another season, right? The now-swollen fanbase will deflate only to come back for the season opener, riding the team in waves when successful. The Bruins would fall short of their ultimate goal, a Stanley Cup, and the season would be, essentially, a failure. The exception is, this postseason run, which for all hardcore and bandwagon fans, has been special. Nobody can take that away from them.
Few may have truly believed that the Boston Bruins would have ever made it this far in recent years, especially if you lived through the Dave Lewis era with Mark Mowers earning second-line minutes or even the seasons that the Bruins couldn’t even make it past the first round–or make the playoffs to begin with.
The Bruins have evolved. Tim Thomas is giving us flashes to the 90s when all Bruins fans wished that they had could have a goalie similar to Dominik Hasek in between the pipes. We’ve seen just exactly what Tyler Seguin could morph into, what David Krejci is capable of and just how important Patrice Bergeron is, not to this team, but to this organization.
We’ve seen Boston come back down 2-0 against their biggest rivals, the Montreal Canadiens. We’ve seen them redeem themselves from last season’s collapse by sweeping the Philadelphia Flyers. We’ve seen a team hitting that next gear, capturing the attention of the hockey world as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
We’ve seen quite the run. If this pattern continues, we’ll see an incredible Game 7 on Friday.
The Bruins have made this fun for us–writers, fans and casual observers looking for something to talk about at the water cooler during workdays.
It’s been a long season. It’s been an even longer playoff run.
And thankfully, it’s not over.
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