Comeback vs. Leafs still looms large for Bruins

Comeback vs. Leafs still looms large for Bruins
June 4, 2013, 12:45 pm
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Yesterday marked the three-week anniversary of the Bruins historic Game 7 comeback against Toronto. And while the urge to celebrate such a thing (“Happy three weeks, baby!”) usually disappears in the sixth or seventh grade, in this case it’s hard to ignore. What do you buy someone for a three-week anniversary, anyways: Paper? Cotton? A couple thousand pounds of mangled penguin meat?

All I know is that three weeks later, we’re still waiting for the Bruins to come down to Earth. If that Game 7 was a pill of Viagra, the B’s are long overdue to call their doctor. It’s like some bully snuck into the pile after Patrice Bergeron’s series-winning goal, slapped everyone on the back and screamed: “Haa! Now you have to stay that way forever!” In the meantime, one historic victory has turned into a juggernaut. After last night’s 6-1 win, the Bruins suddenly find themselves up 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals, and six wins from their second Stanley Cup in the last three/40 years.

But back to the comeback. When it first happened, there were instantly only two ways in which its legacy would unfold. We’d either remember that game as one great game, apropos of nothing. Like Bird stealing the ball against the Pistons, Fisk cranking one off the foul pole, or more recently, the Celtics' 2002 comeback against the Nets, Game 7 against Toronto would live on forever, but only on its own miraculous merit, and with the understanding that it ultimately didn’t change all that much.

Then, there’s Option B: Legend.

The Steal. The Tuck Rule. We’re talking transcendent moments that not only extended a playoff run, but also produced a championship. We’re talking about the difference between an event that merely makes history, and one that changes it forever.

When the dust settled three weeks ago, it was impossible to forecast which path the Bruins would follow. Heading into Game 1 against the Rangers, there was the immediate concern of a let down. In the bigger picture, there was a fear of the match-up with Henrik Lundqvist (the “best goalie in the game” fresh off consecutive shutouts) and the inconsistencies that had haunted the Bruins in the eight and a half periods prior to Nathan Horton’s goal. In the even bigger picture, there was the impending doom of a date with these Penguins.

The Bruins weren’t the 2004 Red Sox, who needed only four more wins against the over-matched Cardinals to make good on their miracle. The Bruins needed a miracle just to escape the first round, and there were questions as to whether they had used it too early, or had enough to survive the long haul. And of course, those questions still exist.

The Bruins have won six games since the comeback, but they need six more for any of this to really matter. They need two more wins against the most talented team in the NHL. Then they need four against either the defending champs or this year’s No. 1 overall seed. There’s so much work left to be done.

And while we wait to see what happens, the legacy of that Game 7 against Toronto will linger over everything. With every step the Bruins take towards getting back to the Finals, you can’t help but gain a greater appreciation for how close they were to disaster. It’s almost impossible to watch this team operate without that comeback weighing heavy on your brain.

In many ways, that’s because it doesn’t feel like the comeback is over yet. The letdown never happened. They dominated the Rangers, made a mockery of King Henrik, and now they’re doing the same to the mighty Penguins. Three weeks later, and those 10 minutes (plus overtime) against the Leafs weren’t a flash in the pan. The Bruins have become that team. They’ve outscored opponents 31-11. Save for one embarrassing slip up at MSG, Tuukka Rask has been damn near perfect. It’s like the team captured that comeback in a keg and have been drinking off an open tap ever since.

How long will it last?

You’d like to think forever, but six more games are all they need.