June belongs to hockey

June belongs to hockey
May 31, 2013, 12:30 pm
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Tomorrow is June 1, and the start of a month that used to only mean one thing here in Boston: Red Sox. In fact, before 2008, this city went 19 years without the Celtics or Bruins playing into June. For nearly two decades, all we had was baseball. And some rain . . . and a little golf . . . and a lot of traffic . . . but mostly, just the Sox.

Recently things have changed. Starting with the Celtics run to the Banner 17, either they or the Bruins have played into June in four of the last six years. And I’m not sure why you care, but I thought that was interesting. A sign of a great little stretch by the city’s two winter teams, and a reminder of how painful things were before.

I also bring it up because the Sox and Yankees are about to face off in the biggest series of their respective seasons. Three games in the Bronx with first place on the line. It starts with tonight’s potentially classic battle between Jon Lester and CC Sabathia. It will wrap up with Clay Buchholz (hopefully) making his triumphant return to the mound on Sunday Night Baseball. While so much is made about the insignificance of the first two months of the baseball season, this weekend’s series feels different. It feels real. Even if it’s still early, the Sox have an opportunity to build a five-game lead in the division. Against the Yankees, no less. That’s significant. Tomorrow is June. Tonight sets the tone. We should be blowing this thing out.

Buuut, it’s hard to get too worked up over June baseball when June hockey is on the horizon. First of all, who even knew June hockey was a thing before 2011? June hockey is the oxymoron to Alanis Morrisette’s Ironic. It just doesn’t make sense. But here we are again. Here the Bruins are again.

Much like they did in the 2011 Stanley Cup, they enter this year’s Conference Finals as the lovable underdogs. Heading out on the road to take on the NHL’s Miami Heat. But Pittsburgh’s impressive roster, at least on paper, will do little to bust the Bruins confidence, or the expectations of their fans. The whole world knows that these guys are in for a battle, but no one will deny that it’s a battle that the B’s can win. They’ve earned that. It could be as easy as Tuukka Rask catching (more) fire and carrying Boston to finals or Tyler Seguin finally clicking in the midst of Pittsburgh’s fast-paced style and taking the offense to the another level. But whatever happens, it can happen.

Sure, they were 0-2 against the Penguins this year, but those two games happened in a five-day span when the Bruins were playing some of their worst hockey of the season. They were up 2-0 in the third period of the first game, before Anton Khudobin surrendered three goals in the final 10 minutes. They lost 2-1 in the second game, in which all three goals came in the first period and the rest was played at a stalemate. In other words, those games are pretty meaningless; the regular season means nothing.

And that’s just another reason why, despite while all the storylines and excitement surrounding this weekend’s series, Yankees/Red Sox will pale in comparison to what will unfold in Pittsburgh on Saturday night. As much as we want to convince ourselves that there is significant baseball to be played, it’s hard when we know nothing that happens in those three games combined will mean a thing in the shadow of one game between the Bruins and Penguins.

Not that I’m complaining. After all, any June where the Red Sox aren’t this city’s main attraction is a good June for Boston. It means that another team is close, and a championship is within reach. And that’s as good a reason as any to put the Sox on the back burner. In the meantime, we can take solace that once the Bruins are done, there will be a Sox team worth rooting for. That regardless of whether they keep up this pace — and unlike last year, when the Celtics bowing out to Miami left us with nothing but Josh Beckett and Bobby V’s bike helmet — the Red Sox are once again a team that you can get behind.

But for now, the Sox are the second act — a damn good one at that.

Until further notice, June belongs to the Bruins.