You really got a hold on me

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You really got a hold on me

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

Following a sports team is like being in a relationship.

Some people just want to have fun. They're your Bandwagoners. Hop on while the thing is speeding toward Title Town and safely tuck and roll right before it crashes. These "fans" are thrill seekers, Good Time Guys (and Girls). They're the first ones to pop the cork on the champagne and start the chants. They also spook at the smallest threat of emotional attachment.

On the second tier sit the Day-by-Day, good-natured grinders. These fans watch at least 70 percent of games. They're invested but maintain some independence and outside interests. You will never hear a DBDer say "I could marry her" after two weeks of dating, nor would a DBDer freak out and say the entire Red Sox season is a wash after going 2-10 over the first 12. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen; it'll work out eventually. Fans this rational and mellow are considered mythical beings on par with centaurs and puck-moving defensemen.

Then there are those who believe in "till death do us part." These are diehard fans, or, masochists. They used to have six empty seats to each side during Celtics games and reveled in the exclusivity. They not only hated the post-2004 Red Sox popularity boon, but still fantasize about hunting down pink hats during the playoffs. They would never make fun of Tom Brady for anything, ever, because He raised Us up to Greatness. They're locked in to the Bruins for better or for worse, from preseason to offseason.

They're the ones hitting the ceiling of hell right now.

The Bruins are in the Eastern Conference finals (tied 2-2 with Tampa Bay) for the first time since 1992. It is, all at once, the most glorious and excruciating sports circumstance of the last two decades. The highs are astronomical: Tyler Seguin's two-goal, four-point accession in a 6-5 win. The lows feel irrecoverable: The surrender of a 3-0 lead -- mounted in the first period -- on five unanswered Tampa Bay goals.

"They'll only break your heart," they say.

I heard a lot of this grumbling on Saturday. When the Lightning evened the series at two, younger fans were angry but probably believed more in humanity's Rapture than Boston's.

The others were comfortably disgruntled.

"Figures."

How to cope? As in any relationship: Defense mechanisms.

They claim they never got their hopes up. They remember Ray Bourque and the ugly way he hit the wall in Boston. The guy -- one they loved -- dedicated his life to them for two decades just to realize he could only achieve ultimate happiness somewhere else. It was heartbreaking. Bourque returned to Boston with the Cup. He wanted to remind Bruins fans they had his heart; they showed up to reassure Bourque they still treasured it and the effort he gave. A bittersweet moment. Borrowed joy.

Someone Else's Cup would never be cheered again.

No matter how devoted, a person will grow impatient waiting for things to "work out". I get that. I know a girl who thinks, at 25, she's past due for an engagement ring and she doesn't even have a boyfriend. If I told her to imagine waiting 39 years, her head would explode.

It doesn't mean the oldest Bruins fan you know is too hardened to believe in Boston; he does. He's biting back so hard on hope he tastes blood.

He just won't gush about it.

There's too much to lose. If the Bruins blow the series, Bandwagoners will hop off and be no worse for wear. The Dailies will be disappointed but slide over to baseball for a bounce back. Diehards? Most will scoff and say they expected the worst all along. They'll cover the hurt with bitter bluster.

On the other hand, a series win -- a trip to the Stanley Cup finals -- will lift them up one cloud from Heaven.

Makes sense. The toughest relationships always seem to have the sweetest payoffs.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Morning Skate: No surprise cheap-shot artists are running wild

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Morning Skate: No surprise cheap-shot artists are running wild

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while hoping everybody on this Memorial Day takes some time to appreciate all of those that made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom. We should also take a moment to say thanks to people like the three heroes in Oregon that stood up to a hateful bigot earlier this week, and in doing so reaffirmed what the majority of people living in the US believe we are all about while trying to live up to that ideal every day.
 
-- A number of NHL legends are shaking their heads at the dirty play that we’re seeing in these playoffs, particularly those plays targeting the superstars that people pay big money to see in the postseason. Why should anybody be shocked by this? The rooting out of enforcers, and fighting, has taken accountability out of the game for the cheap-shot artists and dirty players, and leaves little real deterrant for players looking to take out opponents with dangerous plays. I wrote about this a couple of years ago when the NHL threw the book at Shawn Thornton for going after Brooks Orpik, and in doing so chose to protect somebody trying to hurt opponents (Orpik) and punish somebody trying to protect his teammates (Thornton). It was a sea change for the league, and something players didn’t forget as more and more enforcers were quickly weeded out of the NHL. This is what the rule-makers and legislators wanted, and now it’s what they’re getting just a couple of years later with dangerous stick-work, cheap shots and a general lack of respect for fellow players.
 
-- Here's why the Tampa Bay Lightning would consider trading a player like Jonathan Drouin, and the major impact that could have on the offseason trade market.
 
-- Down Goes Brown has a Stanley Cup Final rooting guide for the other 28 other fan bases now that Nashville and Pittsburgh are in the final series.

-- So which goaltender has the edge in the Stanley Cup Final: Nashville's Pekka Rinne, or Pittsburgh's two-headed monster of Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury?
 
-- Scotty Bowman says winning back-to-back Stanley Cup titles has become monumentally difficult since the advent of the salary cap.
 
-- Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are pushing each other to be betters, and showing exactly how a team should be led by its superstars in the salary-cap era for the league.
 
-- For something completely different: We can confirm through this report that a lot of hot dogs are eaten in the summertime. So glad we have people to research these kinds of things.
 

Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

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Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wishing everybody a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend. 

*Apparently Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette has yet to try Nashville’s hot chicken despite his time behind the Preds bench. It’s okay, I have yet to try it either in my handful of visits to Music City. 

*Good stuff from PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough. Apparently it wasn’t so easy to make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed when it came time for director Doug Liman to cut Swingers together

*Sidney Crosby cares about the history and the issues of the game, and has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation despite the hate that always comes with such responsibility. 

*Puck Daddy examines Crosby’s performance in the playoffs, and the odds of him winning another Conn Smythe Trophy. 

*The Penguins have made it to the Stanley Cup Final without Kris Letang for their playoff run, and that’s an amazing accomplishment. 

*Erik Karlsson said that he will be tending to his injured foot next week, and expects a full recovery for next season after a brilliant run with his Ottawa Senators

*Larry Brooks again rails against the Stanley Cup playoff structure and it’s relation to an “absurd regular season.” Say what you will, but the fact the Penguins are there for a second straight season shoots down some of the absurdity stuff in my mind. The best team from the East is where they should be and they did it without Kris Letang to boot. 

*Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex Debrincat is confident his abilities will translate to the NHL despite his size after taking home honors as the best player in junior hockey this season. 

*For something completely different: Apparently there’s a hard core comic book geek gripe that “The Flash” is burning through bad guys too quickly. This would make sense if they couldn’t revisit these bad guys at any point, but they absolutely can go back to a big bad like Grodd anytime they want.