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

Spooner, coming to life with Bruins, feels Julien 'just didn't really trust me'

Spooner, coming to life with Bruins, feels Julien 'just didn't really trust me'

BRIGHTON -- The Bruins' third line has been reborn under interim coach Bruce Cassidy, and the players are now openly admitting they desperately needed a change.

Claude Julien never trusted Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes enough defensively to play them together, but this line has blossomed under Cassidy: Six goals, 15 points and a plus-11 in seven games. They’ve survived in the defensive zone by rarely playing there. Instead, they push the pace, make plays to keep the puck out of the D-zone and, most importantly, keep producing the secondary offense that wasn’t there in the first 55 games of the season. 

No one has been freed from the shackles more than Spooner, who is back playing his natural center position after being forced to play left wing under Julien. The 25-year-old said Tuesday that getting a clean slate with a new coach has been extremely beneficial to him, and that perhaps he didn't always love playing for the guy now minding the bench in Montreal. 

“I felt like the last coach ... he just didn’t really trust me,” said Spooner, who has two goals and six points along with a plus-1 rating in seven games post-Julien. “It might've been kind of on me not really playing to the potential that I have, but at the same time . . . I just don’t think that he really liked me as a player. It’s kind of in the past now. It’s just a part of the game. It’s up to me to just go out there and just play, and not have that stuff in the back of my mind. 

“I just kind of have to go out there and believe in myself and I think at times I wasn’t really going out there and doing that. Maybe that’s something to learn. This sport has ups and downs, and I’ve had my downs. You learn that you can just sort of push through it. If you do that then things can be good.”

Spooner has 10 goals and 33 points along with a minus-3 this season, and could potentially surpass last year's numbers (13-36-49) in his second full season. 

Most felt that the speedy, skilled Spooner would be one of the big beneficiaries of the move from Julien to Cassidy, and now he’s showing that with a new lease on life in Boston. 

Tuesday, Feb. 28: Nothing coming easy for Habs

Tuesday, Feb. 28: Nothing coming easy for Habs

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading while it’s all happening around the NHL world ahead of tomorrow’s NHL trade deadline.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Eric Engels says that a torturous February shows that nothing will come easy for the Montreal Canadiens.

*Some raw locker room video from the Florida Panthers with local D-man Keith Yandle holding court with reporters.

*PHT writer James O’Brien has some early thoughts, and some praise, for the Washington Capitals landing puck-moving D-man and big ticket rental player Kevin Shattenkirk.

*The Toronto Maple Leafs up their playoff cred by landing gritty, big third-line center Brian Boyle ahead of the trade deadline.

*Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are the city of Chicago’s longest-tenured teammates having spent the last 12 years together with the Blackhawks.

*Patrice Bergeron and Toucher and Rich are getting together for their 10th annual Cuts for a Cause, which will be on March 27.

https://www.nhl.com/bruins/community/cuts-for-a-cause

*For something completely different: Jimmy Kimmel gives his perspective of the debacle that went down at the end of the Academy Awards on Sunday night.

http://www.rollingstone.com/tv/news/watch-jimmy-kimmel-on-oscars-best-picture-award-mistake-w469552