By Rich Levine
Theres something about this Bruins team that's always reminded me of the 2004 Red Sox.
And it doesn't take a degree from Education Connection to figure out why.
When the season began, the Bruins were the 2004 Red Sox. They were the already long-suffering franchise trying to bounce back from an unspeakable sports disaster and with a fan base more bruised and battered than the Wolfpack after a night out in Thailand.
The Bruins' 2010 playoff collapse was their rendition of the 2003 ALCS, the latest and greatest definition of rock bottom. And when the season started, many fans weren't ready. The disaster was all still so fresh, wounds still not yet healed. And that misery lingered (sometimes in the forefront, but always in the background) for the entire year. It made it hard for fans to let themselves believe.
With emotional guards firmly entrenched, expectations remained relatively low. And ironically enough, that's what it took for the Bruins to finally get over the hump. Maybe it was just a coincidence. Maybe it's exactly what they needed. But either way, after a season in which Bruins fans refused to let themselves believe that "this was the year," the Bruins have reached the verge of salvation. Over the course of the long season and a three hard fought rounds of playoff hockey, they've done the unthinkable.
And in the process, they actually brought back memories of the 1996 Patriots.
You remember the 96 Pats. They were a pretty good team, especially by those Patriots standards, but never one you imagined making it to the Super Bowl. In fact, if you replayed that postseason 10 times, the Patriots maybe win the AFC in three of them. Maybe.
And you could say the same for these Bruins. Dont get me wrong, they're a solid team, but even the hardest of diehards had to strain his eyes to see the Bs playing for the Cup. There were just better teams in the conference or see we thought. At the very least, more consistent and trustworthy teams. But when Tampa Bay knocked off the top-seeded Caps, much like the Jaguars did with the Broncos in 96, (and once the B's took revenge on the goalie-less Flyers) Boston was suddenly thrust into the role of Eastern Conference favorite. With home fieldice advantage and one hurdle standing between them and . . . the best team the other conference has to offer. The No. 1 seed. The one that everyone expected to be there all along. The Canucks are the Packers. The Bruins are the Patriots.
Can the Bruins win? Sure. Would you be shocked if they were simply overmatched? Nope.
It feels like we've been here before.
And now that we are here, on the day that the Bruins make their first Stanley Cup appearance in 21 years, Im thinking about the 2008 Celtics. At the time, itd been 22 years since theyd made the Finals. At the time, wed already been spoiled by the success of other Boston sports teams; there was no longer that aura surrounding a one of them playing for a title. Not to mention, by this point, a lot of fans had checked out of Celtics Nation, turned off by years of bad luck, bad decisions and overall ineptitude. For those people, the Celtics' run to Banner 17 was a lot of fun, but they werent living and dying with the Green; many were just along for the ride. But for those whod stuck out the entire drought, especially the younger fans, beating LA was the realization of a lifelong dream. Despite everything that had happened with the Pats and Sox, the 2008 NBA Finals were as good as it had ever been. And as good as it ever will be.
Bruins fans are in the same boat. They cant believe how close they are. There not even sure what to do with it. But they know that if the Bs are somehow able to steal this series from Vancouver, tears will be shed. And everything will have been worth it. Even last year.
Yeah, everyone will be rooting for the Bruins, there will be that small sect rooting so much harder, who have so much more on the line, and who deserve this far more than the rest of us. But regardless of where you stand, one thing's for sure.
Well all remember this series forever, and at some point down the line, who knows, we might even find ourselves comparing someone to the 2011 Bruins.