By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com Columnist Follow @rlevine33
Walking down to the Garden on Wednesday night, it was hard to ignore the enormous beads of sweat rolling down my forehead. And Im sorry if thats a gross picture, but it was a pretty gross situation.
Its only a 10-minute walk from my apartment to Causeway Street, but I was sweating like an Iron Man on his last leg of the triathlon. Or KG five minutes into the first quarter. And the sweaty irony of it all is that I was going to a hockey game. It was mid-June, at least 125 degrees in the shade, and I was headed over to watch the Bruins.
Summer hockey isnt something were accustomed to in Boston, but weve embraced it like we would any opportunity to end 39 years of misery. Maybe it helps that the NFLs in such a depressing state, the Celtics are off planning vacations for the lockout and the Sox are in the early stages of a painfully long season. But that probably doesnt matter. Hockey doesnt need help right now.
The Bruins are two wins away from the Stanley Cup, and the citys on fire.
By now, the novelty of making it back to the Finals has worn off. After the events of the last two games, theres no one whos just happy to be here. When we look at the Bruins, theyre no longer a gang of scrappy guys trying like hell to catch a break and earn some respect. We see a team thats more suited to win the title than any Bruins squad in the last 30 years.
Theyre the real thing. Theyre a championship team. We know its there.
But were also realistic, So, despite all the recent success, no ones lost sight of the fact that the Bruins are still skating on thin ice. That as much as theyre two wins from glory, theyre two losses from watching Aaron Rome kiss the Cup. And it wont be easy.
First of all, they have to win a game in Vancouver. The Canucks will reap the same benefits of playing at home that the Bruins did in the first two games. The same benefits the Bruins did in the last two. Vancouver had the best home record in the NHL, and the home crowd will never be as hyped as they will be on Friday, or in a potential Game 7.
Theres the fact that the Canucks are the more talented team. Or maybe I should say: They have more individual talent. They have more players capable of making more plays, and again, thats magnified even more at home.
Theres also the fact that momentum doesnt travel in the playoffs. If you dont believe me, just ask the 2011 Canucks. Earlier this week, they came to Boston on top of the world. They were beating the Bruins at their own game; they were the physically superior team, willing and able to outlast their opponent before stepping up when it mattered most. Back then it was the Bruins goalie who subjected to mass criticism. It was the Bruins who were having their toughness questioned, and left trying to reestablish their misplaced identity. The series moved to Boston, and they flipped the script.
Is that an inevitable fate for the Bruins as they trek back across the border? Nope. But heres what we do know for sure: If the Bruins win Game 5, it wont be because of anything they did in Game 3 or 4. Game 5 is only about Game 5. As soon as the puck drops, the celebrations over. No ones accomplished anything. Its a three-game series for the whole damn thing. And the Bruins have a shot. A real shot.
And while the events of this past week wont have any real effect on the game itself, they will have a great effect on how we watch it.
This is no longer just another trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. This isnt 1988 and 1990, where the Bruins served as the doormat to a Western Conference giant. It may have felt that way when this all started. But that feelings long gone. Expectations are higher and realer than theyve ever been. Theyre as high as they can be.
Its summer hockey and weve all taken the plunge, just waiting to sweat out another piece of history.