The Day After was almost as much fun as the Night Before.
You could not tend to daily business without talking or hearing about the Bruins’ Game 7 miracle comeback Monday night at the Garden.
Where were you when they fell behind the Maple Leafs, 4-1, in the third? Did you (gulp) leave the game? Did you turn off the TV and go to bed? Did you sit up with new hope when Nathan Horton scored to cut it to 4-2 with 11:22 left? Did you wake your kids when the Bruins tied it with two goals in 31 seconds in the final 1:22? Did you have trouble getting to sleep after the epic comeback? Did you get calls, texts, and e-mails from friends and relatives around the country?
Everyone, it seemed, had a story. Everyone had an opinion. Everyone had hope. Everyone was buoyed by the Bruins.
The Day After was one of those feel-good days that make it great to live here; one of those days that make up for the traffic and rain and the dearth of parking spaces in downtown Boston. It was crisp and sunny, and there was just enough chill in the air to remind us that it’s too early to say goodbye to hockey for the summer.
We needed this. Wednesday marks the one-month anniversary of the Marathon bombings. As we continue to hear inspiring and sad stories about victims, heroes, resilience, and medical marvels, we need something fun to take our eyes and minds off the tragic events of last month.
Even if the Bruins fizzle against the Rangers or another team to be named, they always will have given us Game 7 against the Maple Leafs.
The diversion dynamic unfolded on a large scale in New York City 12 years ago when the Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks played three World Series games in the Bronx almost two months after the attacks on the World Trade Center.
The Yankees did not win that autumn classic, but they won all three of the games played at ancient Yankee Stadium. They won the night our commander in chief went to the mound and fired a first-pitch strike while wearing a bulletproof vest. The Yanks won the next two nights, coming back from ninth-inning deficits to win on walkoff hits (one was a homer by Derek Jeter) in extra innings.
Here in the healing Hub of the Universe, we needed the Bruins to extend their season toward the end of May. Basketball is over, football is far away, the surprisingly competitive Red Sox are slumping and out of town 10 days.
We need the Bruins. We need a longer run toward the Stanley Cup. And how great would it be to see a Duck Boat parade down Boylston Street with Copley Square buildings wallpapered in “Boston Strong” signage?
At playoff time, when you win a series, the normal response is to look ahead. You put the last round in the rearview mirror and start thinking about the next series. The Bruins open a seven-game conference semifinal series with the Rangers at the Garden Thursday night, but Tuesday in Boston, nobody was talking about the Rangers. There was scant analysis of the Bruins’ chances to win another playoff series with three injured defensemen. We weren’t yet ready to froth at the prospect of a seven-game series against an Original Six opponent from New York.
No. We were still basking in The Night Before, trying to establish its proper place in the pantheon of local sports comebacks.
Was this as good as the Tuck Game in 2002, when a goofy rule (since rescinded) erased what would have been Tom Brady’s game-losing fumble against the Raiders? Was it like the night Larry Bird stole the pass from Isiah Thomas in the big playoff win against the Pistons? Was it the hockey equal of Carlton Fisk’s moonshot off the left-field foul pole in the sixth game of the 1975 World Series? Did it stack up against the Red Sox’ 1986 Game 5 comeback against the Angels, when the Sox trailed California, 5-2, in the top of the ninth of an elimination game? Was it equal to Harvard against Yale in The Game in 1968?
We won’t have a true measure of the magnitude of the Bruins’ comeback until the 2013 NHL season is over.
If the Bruins skate into late June and win a Stanley Cup, then Monday’s miracle becomes part of a championship narrative and takes its place alongside Dave Roberts’s Game 4 steal that ignited the Red Sox’ four-game comeback against the Yankees in the curse-busting fall of 2004.
Even if the Bruins fizzle against the Rangers or another team to be named, they always will have given us Game 7 against the Maple Leafs, a memorable night in which anything seemed possible.
The reality is that a team needs to win four two-week playoff series in order to drink from the Stanley Cup. The Bruins are only a quarter of the way home.
There will be time for reality later. Pardon us if we just enjoy the miracle comeback for a few more hours. We deserve it.