Winter to spring to summer. Red line to blue line to crease. Krejci to Lucic to Horton.
Tonight is the last night of hockey on Causeway Street. It’s your final chance to cross the Tobin, pay $40 to park, grab a bite at The Four’s on Canal Street, then walk into the Garden wearing your Chara sweater. It’s the last anthem by Rene Rancourt (does he go for four fist pumps?), the last chance to hear the foghorn, and last night to paint the town black and gold.
Boston’s boys of summer on skates have arrived at the brink of elimination. They trail the Chicago Blackhawks, three games to two, in the Stanley Cup Final and need a victory to extend an epic series to a rightful and righteous seventh game Wednesday night in Chicago.
The Stanley Cup itself will be in the house Monday night, guarded and hidden somewhere in the bowels of the New Garden. It’s up to the Bruins to prevent Chicago captain Jonathan Toews and friends from hoisting the chalice on the Garden’s sacred sheet.
“There’s no panic,’’ everyman Bruins coach Claude Julien said in Chicago after Saturday night’s Game 5 defeat. “You’re not going to push us away that easily.’’ (The nitwit Clippers should have tried to make a trade for Julien.)
Praise the hockey gods and turn up the air conditioning: Monday night’s game will be the first summertime NHL contest ever played in Boston.
The Bruins may have to play without Patrice Bergeron. Boston’s gracious center and candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy was taken to a Chicago hospital in an ambulance after sustaining an injury in the second period Saturday night. No one is saying much about Bergeron’s status (maybe there’ll be a Willis Reed moment Monday night).
Toews was rattled to the marrow by Johnny Boychuk in a smashmouth Game 5 and sustained an undisclosed injury.
“[Toews] is doing much better,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said Sunday. “He’s progressed. We’re optimistic that he might be playing tomorrow night.”
We expect the hits will keep on coming. These Bruins won’t go down without a fierce fight. They’ve been here before and still expect to win the Stanley Cup.
The Bruins are a resilient team, with a roster still loaded with players who won the Cup in 2011. These are the same guys who trailed Montreal, two games to none, in the first round of the ’11 playoffs. They trailed Vancouver, two games to none, in that Final. They trailed the Canucks, three games to two, came home to Boston, and forced a Game 7 — which they won, 4-0, in Vancouver. Remember Nathan Horton (unable to play because of a concussion sustained earlier in the series) pouring Boston water onto the ice at Rogers Arena before Game 7?
“We’ve been there before, and we’ve done well in that situation,’’ Julien reminded folks in Chicago.
The 2013 Bruins are no strangers to recovery. In Game 7 of their first-round series with Toronto, they trailed, 4-1, with 12 minutes remaining in regulation. They became the first NHL team to win a Game 7 after trailing by three goals in the third period. Weeks later, the Bruins absorbed a stake-to-the-heart, triple-overtime loss in Game 1 of the Final against the Blackhawks.
No problem. The Bruins won the next game, on the road, in overtime, then came home and shut out the Hawks in Game 3.
Now the Bruins are in the black hole again. Their sweaters are against the boards. They are back on the brink of elimination. Bergeron may not play, Tuukka Rask has surrendered eight goals in two games, and captain Zdeno Chara has been on the ice for eight of Chicago’s last nine goals. Steady defenseman Dennis Seidenberg is slumping, 41-year-old Jaromir Jagr is moving like Shaquille O’Neal and hasn’t scored in 21 playoff games, and Brad Marchand hasn’t been the player who tortured the Sedin twins two years ago.
But the 2013 Bruins are the team that has captured our town with heart, resiliency, and hard hitting. Like the Patriots of 2001-04, they have been the embodiment of team above self. In Boston’s spring of fear and uncertainty, the Bruins have reminded us who we are.
The signature moment of this team forever will be the vision of Gregory Campbell taking a bone-breaking shot to his right fibula, then getting up and skating 47 seconds to finish his shift on a power-play kill in Game 3 against the Penguins.
Tonight is about survival. It’s about keeping the Stanley Cup under wraps in a Garden broom closet. It’s about taking this series for the ages back to Chicago, where Campbell can pour a bottle of Boston water on the United Center ice.