The Bruins own our winter now. They are the only Boston Garden team that matters. They have rebounded as a radio hot-take, their sport suddenly looks better on TV (its pace certainly trumps baseball) and most important of all . . . the Bruins are New England’s only major professional sports team with a winning record.
Goodbye “Sweet Caroline,’’ hello “Kernkraft 400.’’ Welcome to the 2014-15 Bruins season. And whoever thought Boston fans would need the Spoked-B’s to prevent us from a 20-year dive back to the days of Loserville?
This is exaggeration, of course. The plight of our Big Four is not quite as bad as the early 1990s, when all of our teams — except the Bruins — were terrible. At this hour, the 2014-15 Celtics admit they are young and hopeless, the .500 Patriots fully expect to win the AFC East (Warhol) again, and no doubt the Red Sox are going to bombard you with a campaign that’ll go something like, “Worst-to-First-to-Worst-to-First.’’
But on the morning of October 5, 2014, your Boston Bruins are the only winning team in town. The Red Sox finished in last place, the Celtics are coming off a 25-win season, and the staggering Patriots are 2-2, in danger of falling under .500 when they play host to the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday night in prime time.
The Bruins, meanwhile, represent stability, consistency, and annual contention (we thought this about the Patriots, but that faith has been compromised early in this NFL season). The Bruins have made the playoffs seven consecutive seasons. They pay top prices for top talents. They have been owned by the same (Jacobs) family for almost 40 years. They have stability at the top with president Cam Neely (fifth year), GM Peter Chiarelli (ninth year), and coach Claude Julien (eighth year). They have the sequoia captain in Zdeno Chara, an underrated two-way force in Patrice Begeron, and a budding star defenseman in Dougie Hamilton. They have a Vezina Trophy winner in goalie Tuukka Rask.
It was hard to say goodbye to prototypical Bruin Shawn Thornton and the offense will miss the scoring touch of Jarome Iginla, but there’s every reason to believe that the Bruins are going to make a deep run in the 2015 playoffs. The Bruins are so secure they get no grief for making zero significant roster additions during the offseason. EA Sports’s NHL ’15 game simulator says the Bruins will make it to the Stanley Cup Final this year, where they will lose to the Los Angeles Kings.
We’d take that. That’s where we thought things were headed last year when the Montreal Canadiens got in the way.
These Bruins don’t like to talk about the way their 2013-14 season ended. In Belichick-speak, they’ve “moved on to Cincinnati.’’
The Game 7 loss to Montreal on Causeway Street was stunning. The Bruins were the NHL’s best team during the 82-game regular season. They averaged 3.15 goals per game, third best in the league. They won something we’ve come to know as the Presidents’ Trophy. It’s the Dan Duquette equivalent of “more days in first place,’’ and it decoyed most of us into believing that they were on their way to the Cup Finals for the third time in four years.
Then they were shocked by the hated Habs. Apologists made excuses, citing pinged posts and clanged crossbars. Bad Puck Luck. You know the drill. But the Bruins were outscored, 7-1, in Games 6 and 7. The Bruins’ playoff beards were gone before they grew long. Boston’s top line scored four goals in seven games against Montreal. Star center David Krejci pitched a postseason shutout. He didn’t score a goal in 12 playoff games.
A Boston team that underachieves is generally condemned to a lifetime of abuse around here. Ask the 2011 Red Sox. Or the ’78 Sox. Or the 1970-71 Bruins. Those were powerhouses that folded at the finish. And they paid the price.
Not your 2014-15 Bruins. They have been spared the slings and arrows that traditionally hit teams that fold in Boston. For all their postseason underachievements, and offseason inaction, these Bruins are still embraced and remembered for winning the Cup in 2011. They got slack for blowing Game 6 of the Cup Final against the Blackhawks in 2013, and they were spared traditional scorn when they got bumped in the second round last year after entering the playoffs as favorites to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Final.
Now they are back for another boffo season. They have pledged to do better in the playoffs. And they are loved here in the Hub of Hockey.
Welcome back, Bruins. After a decade of Duck Boat parades, it’s nice to have at least one winning team around here.
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Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org