|Owner Jeremy Jacobs was decked out for the occasion yesterday, and he was received warmly by fans. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)|
These Bruins will be frozen in time forever
Long after the confetti has been cleaned up and the Duck Boats have been returned to their day jobs, we’re going to be remembering a remarkable Bruins team that brought the city its first Stanley Cup championship since 1972.
As much fun as it was to watch the convoy roll through town yesterday, the real treasure isn’t Lord Stanley’s silver chalice — it’s the memories for a lifetime that this Bruins team provided. Over the course of 63 days, 25 games, and three nerve-racking Game 7s, the Bruins captivated diehard hockey fans and NHL neophytes alike on their redoubtable quest for the Cup.
Trying to rank the seven professional sports championships that the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins have won since Feb. 3, 2002 — when the Patriots stunned the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI — is like trying to pick a favorite child. They’re all special, unique, and loved in their own way.
But this Stanley Cup does stand out a bit. Years from now, Spoked-Believers will recall Timmy, Bergy, Horty, Krech, Marchy, Big Z, and the rest. Their days of buying beverages in this town are over. They didn’t just win a trophy, a big one. They restored the city’s hockey heartbeat, and rebranded an organization that was bedfellows with disappointment for nearly four decades.
“Thanks for the patience on the 39 years, the next one will come much quicker,’’ Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli told the parade crowd in a nod to the loyalty of the fan base.
These weren’t the same old Bruins, the Black and Fold who blew a 3-0 series lead to the Philadelphia Flyers last spring in ignominious fashion. Looking back, that loss doesn’t look as bad as it did at the time.
The sublime Tim Thomas was not the starting goalie. Dennis Seidenberg, who skated shotgun with Zdeno Chara on the Bruins’ lockdown defense pairing this postseason, was hors de hockey the entire postseason. David Krejci, who tallied league-best totals of 12 goals and 23 points in the 2011 playoffs, was out for the final four games vs. the Flyers.
Take those three away and this playoff run doesn’t have a parade route punctuating it either.
One can point to any of several seminal moments this postseason that foretold that this was a special team:
■The Game 4 comeback from a 3-1 deficit in Montreal to a 5-4 triumph in overtime, completing a sweep at the Bell Centre and knotting the first-round series, 2-2.
■The Game 7 win over the Canadiens at TD Garden, during which the Bruins shook off a P.K. Subban tying goal with 1:57 left in regulation to win on an OT strike by Nathan Horton, who made a habit of being a hero in the playoffs.
■Thomas stopping the last 46 shots (52 total), including 32 in the third period and overtime, as the Bruins rallied to foil the Flyers, 3-2, in Game 2 of a series they would go on to sweep.
■The display of competitive amnesia after blowing a 3-0 lead in a Game 4 loss in the Eastern Conference finals against the Lightning to win Game 5, the game in which Thomas made The Save, a lunging, sign-of-the-cross stop of Steve Downie that preserved a one-goal lead.
■A perfect game to blank the Lightning, 1-0, in Game 7 to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 21 years.
■The response to the Aaron Rome head shot that took out Horton during the first period of Game 3 of the Final: an eight-goal blitz, highlighted by Brad Marchand’s shorthanded showstopper, that poked a hole in the tires of the Canucks and insecure goaltender Roberto Luongo.
These are all mental mile markers on a journey that will only grow in stature as the years go by, in part because this wasn’t like the last time Boston got the Cup. The iconic Big Bad Bruins of the early 1970s were supposed to win. They had the best player in the game, Bobby Orr, and a bumper-sticker-inspiring scorer named Phil Esposito. They skated circles around opponents.
That this championship was more improbable makes the team that delivered it even more lovable.
Honestly, the Bruins weren’t the most talented team in the playoffs, and before you start planning a dynasty, remember that the Penguins played this season without Sidney Crosby (concussion), the current best player in the game, and Evgeni Malkin (knee injury).
Sure, the Bruins had the Conn Smythe Trophy winner in net in Thomas, who rejected more rubber than any other goalie in Final (238 saves on 246 shots) and playoff history (798 saves in 25 games), and a future Hall of Famer in Chara. But this team won with great goaltending, clutch play, togetherness, and gestalt.
“We played together, we drank together, we lost together, and we never wavered,’’ said veteran leader Mark Recchi, who skated off into retirement as a champion. “But the one thing we really did together is we won.’’
These Bruins haven’t just won it all. They’ve changed it all. All is forgiven, if not forgotten — too many men on the ice in Montreal in 1979, the collapse against the Flyers last season, even the years of spending the Bear Minimum by owner Jeremy Jacobs that kept the team in the black but kept Cup-less fans seeing red.
Even Jacobs, whose stewardship of the team was once a source of great frustration, was granted amnesty yesterday by the grateful crowd. He deserved it. He has changed his ways as much as his team has.
The parade lasted a few hours. The memories will last forever.