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Bruins move on, and now so should fans

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  May 25, 2013 07:02 PM

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We can forget about it now, right? We can stop dredging up May 2010, and the Flyers, and punted three-game leads, and regrets, and ...

Sorry. It's probably hypocritical to scold Bruins fans for dwelling on the blown three-game lead three seasons ago in the Eastern Conference semifinals, then spend my first words here after a thrilling, fulfilling, series-clinching 3-1 victory over the Rangers Saturday night to dredge it up.

It's just that the sky-is-falling mentality about this particular team – a sports-radio creation, sure, but one willingly co-opted by way too many among us – was just so unnecessary. I don't get why anyone would want to revel in misery and worst-case scenarios before trouble is anything more than a lonely dark cloud in a crisp blue sky.

It's patently ridiculous that there would be more talk about the blown series of three years ago than the Stanley Cup champions of the season that followed. But that's how it was around here this week, even as the Bruins won three of the first four games against a team that appeared to be an even matchup on paper. I've lived here my whole life – hell, my first season as a fan was spent following the submergence of the 1978 Red Sox – and still, I'll never get the mentality of reveling in misery before it exists, of preferring to rain on a parade rather than cheering one.

I say all of this with some hindsight, sure – had the Bruins lost Game 5, Game 6 at Madison Square Garden would have been unbearably tense, and the chronic reminders of three years ago somewhat justified.

kvartalnovdmitrfinn526.jpgBut, you know, they didn't lose Game 5, and all of the worry was way too much, way too soon. In retrospect, Game 4 was the predictable last gasp of a doomed team on its home ice. When the Bruins needed an extra defenseman or two, they reached down to the minors for Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski, who have been sensational and very good, respectively.

When the Rangers needed an extra defenseman, they turned to lumpy 39-year-old Roman Hamrlik, who was the first pick in the NHL Draft the year the Bruins spent their first-rounder on – now this is ancient history – Dmitri Kvartalnov. Yeah, Hamrlik's been around awhile. Based on his disastrous play in Game 5 – his turnover led to Gregory Campbell's go-ahead goal – that may have been his farewell performance.

The Bruins did what any would-be contender must do – they came home and prevailed, and in remarkably reassuring fashion. They played with we-know-how-this-is-done poise even after falling behind on Dan Girardi's power-play goal midway through the first period, particularly goalie Tuukka Rask, whose almost casual confidence helped him overcome an epic gaffe from Game 4. Rask has now won three of four playoff series in his career. Yes, he can close out a series.

The Bruins were unrelenting Saturday, from the first line to the fourth. The latter was so consistently effectively in this series that members Daniel Paille, Campbell (two goals in Game 5), and Shawn Thornton, who totaled 10 points and countless subtle contributions, are no longer unsung. They're getting pretty sung around here, and they deserve every praising lyric.

Now, about a more pressing matter: Jarome Iginla or Torey Krug? Yes, you've got the question right: Which player would you rather have on the Bruins right here, right now?

[Note: This is just a goofy hypothetical, not a suggestion that Krug was headed to Calgary for Iginla.]

I was going to try to pretend I was asking this facetiously – after all, Iginla is an all-time great, with 530 regular-season goals to his credit. That's 530 more than Krug has in his regular-season career, which consists of all of four games. But the more I consider it, the more I recognize that there's some legitimacy to it, at least if Krug continues playing like a perennial All-Star rather than a kid who was recalled from Providence on an emergency basis after injuries to three regular blue-liners.

It would have been great to have Iginla with the Bruins, and it stinks that he sabotaged the deal here to go to Pittsburgh. But Krug, who scoring the tying goal Saturday night on a blistering slap-shot, has given the Bruins something they truly lacked – a skilled, fearless puck-moving defenseman.

One of the great joys of sports is watching a rookie burst onto the scene out of nowhere, especially when the success looks real and sustainable. Krug seems legit, doesn't he? He had four goals in the Rangers series – the same number of goals Iginla has this postseason – including three on the power play. He's been everything Tomas Kaberle was supposed to be two years ago and then some – I mean, he did this against Henrik Lundqvist, not some Jim Carey/Blaine Lacher combo.

I think I would take this version of Krug over Iginla for this series, which is a statement that would have been unfathomable 10 days ago. At the least, Krug's emergence is one of the reasons that Bruins fans should feel very good about this team's future. But that's a consideration for later, a thought to be saved for the offseason.

Right now, let's savor the present, because as Game 5 reminded us, following a winning team's trek through the Stanley Cup playoffs is one of the most enjoyable experiences in sports. The Bruins somehow flipped the switch midway through the third period of Game 7 against the Maple Leafs, and the bright lights haven't flickered since.

Funny game, hockey. The Bruins were so close to being done. But after vanquishing the Rangers against a backdrop of unnecessary concern, the ending feels like it's a long way away. If you want to make 2011 comparisons, well, maybe they're premature, but those I would love to hear.

Follow Chad on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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