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Maza's Musings

Unsolicited sports opinion and insight

Month

June 2011

For a generation of Bruins fans, new stories to be told

As I walked through Springfield neighborhoods torn apart by the June 1 tornado that permanently changed the landscape of the City of Homes, I received a text message from a friend that offered a brief moment of levity to a grave situation.

“Last time there was a tornado in Springfield: 1972. Last time the Bruins won the Stanley Cup: 1972,” it read.

I don’t recall this to trivialize the suffering that any may be feeling in the wake of the terrible natural phenomenon. No one would be daft enough to believe that the latter outweighs or is even of equal importance to the former.

But it does provide perspective on just how long the Boston Bruins and their fans have waited for another Stanley Cup. An entire generation of fans – yours truly included – had gone their entire lives without ever seeing one.

I learned of legends of the Bruins’ past through stories told by family and old newspaper clippings, as well as grainy video footage that in the world of high definition television makes most wonder how anyone could ever watch hockey on TV in that era.

My grandfather, a now retired Springfield police officer, mounted an antenna on the roof of his Springfield home large enough that you would think he was trying to land large aircraft.

Its purpose? To pick up the signal of the Boston television station the Bruins were carried on. If the winds were just right and the moon’s gravitational pull wasn’t too strong, he would get it – a static filled screen on which you could see only the shadows of players and objects. But it was enough for him. He would sit in his living room and deliver a live play by play to everyone else in the room.

But kids, both big and small, who have listened to the tales of the legendary Big Bad Bruins did so with a melancholic heart, wondering if there would ever be a moment when we could tell our children that we witnessed greatness from a Bruins team.

To this point, we had nothing but tales of mediocrity, of close but no cigar, and of three-game leads blown.

Now it’s our time.

Just as our parents and grandparents told the tale of Cup legends like Orr, Espo, Sanderson, Bucyk, and Cheevers, so we shall be able to recount the triumph of Thomas, Chara, Bergeron, Marchand, Horton, Krejci and Recchi.

We can tell the tale of the fastest four goals in Stanley Cup finals history.

We can revel in having witnessed firsthand Tim Thomas’ hair-pullingly bizarre, yet incredibly effective style that earned him two shutouts, including one in Game 7.

We can reminisce about how Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg shut down twin brothers who formed one of the most powerful offensive tandems in hockey.

We can marvel at Mark Recchi, the ageless wonder.

We can relate the tenacity of players like Brad Marchand and how Patrice Bergeron knew the “right way” to play the game.

And of course, the number of male babies born in Massachusetts the name Timothy Thomas (insert surname here) no doubt will be at an all-time high.

And the question will be asked for years to come: “Where were you? Where were you when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011?”

I was at Paddy’s Irish Pub in Sixteen Acres in a room packed with strangers united as friends with the common passion. As Brad Marchand buried the empty net goal that set the minds of fans who had seen three-goal leads blown before, a deafening cheer: “We got the Cup! We got the Cup!”

The moment, surreal. The feeling, indescribable.

After faltering against Philadelphia last season, blowing a three-game series lead, Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli bolstered the team by drafting 19-year-old Tyler Seguin and trading for Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell.

At the trade deadline, he acquired Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley and gave away a first-round draft pick for Tomas Kaberle making a statement that anything short of winning Lord Stanley’s Cup would be a failure.

He took a stand and, in the end, so did his team. And now a new generation has their own story to tell.

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Mission not yet accomplished for Bruins

Throughout the Boston Bruins’ heart pounding, gut wrenching battle for Lord Stanley’s Cup in these finals, one thing has become the mantra of the fans: Not in our house.

Well, that will hold true, two fold. Surely fans who held posters donning the phrase were referring to the Vancouver Canucks not hoisting the Cup on the Bruins’ home ice. But at the same time, the flip side is also true. Because they have been unable to steal a single game from the Canucks in British Columbia, neither will the Bruins.

The must-win game to end all must-win games for the Bruins does not take place in the friendly confines of the TD Garden where they have outscored their Canadian counterparts 17-3, but the Rogers Arena, a place lacking in fond memories for the B’s. Twice the Bruins have been shut out there in this series and once the two goals they got were just enough to force one of the shortest overtimes in NHL playoff history.

It’s a riddle that Claude Julien has been desperate to unravel. A statistical enigma. Boston actually posted more points on the road than they did at home during the 2010-11 regular season and was one of the best road teams in the Eastern Conference. Yet in these finals, the Bruins are winless in hostile territory. They have not lost a game in this series on the road by more than one goal, but then again, haven’t done anything to win those close games, either.

However, it is possible for the Bruins to win in Vancouver. It has happened before. Boston topped the Canucks 3-1 while in the midst of a strong road trip in late February. The man with the magic? Milan Lucic, the man who everyone has been waiting for to step up in the absence of injured Nathan Horton, scored the go-ahead goal with less than five minutes remaining.

Lucic has been largely disappointing in the series, recording three points in the six games, while getting physically outmatched by Vancouver at times. However, he’s just one of the Bruins who has been performing a Jekyll and Hyde act that resembles a similar one by Roberto Luongo that fans  – present company included – are so eager to jump all over him for. Seventeen goals at home in three games, two goals in three games on the road.

It would be hard to criticize Luongo for his disappearing act, especially given the entire Bruins team has been guilty of the same. It would be hard … if he was more likeable and kept his mouth shut. Instead, he took shots through the media, which were admittedly a tad overblown, at the one man who has been a pillar of strength for this team – Tim Thomas.

As maddening as Thomas’ style in net is, it has worked. He will be the Vezina Trophy winner and should be the Conn Smythe winner for playoff MVP. We can talk about how Brad Marchand needs to be a spark plug and how Mark Recchi needs to be the leader we know he can be, but the bottom line is this team needs to follow Thomas’ example if they want to hoist the Cup. They need to be aggressive.

The Bruins’ biggest fault in this series has been their lack of physicality and intensity, which allowed the Canucks to take it to them. Marchand suggested that in this series, perhaps, the Bruins have been able to be inspired by the roar of their crowd. Well, now the Bruins have to be inspired by the hush of another. To steal a line from another Boston sports figure and alter it slightly, “There’s nothing I’d like better than to shut 18,000 Canucks fans up.”

The Bruins need to be aggressive, take the body and rattle assumed starter Roberto Luongo again. Score a goal first and decisively and revel in the quiet.

Yes, Boston Bruins, there is a Stanley Cup waiting for you. But you have to be willing to go out there and take it.

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