If any single sentence can sum up the Boston Bruins, I’d put my money on this one: “Remember this, success has been and continues to be defined as getting up one more time than you’ve been knocked down.”
It may not always be pretty, hockey can be an ugly game and can break your heart faster than any ex-girlfriend in high school ever could. The lessons learned in this sport are often painful and not many people know that better than the Bruins and their fans.
We’re talking about a team that in the 2001-02 and 2003-04 seasons won their division in the regular season but then got swept in the first round of the playoffs by their arch-rival (and 8th seeded) Montreal Canadiens. Thankfully for Bruins fans the 2004-05 NHL season was lost to a lockout and when hockey resumed the following year the Bruins were in shambles and didn’t even qualify for the postseason their next two tries.
Before the 2007-08 season, current head coach Claude Julien was brought on and things started to turn in a positive direction for the Bruins. They had made some big signings like Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard, Julien was a new coach who had had some pretty good success with New Jersey and Montreal before being hired by Boston.
It sill wasn’t enough however, as the Bruins lost once again in the first round to the Canadiens but this time it took seven games for the Bruins to be eliminated and they had been the 8th seed. They had lost in seven games, but had put up a fight and in the process they brought some excitement back to the Garden.
The next season the Bruins won their division and even managed to make it out of the first round while getting some revenge in the process by sweeping the Canadiens in the first round. However the fun didn’t last long as the Bruins went on to lose in seven games in disappointing fashion to the Carolina Hurricanes. It was a team the Bruins should’ve beat and a series they should’ve won. It was their first real disappointment under their new head coach but the worst was yet to come.
The 2009-10 season was an up and down roller coaster ride and the Bruins stumbled into the playoffs after finishing 3rd in their division. Yet they were able to get by the Buffalo Sabres in the first round in six games and in the next round they shot out to a huge 3-0 series lead against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Like I said earlier though, hockey teaches you lessons and does it the hard way, the Bruins were about to learn one of the hardest lessons of all, a series isn’t over until you’ve won four games. The Flyers stormed back and forced a game 7, the Bruins got out to an early 3-0 lead in that game and learned another lesson in the process, the game isn’t over until the final horn sounds. The Flyers came back to win the game and the series, the Bruins and their fans were left distraught, confused and disappointed once again.
All the Bruins could do was learn from it and thats exactly what they did. They won the Stanley Cup the following season and exorcised a whole lot of demons along the way. They defeated the Montreal Canadiens in 7 games in the first round, swept the Philadelphia Flyers in the next round, bested the Tampa Bay Lightning in 7 games in the Eastern Conference Final before finally outlasting the Vancouver Canucks in 7 games to win their first Stanley Cup in 39 years. Its important to note that when they beat the Canucks the Bruins lost game 5 to go down 3-2 in the series before winning games 6 and 7 (the same exact situation they find themselves in today).
The Bruins followed up their epic cup run with another first round exit the next season when they lost to the Washington Capitals in 7 games. I personally was still too excited about the Cup to really care about another first round exit but you’ll notice a trend here, the Bruins get knocked down a lot, but they also get back up a whole heck of a lot.
That brings us to this season and today, where the Bruins will be playing for their lives once more when they take on the Chicago Blackhawks in game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals tonight at the Garden. To get here the Bruins barely escaped the Toronto Maple Leafs in 7 games in the first round before beating the New York Rangers in 5 games the next round and sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Well, they now trail the Blackhawks 3-2 in the series and they obviously need to win tonight if they wish to force a game 7 and not see the Cup paraded around on their ice by a visiting team. I mean, did Gregory Campbell really break his leg blocking a shot just to watch the Blackhawks skate around Boston as champions? I don’t think so and now the Bruins will need to use all the lessons they’ve learned and the heartbreaks they’ve endured throughout the years if they want to win tonight.
History shows me the Bruins will do just that. They’ll do what it takes, scratch and claw their way to a game 6 win if they have to. They’re 6-1 in elimination games the last 3 years and as Jack Edwards so eloquently put it, they have the “hearts of lions”.
It’s what they’ve always done under head coach Claude Julien, because you see, the Bruins have not lost a playoff series in less than 7 games with him at the helm. They go down swinging if they go down at all and tonight shouldn’t be any different, the Bruins have been knocked down, now they just need to get up again.