Wake Up Boston: The Bruins Are The New Patriots & There’s Still Time to Jump on the Bandwagon

Being a diehard sports fan isn’t a skill or a talent. It’s an investment. For the most part it’s simply an investment of your time, but every now and then you’ve gotta dip into the wallet and make a financial investment to properly keep up with your team.

I live in LA, but I bleed Boston sports. Unfortunately for me, following my teams isn’t as easy as tuning the TV to NESN. We have to pay a ransom to watch Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics games out here. When I bought the Major League Baseball package last April, it was easily one of the worst investments in my life. That’s the risk I run every year when I ponder the benefit of sinking my money into one of the sports packages. The Red Sox were such a disaster last year that I was basically done watching them by August 1st. And you know what? I haven’t decided yet if I’m buying the MLB package for the 2013 season. It’s sad that Red Sox fans are even considering not forking over the money this year, but that’s how pessimistic we are about a franchise that’s been more drama than baseball over the past 18 months.

Buying the NHL package like I did four weeks ago is on the opposite end of the spectrum. There is little downside in investing in the Boston Bruins right now. I’d go so far as saying at this current moment in Boston sports, the Bruins are as sure of a bet as the Patriots.

Here’s my disclaimer before you continue reading: Any legitimate diehard Bruins fan can probably stop reading this article. I don’t think I’m going to tell you something you don’t already know. This is really for the fair weather fans who haven’t decided whether to jump all-in on the Bruins bandwagon. I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to hockey and basketball I am a bit of a bandwagonner. There’s only so much time in the day, and football and baseball have ruled my sports life for a long time. I realize the NHL just had its second work stoppage in eight years and hockey isn’t covered in the media as thoroughly as the other major sports, but that doesn’t take away from how incredible of a sport it truly is. And really if you’re a fair weather fan you should have been pretending to like the Bruins as far back as two Springs ago when they won the Title. Last year they rolled to a #2 seed in the East before losing to Washington in a classic seven-game series. So if you started backing them in 2011, I have no idea why you would have stepped off the bandwagon between then and now.

If you’re still having doubts, right now is your last chance. You can still get ahead of the laggards and the extreme casual fan curve and not look like a total fool after the Bruins win their second Stanley Cup of the decade (That’s not a guarantee that it’ll happen this year, but I’ll be stunned if it doesn’t happen soon).

It’s not an exaggeration to think these guys might be the “new Patriots” over the next five years. As you’ll see below, they may even be better-positioned for multiple title runs than the Patriots.

Here are some stats and tidbits that should help you understand why I’m pushing this so hard:

  • First of all, after Sunday’s 4-1 win at Florida, their record now sits at a sterling 11-2-2
  • By my count, 17 of the Bruins’ 20 regular players were a significant part of the 2010-11 Stanley Cup team. There really hasn’t been much turnover, so even if you were out on them last year, you can hop right back in without skipping a beat.
  • They have one player who’s the son of a Bruin legend. That would be Chris Bourque. How can you not root for the son of #77.
  • They’ve got a high 1st round draft pick from 2011 who looks like he’s going to be the stud they thought they were drafting. That would be Dougie Hamilton. He’s already a regular defenseman and he’s 19 years old.
  • They have their own version of Dustin Pedroia! Or is it Wes Welker? Or Rajon Rondo? Whatever it is, they have an undersized, not-much-to-look-at guy of their own. His name is Brad Marchand and he’s leading the team with nine goals.
  • They have 10 “key players” under the age of 30.
  • Their top seven point scorers so far this year are all under the age of 28. You really can get behind this team now and feel good about their chances over the next five years. They have a young cornerstone goalie, a young cornerstone defenseman, and several young cornerstone forwards.
  • Speaking of their goalie, his name is Tuuka Rask, and he’s actually not a new guy on the scene. This is his 6th year in the league and 4th playing meaningful minutes. In the 2009-10 season, he led the NHL in both goals against average (1.97) and save percentage (.931). If not for Tim Thomas’s resurgence over the last couple years (which I’m absolutely not complaining about), Rask would be a household name along with the best goalies in the league.
  • It’s unfair to judge a hockey team purely on a traditional win-loss record because it’s somewhat irrelevant to the standings. For the uninitiated, here’s how it works: a team gets two points for a win (regulation or overtime) and one point for an overtime loss (whether they lose in the extra period or the shootout). So it’s much better to gauge a team on the number of points they’ve captured as a percentage of their total possible points (example: This current Bruins team has played 15 games. At most they could have 30 points. They currently have 24. That puts their “points captured” percentage at .800…Still with me?) By comparison, an .800 win percentage in baseball would have the Red Sox winning 130 games in a season. That same win rate for the Patriots would give them 13 victories in a 16-game schedule. If you want to argue that this 14-game sample isn’t sustainable, I totally agree. But over the last two-and-a-half seasons, the Bruins are playing at a .640 clip. Translating that number into baseball once again, the Red Sox would put up 104 wins, or just a handful more than Josh Beckett said they’d win in 2011. My apologies for nerding out in this paragraph, but hopefully you get my point. The Bruins are damn good, and it’s been that way for a while.
  • If fighting and physicality is more your game than scoring, the Bruins roll out Shawn Thornton, Lane MacDermid, and Milan Lucic on the regular. They are all badasses, trust me (hopefully you saw Lucic absolutely bury that Panthers player who hit him from behind on Sunday). And for pure comedic value, just watch a Bruins opponent (especially a rookie) get pissed off at Zdeno Chara. There’s nothing more entertaining to me than seeing a guy on the other team get a borderline cheapshot from Chara, quickly turnaround to confront the offender, and only then realize it’s the 6’9″ Bruins captain (aka the biggest player in NHL history).
  • The Bruins are tied for 5th in the league in fights per game. Just read some of the opposing players’ or coaches’ quotes after they play the Bruins. They regularly call it “the most intense game we’ve played all year” and comment on the “physical, crushing style” the B’s play. I promise you this all lends itself to even more entertainment.
  • Yeah the lockout sucked, but the Bruins’ season just began and already they only have 33 games left. Surely you can get on board with such a short season.
  • In March, the Bruins play 17 games and will have more than one day off in between games only once. So you can count on meaningful hockey every other day.
  • Hey, it’s not all sunshine and pixie dust for the Bruins. If there’s one knock on their “watchability,” it’s that their highest point scorer ranks 63rd among all NHL players. That’s pretty ridiculous. When you’re trying to make the case that Boston is one of the best and most enjoyable teams to watch in the league, that’s a damning argument against them. But remember those three Patriots Super Bowl winning teams? How they never really had just one guy standing out on the stat sheet? And that Celtics championship team in 2008, no one averaged more than 19 points per game? And even the Bruins title team two years ago didn’t have a guy ranked higher than 39th in the league in points. What I’m trying to say is, yeah it kinda sucks not to have a Crosby or a Stamkos or one of the Sedin Sisters to dazzle you every night, but last time I checked, regular season flash doesn’t translate to postseason success.
  • And then there’s the gigantic woolly mammoth in the room: the Bruins power play. We’re now into year four of all Bruins fans asking if they’re allowed to decline the power play rather than play with a man advantage. It’s that pathetic. But if they’re going to suck on one special teams unit, at least they are far-and-away the best in the league on the man disadvantage. So even the dark power play clouds have a nice silver lining for this team.

The point of all this? Fair weather fans in Boston have naturally gravitated towards the Patriots and Red Sox over the past 10 years, and for good reason. They’ve been the more consistent contenders in their sports. But the landscape has shifted, and the Bruins are ready to take the reigns for the foreseeable future.

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