The Boston Comeback That Made Almost All Of Us Look Like Fools (With a Big Assist From Twitter)

I’m sure guest-blogging extraordinaire Nkilla will be along later today with his Round 2 preview of the NHL playoffs, but it would be irresponsible of me not to post some disjointed, incoherent thoughts about what went down in Boston last night.

-I don’t care how spoiled Boston fans have been since the Patriots’ 2001 run. We were all thinking the exact same thing as last night’s 3rd period creeped closer and closer to the 10-minute mark: “Son of a bitch, we’ve been tricked again. This team is no different than last year’s gigantic disappointment. Only 115 days til football starts, thank the Lord.”

-God damn Twitter and Facebook. In the old days, I would have just told the person I was watching the game with that the Bruins were frauds, had no heart, should fire their coach before the final whistle…and then I could have denied it all after the comeback. Now my naysaying is all over the friggen web for eternity.

-Just imagine if Twitter was around during the 2004 ALCS. I can’t even fathom the type of hate I would have been spewing at the Red Sox after that 19-8 game 3 debacle against the Yankees in Fenway.

-Or even worse, imagine if they had liquor as tasty as Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey back in 2004. Dangerous.

-Here’s a sampling of some of my Tweets and Facebook posts that historians 100 years from now will be laughing at as they put together a complete history of my life:

  • “1 of 2 things happens in this game: Bruins lead by multiple goals the whole way, or I chug Jack Daniel’s Honey for the next 3 hrs” (No exaggeration whatsoever. I severely underestimated how much I’d need so during the first intermission I sprinted to the store to re-load on the Honey. Best move I made all night.)
  • “I would tell Lucic to take the sweater off and exit the building right now if I were Julien. Awful, Nice season B’s” (In my defense, this was written the moment after Toronto scored their third goal, a goal that only happened because Lucic, having beaten Phil Kessel to the puck in the corner of the Bruins defensive zone, decided he wanted to make contact with Kessel more than grabbing the puck and clearing it out. It was an inexcusable play in my mind. As for the “Nice season B’s” comment, remember that they were now down two goals with 18 minutes to go and had scored all of three goals in the previous 162 minutes dating back to the start of game 5. I don’t think it was so wrong to write them off here.)
  • “Choking away a 3-1 series lead when 2 of final 3 games were at home is greater than or equal to a baseball team losing 9.5 game lead in Sept” (Fine, this one was a major exaggeration. Of course losing a lead like that in baseball when all you have to do is win 8 out of your final 27 games is worse than losing three straight hockey games.)
  • “I’d bet on Titus Young Sr getting signed by Patriots over Bruins coming back in this game” (And I’d still make that bet if the situation came up again. Remember, three total goals in 162 minutes and they needed three in less than 15 minutes!)
  • “I refuse to stop tweeting about the Bruins demise…It might just be the thing keeping them alive” (Rule #1 of debilitating superstitions: If good things start to happen while you’re behaving a certain way, don’t you dare change that behavior. My negativity just might be the thing that saved Boston’s season. I accept thank you’s in the form of paid writing jobs or straight up donations to the “Keep Ross Unemployed Fund.”)
  • “The Bruins treat playoff series like I treated college papers” (Pretty self-explanatory. Slack off until it’s so close to the deadline that you have a stress-related ulcer and then do just enough to not get kicked out of school/the playoffs.)
  • “So, New York, we meet again” (I don’t know this Rangers team, but I don’t care. They’re from New York. That’s all that matters.)

-I want to talk to someone who left the Garden when the Bruins were down 4-1 or 4-2. Not to make fun of them (Lord knows I was thisclose to changing the channel to watch the other game 7 going on at the same time), but to hear them express their feelings as they were driving out of Boston and realizing what was happening. Must have felt like a kick squarely to the testicles.

-Logic says the Bruins don’t get out of the 2nd round. Not only did they get outplayed in 4.5 of 7 games against the Maple Leafs, but they continued to lose key guys throughout the process…Andrew Ference, Wade Redden, Dennis Seidenberg. Good thing they have a guy who annually ranks as the best defensive-minded forward in Patrice Bergeron because they might just have to ask him to line up on the blue line if things keep going this way.

-You can never feel confident when two of your defensemen are a 19-year-old rookie (Dougie Hamilton) and a guy with nine total games of NHL experience (Matt Bartkowski).

-But there’s apparently no place for logic when it comes to the Boston Bruins and playoff hockey in general (as evidenced by the fact that the number 2, 3 and 4 seeds in the West bowed out in Round 1, along with the number 2 and 3 seeds in the East).

-As far as I’m concerned, Peter Chiarelli and Claude Julien should grab a couple scrubs from Providence and sub them in for Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin for the rest of this playoff run. They are invisible. Marchand has all of three total points (all assists), ranking him 99th out of all players in the playoffs. But hey, he looks like Gretzky compared to Seguin….one point, an assist. There’s literally no one Julien can put in for them that will hurt the team more than they’re already hurting it.

-Bruins went 1-2 against the Rangers this year, but the two losses were as close as can be…one in OT and the other in a shootout. So there’s hope, I guess.

-Not that I would ever root for a triple-heart attack game again, but this just might have been the thing that gets my girlfriend legitimately interested in the NHL Playoffs for the rest of her life. I’ve been trying to tell her for the past week how amazing game 7’s can be, mostly because I wanted her to be OK with me hogging the TV for every possible hockey game, but now she’s going to think every game 7 is as crazy as last night’s. If that’s what it took, then I guess I’m glad it happened (Maybe her interest will stay with only the Bruins…she didn’t seem too thrilled this morning when I told her round 2 starts up immediately with two games tonight).

-I haven’t heard every sound byte from last night yet, but the leader in the clubhouse is Tuukka Rask saying “You’re either a hero or an asshole.” The Bruins seem to have a handful of both.

-Going forward I’ll make a deal with the Bruins. You play 60 minutes a game as if you actually care about winning in the playoffs, and I’ll stay away from prematurely writing your obituary on Twitter.

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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.