Save by Thomas!

The last time I blogged about the Boston Bruins was in November, when J and I saw the boys in black and gold lose to the LA Kings in a shootout. J and I went to roughly a dozen Bruins game this season, and nearly all of them ended like that November game: in losses. We saw the Bruins lose so many weekend home games, in fact, we started to joke about the players’ party habits. Obviously the boys in black and gold were spending too much time on Friday night ruining their reflexes for Saturday.

Shoot it like you mean it!

In other words, if you had told me in November that the Bruins would be playing for the Stanley Cup in June, I would have laughed, shrugged my shoulders, and felt your forehead for a fever. It wasn’t that the Bruins played badly in the games we went to; their play was simply inconsistent. For every laser-like shot-on-goal, there were a handful of missed opportunities. For every stunning save by goalie Tim Thomas, there were an awkward assortment of embarrassing lapses, many of them made by back-up goaltender Tuukka Rask. At many games, we weren’t sure whether we should cheer or wince, or whether we should hope for a rally or steel ourselves against the inevitable. We never doubted the Bruins could win the games we attended this season; we just witnessed too many instances when they didn’t.

Dropping the puck

The dozen or so Bruins games J and I went to this season, in other words, felt like a microcosm of what it used to be like to root for the Boston Red Sox, back when they were lovable losers who inspired seismic mood swings in their rabid fans. “At least we’ll able to get tickets next year,” became our resigned remark after every home loss, just as “Maybe next year” became a mantra among pre-2004 Red Sox fans. I’ve blogged before, in the context of the New England Patriots’ jaw-dropping 2008 Super Bowl loss, about the movie Still We Believe, a documentary chronicling the Red Sox’ disastrous 2003 seasons:

This resigned familiarity with heartbreak, after all, is what defines a true Boston sports fan. When I first watched Still We Believe when it debuted in the spring of 2004, before the Red Sox finally broke their infamous World Series curse, I couldn’t help but wonder what people outside New England would think about the insane mood swings of the die-hard fans featured in the film, which follows the Red Sox’ heartbreaking 2003 season. Could anyone but a long-suffering Sox fan understand that the fans in the film were extreme but not exaggerated?

One on one

Throughout the Bruins’ current playoffs run, they’ve reminded me a bit of the 2004 Red Sox. Those guys were a bunch of shaggy-haired idiots whose motivational slogan was “Why not us?” This year’s Bruins are unlikely enough: during much of the season, we weren’t sure they’d even make it into the playoffs, and at each stage of their climb toward the Cup, there have been plenty of moments when J and I found ourselves shaking our heads and shrugging our shoulders. “It’s OVAH,” we’d lament, sounding like the character of Angry Bill from Still We Believe, whose Sox-inspired mood swings almost give him a heart attack in one scene. On paper, the Bruins are the definite underdogs to the Vancouver Canucks, who have played consistently well all season. But still, given the blood, sweat, and sheer determination it took to get the Bruins to the Stanley Cup finals, why couldn’t they win? In the words of beloved Red Sox slugger David “Big Papi” Ortiz, “Why not?”

Setting up the shot

And so, it all comes down to this. Tonight the Bruins and Canucks will meet at the TD Garden for Game Six in their best-of-seven series. With the Canucks leading the series three games to two, the Bruins are indeed the underdogs…and yet, the three games the B’s have lost were decided by a single goal, and the two games they won were blow-outs. Tonight, the Canucks are playing for the Cup, which will be in attendance at the TD Garden in case they win, and the Bruins will be playing for their championship lives, lest their dreams for the Cup be crushed. The Bruins could win tonight, leading to an epic Game Seven in Vancouver, but the question is “Will they?”

Tim Thomas take a breather

In true mood-swinging fashion, I don’t know whether to hold out hope for a Boston Game Six win or to steel myself against the disappointment of “almost, but maybe next year.” All I’ll say for sure is I think this series will go to seven, as our experience attending a dozen losing home games this season taught J and me that these things always drag down to the bitter end. All I know for sure is that both J and I will be glued to the TV, watching every last shot and save.