Epic Fail or Exceeded Expectations?

Yeah.  It felt EXACTLY like that.

Yeah. It felt EXACTLY like that.

Immediately after time ran out on the Bruins 2009-10 season, I was inspired to jump up and write a post-mortem of the epic collapse I had just witnessed, one that was full of fire and brimstone and condemnation of a team with no guts and no sense of urgency.  After watching the team race out to a 3 games to none lead on Philly in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, only to collapse and crash out of the playoffs in historic fashion (only the the 1942 Red Wings and 1975 Penguins also live in such infamy), Bruins fans were enraged, disenchanted, and once again without a Stanley Cup to admire.  I’ve heard things from fellow fans like “I’ll never love this team the same way again,” and “they’ve broken my heart for the last time.”  One friend and fellow fan summed up the events of that awful Friday night with words many of us were feeling;

Why do I watch sports? I mean, seriously. The Bruins are now part of North American sports history. Congratulations guys. I’m boycotting them next season. I don’t care if they make it to the final – I DON’T CARE ANYMORE. They can win or lose without me. I have to do something to say that they can’t pull shit like that and expect people to hang on. It’s not much, but the thought of it makes me feel better. I mean, WTF, do they enjoy losing??!?

I certainly felt that way Friday night and through Saturday.  I couldn’t bear to read the Boston Globe sports section or turn on NESN or ESPN for fear of having those deep wounds reopened and feeling fresh disappointment all over again.  As Sunday rolled around and I could finally read about and accept the harsh news as truth without setting that vein in my temple to throbbing, I could look back on the ruins of the season and the expectations of the fans and admit that we were lucky to be watching Bruins hockey past the first round.

The fact of the matter is that we had no right to expect this team to get as far as the conference finals.  That they even reached the second round should count as a team exceeding expectations.  Fans seem to have forgotten that this is a team that was rudderless almost from the first puck drop in October.  They went through a 10 game winless streak to begin the New Year.  After shipping Phil Kessel and his 36 goals to Toronto, they never found anyone capable of reliably putting the puck in the net.  Nobody who was watching this team in February would have given you 10-1 odds that they’d make the second round of the playoffs.  Yet they did, and when they couldn’t manage any further magic despite losing their top scorer and their #2 center early in the series, we cursed the Spoked B and the bums who wore it this season.  Is that really fair?

Take a deep breath, B’s fans.  Yes, our team has gone down in history, not as Cup winners, but of losers of historical proportions.  Yet there are still reasons to look back at the last couple of weeks and feel good about the team.  They went far deeper into the playoffs than we could have hoped.  Marc Savard came back from his horrific injury and was a factor on the ice.  The ghost of Milan Lucic became a corporeal body again, scoring goals and playing the bulldog style we all expect from him.  Tuukka Rask showed that he’s the man we want in net.  Add that on to the 2nd overall pick in the draft (hello Taylor Hall, who could be the next Steven Stamkos) and we have all the reasons in the world to be optimistic about next year.  Granted, Peter Chiarelli still has a ways to go to add some grit and sizzle to this roster, but instead of mourning what we never thought possible, we should be looking forward to the return of hockey season with optimism.  Granted, when your team hasn’t won a big shiny since the the Nixon administration, optimism can resemble a fool’s solace.  Call me a fool if you wish (and plenty have), but I’m done with mourning and can’t wait til next year.

~ by schlippo on May 17, 2010.

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