Friday, May 22, 2009

Back to Reality

Nothing like 90 degree temperatures, and Memorial Day weekend to nudge me out of my post-Bruins season stupor. Every year once the B's are eliminated form yet another playoff round, I tend to go into a "blackout" period. I don't want to watch hockey, talk hockey or even think about hockey. Much less BRUINS hockey. It's just too.....painful I guess. And this year, even though I prepared myself all year (as only a long suffering sports fan can) for an earlier than hoped for end, this season's abrupt ending made things worse. After all the good will, good times and heightened expectations, the sudden shock that it was over was numbing. But hey, when Memorial Day comes around, you start to realize how petty something like hockey is. So while we remember our nation's fallen hero's, let's remember to thank the Bruins and each other for a fun winter.

Sure, by the time the playoffs rolled around, we all expected "big things" from the Bruins. I'm not sure exactly what those big things were, since it varied from fan to fan. Some claimed they would be happy with just one series win. Others claimed they need to at least make the Conference Finals. While some claimed it was Cup or bust. To be honest, I'm still not sure where I stand. Deep down, I thought they at least had a shot at making the Cup finals, but figured Pittsburgh would be a hell of a challenge. Beatable for sure, but far from a cake walk. While losing in the Cup Finals would have hurt, getting that close and missing out on it is never easy, I could easily have lived with it. But losing to the Hurricanes, a team I am still convinced aren't as good as Boston, stings. The B's simply didn't show up in time to avoid defeat. When they played their game, they were fine. Injuries aside, when Boston played the way they can, they outclassed Carolina. How and why they showed up seemingly unprepared and uninspired for game 7, at HOME, it still mind boggling to me. But it is what it is I guess. Props to the 'Canes for giving a great effort every night. But I still can't help feeling like they were handed the series by the Bruins, and the NHL schedule makers who had the B's sitting idle for so long after round one. But the long layoff can't be used as an excuse. It may have hurt them early on, but certainly played no role in games 3-7.

In the next week or so, I'll start preparing my draft and free agency "wish lists" and all that. I sure don't envy Peter Chiarelli. He and his staff have some major, game changing decisions to make as July first approaches. How does he sign his own UFA and RFA's? Who, if anyone, does he look for on the free agent market? Does he deal Kessel (or someone else) at the draft? Does he move up in the draft? Go with D, forward or "the best player available" when it's his turn to roll the dice on some kid?

And while Chilly looks for the next big thing in Boston, lets not forget that long time Bruin PJ Axelsson has "probably" played his last game as a Bruin, possibly his last in the NHL. For all the abuse he gets at times, PJ has been a valuable asset and loyal guy in his time in Boston. Often miscast as a top line wing, he never once complained. He was equally happy riding shotgun on the top line as the fourth. Killing penalties, or on the power play. He also was extremely involved in area charities throughout his tenure here. A class act all the way around, who's departure shouldn't be treated lightly. Remember, if you bitched because he was often your first line left wing, it wasn't his choice. PJ is what he is, but he was always ready and willing to do anything that was asked of him for the good of the team. PJ, if this is in fact your awan song in a B's uniform, I just want to say thank you. Thanks for being the consumate pro through good times and bad. Your veteran, intelligent presence will be missed.

As disappointed as I am at the finish, I can't deny the joy I got from "the ride" all season. I had the chance to watch some incredible personal and team performances. There were great goals, slick passing plays, huge hits and amazing saves galore. The Garden and it's fans rocked like it hasn't in years. And I had a chance to meet some great people along the way, folks I'm going to miss seeing until we do it all again this fall. Bruins fans have always been a different breed of sports fan in this town, and I hope that never changes. Simply put, Bruins fans are the most loyal, involved and passionate sports fans in the city of Boston. Period. End of discussion. So this holiday weekend, I'm raising a glass to all of you die-hards out there. As much as I tire of saying it, "there is always next year". See you there.

Go B's, Go B's fans, and God Bless America and it's fallen-Kynch

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