The Bruins are inviting fans out to the TD Garden on Monday afternoon to send the team off as they depart for Vancouver. After the team's slimmest-margin-of-victory win against the Lightning on Friday night, I'm not sure the cheering has ceased. You only need to turn your head, log online or flip on the television to know this team is going somewhere that no other Bruins team has gone in 21 years.
The Stanley Cup Final.
Four wins this time of year may seem like an eternity away, but as the Bruins have aptly pointed out in recent weeks, the majority of their counterparts are sitting at home wishing they had a chance like the one the B's are staring at. Prior to Game 7 against the Lightning, the Bruins sounded like a team that was having fun — a team that is enjoying the ride. From the head coach on down, this team sounded as relaxed as it has sounded throughout the playoffs. Going into a do-or-die Game 7, that's saying something.
The Bruins have erased a lot of heartbreak with their Game 7 victories. They overcame an 0-2 deficit against the hated Canadiens, and when they couldn't oust them in Game 6, they did in seven. They battled against a Lightning team with even greater offensive firepower; a team Tim Thomas shut out in a 1-0 win Friday night. Dwayne Roloson did everything — everything — in his power to maintain that perfect record in elimination games. And it was a classy move by Thomas to credit Roloson's play in a postgame interview on Versus. But these Bruins refused to be denied, fired shots and kept the pressure on. In the end, David Krejci sliced through Tampa's 1-3-1 defense, and the Bruins prevailed.
There is little question that Claude Julien's bunch has learned from the lessons along the way. Many of those lessons have come this year. Jack Edwards told me Sunday night that this Bruins team seems almost incapable of having its back broken — of having its belief suspended or broken down. He referenced Mark Recchi's outspoken belief in his team, even when they were Montreal-bound in a two-game hole. The veteran has logged years on the ice and won championships. He knows what it takes to play for a Cup — and to win one.
But, some of the lessons date back further. Team owner Jeremy Jacobs touched on it Sunday, referencing "life experiences we've taken to heart and we've grown with."
By the time the Bruins eliminated the Flyers by way of the sweep in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the redemption music has long since been playing. It even seemed they were groaning at the tune in Philadelphia — because they too heard it all the way down 95 and the Jersey Turnpike. That series was all but over after Game 2, when Thomas' 52-save performance stonewalled the Flyers and broke their belief. Consider it retribution for a historic turnaround in last year's conference semifinals. That collapse was not easily forgotten around these parts, nor was it glossed over in the Bruins' locker room. A bitter taste had to be washed away, but more than that, it had to become a lesson.
As humans, we often learn the greatest lessons not from successes, but from mistakes and missteps. It has been said "failures are fingerposts on the road to achievement." These Bruins have lived that. Now, they stand at the doorway of the game's ultimate achievement.
As their play-by-play voice told me, "these Bruins have learned from virtually every difficult situation they've been in." That lesson in particular stands to serve this team well. Standing before them, the Canucks present the Bruins their most difficult challenge yet. The outcome may not be certain, but one thing is: These Bruins have proven they deserve our belief in them.