BOSTON — The Bruins were supposed to win. With all due respect to the Chicago Blackhawks, a fine organization and a terrific hockey club, the Stanley Cup was supposed to come to Boston.
While a big piece of shiny silver will never, ever come close to making up for what happened on a sunny Monday in April on Boylston Street, a Bruins Stanley Cup win would have continued the ongoing healing process. Sports’ most famous trophy would have rolled down Boylston and through the city’s sometimes dizzying layout, epitomizing the city’s resolve.
It’s not like the Bruins didn’t have adversity to face. They wanted so desperately to win for the city. They knew the part they would play. They knew what they could do, even if it was just bringing a smile to a face for a day here and there. It will be tough to shake the look on Chris Kelly’s face on the night of April 17. The Boston center stood in front of his locker looking ready to cry as he explained how badly he wanted to win the game, the first game since the Boston Marathon bombings, for the city of Boston.
“We wanted to go out there and win that hockey game,” he emphatically stated. “I’m disappointed that we didn’t. We wanted to give the city something to be happy about.”
That was once again a driving factor for the Bruins into the playoffs. When they went down 4-1 in Game 7 of the first round against Toronto, they looked all but finished. Then, like those who share the city they now call home, they got up off the canvas. They fought back and they won. From there, they rolled.
It seemed too perfect. Here they were, just a few months removed from doing their part in the healing process, just four wins away from the Stanley Cup. Then three. Then two.
It just wasn’t meant to be.
“You know, at the end of the day,” head coach Claude Julien said, “I think that’s what hurts the most in the back of our minds. Although we needed to focus on our team and doing what was going to be the best thing for our team to win a Stanley Cup, in the back of our minds we wanted to do it for those kind of reasons, the city of Boston, what Newtown has been through, that kind of stuff.”
That’s the seemingly unfair thing about sports and particularly professional sports. The better story doesn’t win — the better team does. The Blackhawks were the better team, the luckier team and the team that battled adversity better. They earned the right to parade that Cup around the TD Garden ice.
The Bruins came up just a bit short. And you know what? That’s OK, or at least it should be OK. This city and this region won’t want to talk about silver linings for a while, and that’s understandable. They’re hurt. They’re upset. You always want your team to do well.
But to borrow a line from a great TV scene, the Bruins didn’t do well — they did good. There’s a big difference.
They helped, more than they’ll ever know, in getting the city back on its feet. That night of April 17, when the 17,000-plus took over for Rene Rancourt and sang the national anthem, that will be the lasting memory of this season. Would a Cup have made it all the sweeter? No doubt. But the Bruins did more good in the days, weeks and months — all the way through the heartbreaking Game 6 loss — than they will probably ever know. Whether it was the Boston Strong tributes that started in the first round of the playoffs and continued through Jeff Bauman‘s goosebump-inducing moment Monday or just taking people’s mind off things for a while, the Bruins helped. If it’s what Gregory Campbell did by finishing a shift with a broken leg or Patrice Bergeron playing through a long list of injuries, the Bruins helped. They helped a lot.
Yet, it wasn’t enough, at least not according to the Bruins.
“It hit close to home, and the best way we felt we could try and cheer the area was to win a Stanley Cup,” Julien said.
At the risk of second-guessing a coach who’s won a Stanley Cup and reached another Final, Julien is flat-out wrong. When Boston needed them most, the Bruins lifted the city. That’s never won anyone the Stanley Cup, but for this year at least, that might be all right.