Fortunately for Bruins fans, the time to worry about your B's is over.
It was a close call, but they made the playoffs. They even got the sixth seed, which enabled them to match up with a worthy but beatable opponent in Buffalo. They aren't even close to being at full health, but they showed over the last few weeks that they're ready to compete — that much was evident in their 8-3-1 record in the final 11 games of the season.
So sit back, relax and enjoy the playoff hockey that is on tap. After all, there are few things better in professional sports than watching springtime hockey.
With that, here are the top 10 reasons for Bruins fans to enjoy the playoffs.
No, the Bruins won't have Marc Savard (at least not against Buffalo), nor will they have Dennis Seidenberg or (likely) Mark Stuart. It hurts their chances to make a deep Cup run, but it also gives some of the youngsters some valuable playoff experience.
Guys like Johnny Boychuk and Adam McQuaid are expected to step in and accumulate some serious ice time. In the playoffs, the importance of that experience can't be overstated.
"Obviously, in the playoffs, [the games are] even more intense, more physical and more emotional," captain Zdeno Chara explained in March. "I think in the playoffs, it is always a little bit even more intensity- and energy-wise. It’s more physical and things like that, so we’re not quite there."
Now, the Bruins are there, and players like Vladimir Sobotka (six career playoff games), Matt Hunwick (one), Boychuk and McQuaid (zero) will add new chapters to their resumes.
Oh, and there's that guy in net.
You Deserve it
This one's as simple as it seems. Face it: You're a Bruins fans, and since opening night (when Alexander Ovechkin's Capitals steamrolled the Bruins in Boston), you've been dealing with varying levels of disappointment.
There were Marc Savard's 41 games missed due to injury, Milan Lucic's 32 and Stuart's 26. Then there was the loss of Dennis Seidenberg with just four games remaining in the season.
That's not even mentioning the lack of flash on the day of the trade deadline (though in retrospect, the Seidenberg pickup was huge), or the steep dropoff in the play of Tim Thomas, or the granddaddy of them all: the rematch with Pittsburgh.
When Matt Cooke came to Boston to have his dish of revenge served to him, expectations were sky high in Boston. The outcome of that game — both in terms of physicality and the scoreboard — was simply a bummer. The energy and excitement in the building that night turned quickly into anger.
But that's all in the past now. In the upcoming week (or weeks), you don't have to worry about standings. You can simply watch your hockey team and hope for the best.
Battle of the Big Men
Zdeno Chara is humongous. You know this.
Tyler Myers is nearly as humongous as well, and watching the pioneer of humongous defensemen go toe-to-toe with the youngster will be a matchup worth watching.
Chara, a 6-foot-9 Slovakian, is the tallest man to ever lace up skates in an NHL dressing room, and watching him on television was likely an encouraging sign for Myers, a 20-year-old from Texas. Standing at 6-foot-8, Myers has been a rock for the Sabres all season, netting 48 points, registering a plus-13 rating and garnering serious attention for the Calder Trophy.
At the very least, the sight of these two men skating up and down the ice can't be missed — literally.
Jack Edwards' Potential
Jack Edwards brings an almost unrivaled enthusiasm to his job as the Bruins' play-by-play man. That is a fact that cannot be questioned.
So when he gets the opportunity to leave his stamp on a game, he always makes the most of it. He did so just last weekend, when the Bruins clinched a playoff spot. A year ago, he took the Bruins' triumph over the Habs and turned it into a Revolutionary battle.
If the Bruins — now the underdogs, rather than top dogs — can upset the third-seeded Sabres, just imagine the call by Edwards.
We realize that a lot of Bruins fans are strictly hockey fans and find baseball and basketball to be boring sports, but there are plenty of Bostonians who are diehard supporters of every team that hails from the area. Those fans are in line for some truly enjoyable days in the weeks ahead.
With the Celtics locked into the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and the Red Sox' off days becoming rarer, sports fans in Boston are preparing for the best nights in the world. You know, those nights when you simply can't control the remote fast enough, so you need to head down to your local establishment and fill yourself with beverages and buffalo wings (given the first-round opponent, we can call them "freedom wings" for the next week). The nights when maybe one team will let you down, but the odds are in your favor to be happy about at least one of them. The nights where you can drop everything and exist in a sports euphoria.
Girlfriends and wives, you've been warned.
Matching 2009's Finish
Last year around this time, the Bruins were one of the best teams in the NHL, and they were expected to at least make the conference finals. Thanks to Scott Walker, that never happened.
This year, the Bruins aren't in the conversation as one of the top 10 teams in the league, yet with four solid efforts against Buffalo, they could equal the output of last year's squad. Given the adjusted expectations of this team, that would be nothing to complain about.
'This Building Is Vibrating'
The 2007-08 Bruins barely made the playoffs. They got knocked out of the playoffs by their hated rivals. By most accounts, it was a fairly unsuccessful campaign.
Except for that one moment.
With their season on the line, the Bruins scored four goals in the third period in a back-and-forth affair at the Garden. It was an unforgettable moment, and it was quite possibly the best memory the Bruins have in their new building.
That series ended in a Game 7 loss in Montreal, but that moment was the type of event that fans live for. Whenever the Bruins are in the playoffs, that moment is always a possibility.
Any man knows that shaving is the single worst task in the history of mankind. Each and every morning, that razor blade heads toward your face, tearing away your manliness one piece of hair at a time.
In the playoffs, you can put down the razor, and you can join in on the tradition of letting it all grow out in the playoffs.
You might catch some flak with the boss, but if you just tell him you're doing it for charity, you should be all set.
Goaltender of the Future
Watching Tuukka Rask in net this season has truly been a treat. He's made countless crucial saves, and he's earned the trust of his teammates in the process. He didn't get enough playing time to earn consideration for the Vezina or Calder Trophies, but ask any Bruins fan, and he or she will tell you that Tuukka is more than worthy.
He's shown he could do it in the regular season, but now it's time for him to gain that playoff experience. Players always talk about how different an atmosphere there is on the ice during the playoffs, and now Rask has the opportunity to experience it firsthand.
If his regular season is any indication, he'll handle the pressure with ease. If he does, he could just be the reason the Bruins can compete against the league's top teams.
Nothing Beats Playoff Hockey
This one's simple. Look, you've gone through a long year watching these Bruins, but it's now the postseason. It's time to relish in the spirit of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Obviously, given that the season started with predictions of the B's hoisting the Cup, things have not exactly gone to plan. While they're far from favorites now, they still have a chance. It's time to toss on your Bruins sweater and toss aside your gripes with management, coaches or players. It's playoff time, and the only thing you have left to do is to support the spoked B.
There is simply nothing like playoff hockey. Experiencing it is always a privilege, and it can never be taken for granted. For the Bruins, the postseason begins on Thursday night. It's time to enjoy hockey.
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