Bruins, Celtics Bringing Spirit Back to North End, Primed to Give Boston Sports Fans a Spring to Remember

by abournenesn

Mar 3, 2011

Bruins, Celtics Bringing Spirit Back to North End, Primed to Give Boston Sports Fans a Spring to Remember Back in the day, there were weeks in May and June when the Boston Garden rocked every night. Those of us old enough can remember doubleheaders where the Celtics or Bruins would take one step closer to an appearance in the league finals, and the other would take center court or ice later that night.

Then, in 1995, the two teams moved into their current home, the Shawmut Center/FleetCenter/TD BankNorth Garden/TD Garden — their "deluxe apartment in the sky." People complained that the building had no soul, bad acoustics and was a lousy place to see a game.

People were wrong.

We are poised for the kind of spring-into-summer sports run we haven't seen in a while around here. The Celtics have been dubbed the team to beat in the East for months and made several daring moves last week. The Bruins, with fans still hesitant to climb aboard a bandwagon after last spring's historic collapse, have made several equally impressive moves and are home after their best road trip in decades.

Wednesday night at the Garden, Kevin Garnett showed the world that he is not that angry about the loss of Kendrick Perkins after all. He dropped a season-high 28 points on the Phoenix Suns, dominating for much of the first half. The Suns had beaten the Celtics by 17 points earlier this season in Arizona, and KG exacted his revenge in a big way.

Things got so bad for the Suns that Steve Nash, so frustrated by Rajon Rondo, sat and watched much of the second half. 

It was the home-court debut for newcomers Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic and Troy Murphy. The night may have belonged to The Big Four, but it was our first look at a team that was drastically reshaped by Danny Ainge around the trade deadline.

Fans have been moaning about the loss of Perkins, a strong presence underneath, who was an important defensive cog in the Celtics recent success. It would've been easy for Ainge to stand pat, to say "I'm going for it now," and do nothing. Instead, he improved the team's offense in a couple of ways, all the while getting younger. 

Could the Celts miss Perkins' presence in the playoffs? Absolutely. Are they still the favorites to win the East?  Absolutely. They've won six of their last seven games and have shown no let-up. If they remain healthy (a big "if," considering Glen Davis went down at the end of the Suns game and now joins Delonte West and Shaquille O'Neal on the sidelines), they should return to the Finals for the third time in four years.

The Bruins, meanwhile, haven't been to the Stanley Cup Finals in 21 years. They face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night in a matchup of division leaders, and the Garden should be brimming with optimism. The team is back home after a 6-0-0 road trip, its best since 1972. Also happening in 1972? The B's hoisted Cup.

I'm not suggesting these are the Big, Bad Bruins of days gone by. To paraphrase Rick Pitino, Bobby Orr isn't walking through that door. Derek Sanderson isn't walking through that door. Yet Tomas Kaberle, Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley are walking through that door, ready to play a home game for the Bruins for the first time.

The B's roll back into town with two goalies playing well. They're playing with toughness, moving the puck well and scoring timely goals. The line of Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic and David Krejci scored nine goals on the trip. There were times last season when the entire team wouldn't score that many goals in six games.

Are the Bruins going to hoist the Cup in June? They could. They are certainly one of the two best teams in the Eastern Conference (along with Philadelphia) and should play deeper into the playoffs than they have in any season since the early '90s.

All of which should lead to the best run of two-sport playoff action at the Garden (old or new) in a very long time.

It's starting to feel like old times around here … and that's a very nice feeling.

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