BOSTON – Bruins coach Claude Julien took the podium on Wednesday, just hours before Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals vs. the Vancouver Canucks, and spoke in generalities.
There was no bulletin board material. There were no threats. There were no guarantees.
Just the obvious.
“We’re hoping,” Julien said, “for a happy ending.”
He got one.
And so did everyone else in Boston.
As the Bruins battered their way through this post-season, they were able to capture Beantown’s attention much like the Red Sox, Celtics and Patriots did in recent championship seasons. Indeed, the city wrapped its arms around Julien’s bunch and jumped on board for what was an eventful 10-week ride, a journey that ended joyously with a 4-0 Game 7 victory over the Canucks at Rogers Arena.
The first-place Red Sox caught the fever, clearly. They were often seen wearing Bruins gear in and around the city, and Fenway Park has had a “Good Luck” sign, complete with a Bruins logo on its green fencing for more than a month.
“They love their teams. (It’s) a sports town,” Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford said Wednesday, before Boston defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 3-0 in St. Petersburg, Fla. “There are Bruins fans everywhere. They’re real passionate. I’ve been watching them. You definitely get caught up in all of that, because everybody’s watching it, wearing Bruins jerseys.
“You get excited about it.”
It was hard not to.
Even before the make-or-break date Wednesday night in Vancouver, the Bruins orchestrated a run for the ages, complete with just about everything hockey had to offer. There were three seven-game series—vs. Montreal, Tampa Bay and the Canucks—and even a dominant four-game sweep of Philadelphia in Round 2.
Goaltender Tim Thomas, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the playoffs’ most valuable player, led the way on the ice—with four shutouts and all 16 post-season wins—as well as in front of the microphone—with his colourful jabs and well-thought-out responses.
Rookie forward Brad Marchand stirred the pot with some feisty play in the corners, and his 11 goals, many of which came directly in front of the net. He scored two in Game 7.
But it was rarely easy for any of the Bruins on this odyssey. They fell down two games vs. both the Canadiens and the Canucks, and fought off elimination four times, all told.
The second time they were in an 0-2 hole, Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who has won two championships in Boston, felt motivated to chime in. Francona, in fact, called and spoke with Julien.
On Wednesday at Tropicana Field, before starter Josh Beckett pitched a one-hitter that most Bostonians probably missed, Francona was asked if he’d make a call again to his friend in the coaching fraternity prior to the drop of the puck.
“He’s got to take it from here,” he said, smiling.
Francona knew enough to leave Julien alone. He knew he had the weight of the city’s shoulders on him already. Not to mention the pressure of having to live up to the championship standards the other three pro teams in town have set.
Well, consider that weight lifted.
And now, after nearly four decades, the Celtics, Patriots and Red Sox can make another place at the championship table for a friend.