Saturday, June 18, 2011

Here's to you Boston

As a New Yorker, it's pretty hard to praise the enemy. Particularly when it comes to the guys in Northern Massachusetts with the funny yet cool accents. When it comes down to it, New York and Boston will always be rival cities, whose passion runs deep. Yankees/Red Sox, Knicks/Celtics, Rangers/Bruins and Jets/Patriots are bitter rivalries.

There's no love lost between sportsfans. You're either on one side or the other. Never both. Hell. Even Mets/Sahhxx remains fresh with '86 hero Gary Carter rushed to ER to a brain tumor last night. As a Yankee fan, I respected those Amazin's and even rooted for them when at the time I was a kid. Carter was a gritty leader who changed things for that team. Just ask Calvin Schiraldi about the resilient Kid that fateful October day. For Red Sox fans, it still irks even if they finally broke the Curse at our expense, going onto to win in '04 and '07.

Boston and New York don't mix. Oh. We've been to their fine city and enjoyed a game at illustrious Fenway Park (Pa-hk). I can still recall the heckles that poor Tigers outfielder got up in the bleachers next to the Green Monster (Mon-stah). Everything about that old ballpark is nostalgic. No matter what side you're on, it's worth making the trip. Along with a classic Trolley system, Quincy Market and some of the best seafood around, Massachusetts has its perks. And then there's that funky accent with fancy terms such as, 'Gahhhden and 'chowdah' resonate. If you're not 24/7 on the classic rivalries, you can actually appreciate what the enemy has to offer. We even visited the infamous Cheers, which of course I was too young to enter.

Aside from the Giants' recent Super Bowl upset of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick's Pats, we don't exactly have a leg to stand on when comparing our sports teams to theirs. They already double up the Yanks this century in world titles and New England still is three times better than both our pigskin teams, even if Gang Green had fans sick to their stomach last January. Basketball doesn't compare either. Even in a year the Knicks with Carmelo and A'mare get back in it, the Celts' Big Three (Four) took another Dolan club apart. Throw in their recent championship and it adds to a proud legacy as compared to still only two years when Willis Reed and Walt Frazier were ultimate heroes.

Now, you can add the Boston Bruins to the list after they dug out of a 2-0 hole and 3-2 to capture the Original Six franchise's fifth Stanley Cup over the Vancouver Canucks, who are still wondering what happened. Entering the Spring, Claude Julien's bunch were labeled as chokers thanks to the epic 3-0 meltdown last year at the expense of the Flyers. It wasn't exactly an easy climb to their first championship in 39 years ('72) when you guessed it, Bobby Orr skated the Cup at a then pretty new MSG with Dad looking on. Ironically, the Knicks' last NBA title was a year later with Clyde and Pearl making magic.

Sometimes, the impossible becomes possible. The '04 Red Sox are proof as are the '05 White Sox. I started to believe that this was the Flyers' year to finally win its first Cup since '75 before I existed. They had a strong team. However, injuries played a factor with Chris Pronger a shell and the goalie carnival that is Philly lore made a mockery of my original pick. Instead, the Bruins after a hard fought battle with bitter nemesis Montreal courtesy of Nathan Horton's heroics, dismantled the defending Conference champ in four straight. To say it was uncompetitive would be putting it mildly. They massacred the Flyers to get revenge but weren't done against the pesky Lightning, who proved more of a challenge for Tim Thomas.

Thomas is the very admirable 37 year-old veteran who lost his job to Tuukka Rask last year following his first Vezina. He even didn't get a sniff in Vancouver with Ryan Miller backstopping Team USA to silver sans Sidney Crosby's ultimate winner replayed over and over in Canada. One year, you're great and the next, you're done. A has been like Rocky after Clubber Lang pummeled him. You can either give up or come back stronger. Thomas is a fighter. He was an eight round pick, who looked like he'd never get a shot in North America. So, he went overseas to Finland and refined his skills. Following the lockout, the Bruins came calling. I never thought much of it when he was matching Henrik Lundqvist shot for shot until the shootout at TD Garden. Just figured he was a journeyman who'd eventually falter. Boy, was I wrong!

I am not ashamed to admit that Thomas is a better goalie than our King. He also plays a much more aggressive style, challenging shooters and even going Billie Smith on crease crashers like Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows. You want a turning point of the Cup Final? Reference either exhibit, which fired up teammates and fans as the B's tied the series by routing the 'Nucks 12-1. Sure. Vancouver played a splendid Game 5 outphysicaling Boston with Roberto Luongo sharp throughout, for his second shutout of the series. But that didn't matter much because the superhyped gold medalist had been a different goalie on the road. So, it was no surprise that the B's scored three times and chased him for the second instance in Beantown.

One thing that separated Thomas from Luongo was aside from style, one guy had little support. Even if he gave up several softies, including a pair in the deciding Game 7 that proved an epic fail for Vancouver in more ways than one sadly, where was the offense?!?!?!?! The Sedins may as well have been sharing the back of a milk carton with Marian Gaborik. Even Ryan Kesler through an injury, was hardly a factor, though he showed for the final game unlike his more gifted twin mates.

The Bruins were better, getting contributions throughout from pesky rookie Brad Marchand, forgotten '03 gem Patrice Bergeron, captain Zdeno Chara, ageless Mark Recchi, leading scorer David Krejci, powerhouse Milan Lucic, and underrated Dennis Seidenberg. This was a complete effort. Even team ornament Tomas Kaberle contributed along with adopted favorite Shawn Thornton, whose insertion sparked the B's.

Here's to you Boston! Cheers.


Hasan said...

Thomas may well have had one of the two best goalie performances in the playoffs along with Patrick Wah's OT bonanza in '93. Sometimes in sports the good guys do win after all, like Thomas and Chara for the Bruins or Dirk with the Mavs.

It's still hard to believe Boston outscored the Nucks 22-3 over the last five games. Just more proof that you don't start screwing around and looking to rub it in with cheapshots when you have a big lead in the series.

Derek Felix said...

The Canucks immaturity showed despite leading 2-zip. That Lapierre taunt of Bergeron woke up the B's and then you had Thomas hitting Henrik who was in the crease. Plus Burrows shenanigans. The Nucks were lucky to win three. Luongo actually was pretty good in those wins with offense at a premium. The Sedins really failed. How will the Canucks respond to such a heartbreaking defeat? They will lose a big D. Probably Ehrhoff, who I could see winding up in Detroit to fill Rafalski's gap.

Vancity must re-sign Bieksa, who is the glue of their blueline. Alberts and Salo also are unrestricted.

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