There’s no masking it for the Boston Bruins.
Not now during the pandemic of 2020. Not then during the pandemonium of 2019 (pictured above). And not way-back-when, panning back to the mid 70’s, late 80’s, early 90’s and forgettable “00” oughts (when the team was often panned).
When it comes to playoff performance, the B’s have only ever hit their “peak” twice since 1970 — first in 1972 as a followup to the historic Orr-in-Four Cup run. And then once more in 2011 when this current Bruins core was in its prime.
So, how is it that Boston teams within these past fifty years of Hub Hockey are always primed for playoff success, yet rarely ever achieve it (and you best “B”-lieve I’m talking about the ultimate playoff success of winning the Stanley Cup; none of these “learning moment” milestones)?
You could blame it on the coaching over that timespan — everyone from Harry Sinden to Bruce Cassidy with the likes of Don Cherry, Gerry Cheevers, Terry O’Reilly, Mike Milbury and Claude Julien in-between to name a few B’s bench bosses.
BUT… many are HHOF-caliber coaches (if not Jack Adams Award-winners like the recently-lauded Cassidy) and most, if not all, got the Bruins to the Cup Finals once or twice (including Julien who was a part of the aforementioned celebratory ’11 success).
Then how about ownership and management? Surely the B’s brass and money men should shoulder the load of early playoff exits and late-round collapses over the last half-century, especially when they bungled so many trade deadlines and salary caps (finger-pointing at you Monsieurs Sinden & Chiarelli)!
THEN AGAIN, the B’s nearly did win three more Stanley Cups under their leadership (’88, ’90 and ’13) with less-tenured GM’s like Mike O’Connell and Don Sweeney also making near-Cup-winning runs (and yes, the pre-lockout ’04 Bruins team was one of the best I’ve seen). So it can’t be that, can it?
Let’s lay the blame on the players then! If you’ve got perennial All-Stars, top scorers, elite defenders and Vezina-worthy goaltenders with names like Orr & Espo / Moog & Lemelin / Bourque & Neely / Bergy, Marchy & Big Z … then there’s no way your team can turn up more L’s than W’s in big games, important moments and clinching finales, right?
Unfortunately, wrong (with uncomfortable attention payed to the ill-fated “Too Many Men on the Ice Game” of 1979, the “Lights Out at the Garden Game” of 1988, the gut-wrenching “Game 7 OT Oopses” of 2009 & 2012, and the “Must-Win Home Heartbreaks” of 1971, 1982, 1993, 1998, 2004, 2010, 2013 and most recently 2019).
YET, we all understand no team can win every year (unless of course you’re the Canadiens, Islanders or Oilers of your era) and that the Bruins did have their fair share of more-than-memorable comebacks, OT thrillers and series victories that truly felt like winning the Cup. And why most were against the Toronto Maple Leafs will always be a point never worth questioning but always worth smiling about!
SO, how can we truly knock our fan favorites, our boys who always bleed Black N’ Gold no matter the jersey, just because some years they come up short of that all-too-familiar ultimate goal?
Because… and I hate to say it since I’m so often guilty of it… it’s easy and we’re used to it; sure as hell more used to it than seeing the B’s win, close it out, move on and hoist the Cup. In fact, in my Reagan Era-born lifetime alone, I’ve now watched four other celebrations where Lord Stanley’s coveted chalice was kept from my beloved Bruins. Add in my father, it’s seven disappointments. Add in my late grandfather, it’s twelve!
SURE, there were a few parades in Boston during that stretch (only six altogether) but not enough to cover up the almosts, the could-have-beens, the this-was-ours moments that were missed. There will never be enough of those for Bruins fans.
And that’s okay. We want to win. We love to win. We expect to win, especially in the 21st-century now dubbed the “Boston Sports Dynasty” years. But until we win again… playing the blame game and panning our team is something we’ll continue to do.
Because, like the B’s coming up short against the Lightning (add the years 2018 and 2020 to the growing list of game-related gripes), we’re good at it. Always have been. Always will be.
There’s no masking it in Boston.