By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
Only hours after sending the Toronto Maple Leafs packing in another Game 7 defeat at the TD Garden on Tuesday night – for those of you who are counting, that is the third time in seven years such an occurrence has taken place – it is the Boston Bruins who find themselves the leader in the clubhouse when it comes to the odds on favorite to win the Stanley Cup this spring.
According to the handicapping website oddsshark.com, the team that calls the barn on Causeway Street home is currently the team that the wiseguys think has the best chance – that may change with the outcome of Wednesday night’s Game 7 result between the reigning champion Washington Capitals and the upstart Carolina Hurricanes in DC – and, by all rights, they should be.
Head coach Bruce Cassidy’s club has had a second consecutive remarkable run in the regular season – and was once again hampered by injuries throughout the 82-game slog – yet still managed to tie the recently departed Calgary Flames for the most points in the NHL with 107, some 21 points behind the Presidents Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning, who polished off their golf clubs after their first-round check out as well.
Let’s face it when the opening round of the NHL’s second season started a week and a half or so ago, many thought that the Bruins would make it past the Leafs in the toughest professional sports tournament to win in North America, only to be outclassed once again by the otherworldly Bolts.
I guess that’s why they play the games, eh?
No one across the hockey world saw the Columbus Blue Jackets – who clinched the last wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference in their second to last game of the season – whitewashing a team that tied the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings record for the most wins in a season with 62 and if they claim they did, they are lying.
In addition, the road in the East opened up a bit more when Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins were sent packing by the surprising New York Islanders in the first round and that the Caps could be cleaning out their lockers tomorrow morning as well, and the path to Lord Stanley’s beloved bowl now runs directly through Boston.
Throughout the season one word has encapsulated this Bruins team; resiliency. That was something that wasn’t lost with the bench boss following yet another win or go home victory by the Black and Gold.
“We have a lot of it,” said the guy who will likely be overlooked for Jack Adams Award (coach of the year) after another tremendous season. “We proved it during the year. We played with numerous people out of our lineup, numerous high-end players that we rely on. We plugged different people in. We used different people in this series. Steven Kampfer, Connor Clifton, I could go down. Different guys contributed.”
And now as they hold home-ice advantage for however long their season lasts heading into the second round matchup with the Blue Jackets, the Boston crowd – who was beyond raucous in Game 7 against Toronto – will now be a factor going forward for four of a possible seven games in any future matchups.
When asked about the atmosphere the team’s fans created on Tuesday, the man they call Butch was boastful.
“I loved the atmosphere in the building right from the get-go, Game 7. Every night here. Same in Toronto, I have to say,” said Cassidy. “A couple of loud buildings. Original 6 franchises, hungry, great fan support.
“Julian Edelman chugging a beer was awesome. Probably got everyone fired up including us. Good for him. We’ll return the favor at some point down the road, but I thought it was outstanding. That’s Game 7 playoff hockey for you right there.”
And that intensity will only ramp up with each win the home team posts on what is looking like it could be a considerable playoff run.
The Bruins are now the favorites to win the Stanley Cup and they should be. If they play like the team that they have become under Cassidy over these last two years, the three-month-long drought of duck boat tours in the city may just end come the last week of June.
And if that happens, something tells me that Julien Edelman won’t be the only Bruins fan who is chugging a Bud Light in Boston.