It’s safe to say Sabres fans all over were not disappointed to see the Bruins lose the Stanley Cup Finals in Game Six. There’s been no love lost between Buffalo and Boston since the Bruins eliminated the Sabres from the playoffs several years ago. The Bruins have been a force every year since then. Sabres fans have had to endure witnessing the suffering they have laid upon us. It’s fun to root against Boston, but not just because they reside in Buffalo’s division, and not just because of our history. It’s just fun to root against Boston because that’s the role they play in today’s league. Finally, we have a real villain team out there that’s good enough to be relevant and bad enough to always loathe.
Every time I watch the Boston Bruins succeed, I feel helpless watching a baby get trampled by a Lucic-ian stampede. And yet, it just felt right that this team was back, playing for the Cup. For being such a rough and tumble game, hockey has slowly distanced itself from the hit-a-thon bloodbaths of the 70s and 80s, and even earlier. Now, teams win with offense, tenacity and grace more often than not. Look at the top of the standings and you’ll see the teams with the most talent and firepower.
The Boston Bruins threw a wrench in all of that. Sure, they have lots of talent, but they don’t have a Sidney Crosby or a Jonathan Toews, or even a Patrick Kane. What they have are hulking monsters along their blue line who won’t hesitate to break a dude’s leg with a slash and a top six that can run with anyone as far as depth is concerned. They play the game nasty while maintaining a certain grace. They can win 1-0 or 6-5, and they always seem know what kind of game will be played early on. It felt like every Bruins playoff game this year was going to be a wild affair, save for those involving the New York Rangers, as is the case with any NHL game.
It felt like 2010 all over when the Bruins were allowed to mug Daniel Sedin at knifepoint while the referees tightened their laces on the bench. We watched it happen and we hated it. These Bruins went on to be champs? These big, hairy bullies? A villain has to win every now and then to really matter and that’s what the Bruins did. They won until you couldn’t ignore them, then they won some more so you couldn’t help but be impressed.
That’s what makes this year’s Cup Finals such a great story. After clawing their way back against Detroit while Boston brushed off the Penguins with hardly a worry, it seemed like the Chicago Blackhawks might be in some trouble after one of the best regular seasons in recent memory. The big, bad Bruins were playing downhill hockey and the refs were pocketing their whistles while they did it. After Game 3, it felt like a sick certainty that the Cup would go to the boys in black and gold.
Then a funny thing happened. The Hawks hunkered down and played like Rocky finding a second wind just in time to take down Mr. T. With an ending straight from the movies, the Hawks swooped in late with two goals to steal Game 6 and the Cup, and the storybook ending came to a close for our favorite villains. When the Bruins did fall, did we cheered extra? Not because we want to root for failure. That’s a sad thing to always root for in sports, and usually an unfulfilling one. No, we cheered because the good guys won. Because all year we had this Bane-esque figure tearing through the Eastern Conference, making us all wonder what a world would be like in which Boston sports fans had even more cause to be obnoxious. We were saved from that, but much like the ending of a movie with a certain sequel to come, we know the villains will be back. We know they’ll be as bad as ever, and we know that next year they’ll have a bit of a chip on their shoulder. And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Cory Buck is an NHL writer for Sabre Noise. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @TheBuckMopsHere.