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Colageo: Boston Bruins Earn their Breather



Boston Bruins

At 31-9-9, the Boston Bruins have a week to decompress.

They punctuated their work with a convincing, 6-2 victory in Philadelphia after the Flyers celebrated a player very important to the Bruins’ 2011 Stanley Cup championship.

Yes, it’s only the All-Star break and, yes, the playoffs are the second season and, yes, a half dozen other teams have a shot at the Stanley Cup.

Who knew: 49 games in, the Boston Bruins are the only team in the NHL with fewer than 10 regulation losses (9).

The Bruins, minus Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Taylor Hall, Dmitry Orlov, Tyler Bertuzzi, Tomas Nosek, Connor Clifton and Garnet Hathaway, have a shot at this thing.

The Edmonton Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch (26-6-0) have won 16 in a row and will try on Feb. 6 to match the 1992-93 Mario Penguins’ record 17 straight. But the only team keeping pace with the Boston Bruins is the Vancouver Canucks (33-11-5) … what if … could you imagine?

For the second straight winter, the Bruins and Celtics are at the top of their leagues at the same time. But only once in their history have they gone to their respective championship series the same spring (1974). Fifty years later, it would be a ton of fun if it happened again.

I resolve to take it all in and enjoy the heck out of it.

Not the part about the Patriots and the Red Sox becoming also-rans in New England. I mean God bless Jerod Mayo and I hope it works out, but I’m not holding my breath, are you?

I did catch the end of the Penguins-Panthers game Friday night, and when they broke to a commercial it was the same outro music that NESN uses for the Bruins. I guess that’s my way of saying things have gotten really weird over at Fenway Sports Group.

That’s not to say I take pleasure in their plight, but it’s been somewhat twisted watching the first 20 years of the 21st century spoil a generation of New England fans rotten. Now they generally cannot appreciate how good they’ve had it.

Early in this 20-year frame, I noticed there are now people with gray hair who have never changed a tire much less a water pump, then noticed the people in their 30s who have never held a newspaper. Now we can add another one: There are fans in their 30s who had never seen the Patriots or Red Sox like this – until now.

I frankly never got used to all the winning: 1967, 1975, ’78 and, of course, ’86, were how we identified as 20th century Red Sox fans. So what just happened over a 15-year period from 2003 to 2018 still feels like a dream.

Now the owner that brought the pennants is trying to recreate the Billy Bean Athletics to maximize the profits from his cash-cow ballpark.

The Patriots? As a kid, I had the promotional poster and collected my Coca-Cola bottle caps with the players’ faces on the inside (Bob Dee and Jim Nance come to mind).

Alas, I never got to see them at Fenway, but Foxboro was five minutes down Route 1. My friend had an idea for me to draw maps we would sell to commuters desperate to escape the 3-mile backup. In high school, I sold hotdogs in the new (old) Schaefer Stadium. In ’86, I won a package of bear meat in a radio contest before the Patriots got obliterated by Chicago. I actually covered the Pats when Victor Kiam owned the team and, later, when Pete Carroll was coach.

When Adam Vinatieri’s kick went through against the Rams, I was flabbergasted and thrilled, especially for Gino Cappelletti (my favorite Boston Patriot) and the great radio voice, Gil Santos.

For the last 20 years, I have simply enjoyed not reporting on these teams and just enjoying the games.

The world is changing fast, and the fact I am clueless as to what changes next and how does not obscure how fantasy leagues prepared the way for the sports-betting sponsorships that now dominate game telecasts.

I’m glad I got in on sports long enough ago to not get caught up in any of this. Finally seeing the Pats and Sox win was fun. Seeing them win as much as they did was scary because I knew this day was coming.

Speaking of fantasy sports and gambling, Tyler Toffoli’s goal last night only interests me because it came with 2:38 remaining and cut Tampa’s lead to one. The fact Toffoli at age 31 is still clutch and playing on an expiring contract means Cup contenders will pursue his services at the deadline.

Those in my generation have seen a lot of bad seasons, so it’s only natural when you’re older to better appreciate a good season even if it doesn’t end well. Last year the Boston Bruins obviously had the mother of all good seasons that don’t end well.

What about now?

From this vantage point, the Boston Bruins season of centennial celebrations is a Cup half full, and at the same time it would be nice to see the fans from the 2011 season-ticket waiting list get a taste of glory.

It would also be nice for them to see tangible proof that there is life after Patrice Bergeron, just like he proved there was life after Ray Bourque, who proved there was life after Brad Park, who … you see where this is going (or to whom).

In the meantime, we remain an embarrassment of riches that, for the younger generation, are upside down. Ironically, it’s more familiar to an older generation used to seeing the Pats and the Sox stink and the Bruins and the Celtics in the hunt like they were 50 years ago.

I’ve learned not to ask for any more than that, but I fear we’re now populated by brats spoiled by Brady, Brown, Bruschi, Seymour and Slater, and Papi, Pedro, Papelbon, Betts and Bogaerts. Dynasties have bred a region of consumers who cannot assign value to any journey that doesn’t follow a parade route.

It’s simply unthinkable to me that this is what we’ve become, but the shoe fits, these clown shoes in a not-so-funny mirror.

Please, New England, appreciate what you have because it’s not permanent and it’s not by right.

The last two nights we were treated to two tremendous, college hockey games. Boston College swept an electric home-and-home with Boston University and somehow might not flip their 1-2 national ranking (BU on top going into the weekend).

If the Eagles can beat the Terriers a third straight time when the teams meet in their February 5, Beanpot semifinal at TD Garden, then look no further for the difference between these Hockey East elites than Jacob Fowler.

And, if you’re looking for a black cloud inside the silver lining of this glorious edition of the Battle of Comm. Ave., then look no further than last year’s NHL Draft, in which Fowler was chosen in the third round by … drum-roll please … the Montreal Canadiens.

Speaking of Brendan Gallagher, his imitation of My Cousin Vinny leaping to land a knockout blow (on NYI defenseman Adam Pelech) was very disappointing. Five games was not enough.

The question keeps coming up, so here goes: No matter what the Boston Bruins think of their postseason prospects at the trade deadline, it makes sense here to part with the players they will lose this summer (intentionally or not).

So, yes, at the very least trade Linus Ullmark, Jake DeBrusk and Matt Grzelcyk at the March 8 deadline. The opportunity may be there to get back into the draft or, even better, acquire a key player or two that will help trend the Bruins toward the more physical game demanded by the playoffs.

As the great Cap Raeder would remind us on Level 9 when he scouted for the Sharks, “don’t fall in love with your players!”

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