For most of the 2008-09 season one of the top items for discussion had been the rebirth of the Boston Bruins, the B's were back, as big as ever, somewhat meaner than the last few seasons and quite a bit further up the standings than the fans might remember over the last few years.
As the Bruins dominated the east for the majority of the season much was made about their quest to wrestle some of the headlines from the Patriots, Red Sox and Celtic, all of whom have been the Big Boston story at one time or another over the last number of years. The Bruins had fallen precipitously off the radar, visible only to their heartiest of fans.
But as the season began in September, it quickly became clear that this was going to be a different year, the Bruins could score, the Bruins could hit and the wins began to pile up, ancient rivals were handled with little trouble and the prospect of a Stanley Cup final for the Northeast seemed as sure a bet as a midnight ride with Paul Revere once was.
But, all good stories must eventually come to an end, and for the Bruins that ending came two rounds too early. That after a surprisingly stubborn Carolina Hurricanes squad refused to just fade out of the playoffs as everyone thought they would. Instead, the number six seed, sent the number one team in the East packing, off to the golf courses, summer cabins and European vacations that beckon.
The Canes who first tackled the Devils, found that the Bruins weren't the all powerful juggernaut that everyone had said. Paul Maurice, who took over the Canes earlier this year, has found a way to keep the team believing in itself, Maurice has game by game in these playoffs continued to show that of all the problems in Toronto, coaching probably wasn't one of them. His stewardship of the Canes has been rewarded with a dedication to the game plan, a consistent effort and some spectacular moments from key players, the most important of course being Cam Ward's remarkable focus on shutting down the opposition attack.
Ward frustrated the Bruins to no end, Boston quickly fell to flirting with danger, going down 3-1 at one point in the series before battling back to force the game seven showdown of Thursday night.
While the Bruins at one point in that final game looked set to take charge and move on with their plans for Stanley Cup domination, the Canes just kept at the play of the game at hand, chipping away at the Bruin lead of the first, taking control of the second and then and eventually coming out on top with a Game seven Overtime victory, old stuff for Carolina that is, they took much the same route in the first series advancing after a game seven victory on the road.
It seems to be the nature of the team and perhaps the leadership of their coach, that those nerve wracking game seven showdowns just don't seem to be all that disturbing for Carolina. In fact, it seems that the team thrives on the pressure, unwilling to allow it to deter them from their goal.
For Boston the season was one of great achievement, the team was once again the talk of the sports talk shows, one of the featured items in the city's newspapers and going to the rink to see a game didn't mean feeling very lonely.
The Bruins will build on their success this year and take notes on what went wrong and where they need to improve.
The Canes however, still have work to do, another tough series beckons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, a squad that also likes the drama of a Game Seven showdown, they may not have been the logical choices for an Eastern Final, but something tells us that we won't be disappointed when it all gets underway on Monday.
Globe and Mail-- Hurricanes show playoff staying power
Globe and Mail-- Bruins forced to look ahead
Globe and Mail-- 'Canes finish Bruins in overtime
National Post-- Bruins enjoyed 'a good ride' this year
Boston Globe-- The puck stops ... for now
Boston Globe-- Black and Golden opportunity was lost
Boston Globe-- Poor start led to Bruins' early finish
Boston Globe-- Over and out
Boston Herald-- Bruins left searching
Boston Herald-- Not quite ready for prime time
Boston Herald-- Hurricanes prove mettle
Raleigh News and Observer-- Cardiac Canes pull off overtime win
Raleigh News and Observer-- One playoff goal, one playoff hero