BOSTON — A year ago, your Big Bad Boston Bruins deservedly basked in the limelight.
They played before a packed TD Garden almost every night. From October through April, they were as good and as tough — or so we thought — as any team in hockey. They finally put hockey back on the New England sports map.
They beat Montreal like a rented mule, sweeping the Canadiens in four. They opened the next series against unsung Carolina with a 4-1 plastering.
I remembered walking out of the TD Garden after that game thinking that Bruins team might be the best since Ray Bourque and Cam Neely were truly heading a Stanley Cup contender in the early 1990s.
Then came the thud. The Bruins lost three straight games to Carolina.
Sure, they came back to win the next two, rather convincingly (4-0 and 4-2), before rendering 18,000 rabid people speechless after the 3-2 overtime loss.
In retrospect, we were wrong. Dead wrong. The 2008-09 Bruins were good, at times very good, but they didn't deserve the adulation we gave them.
They weren't tough enough.
Fast forward to last night, when the Bruins battled through two overtimes to pull out a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres, taking a 3-1 lead in the series.
The team nobody has believed in, deservedly so, appears to finally get it.
These Bruins are the antithesis of the team Carolina sent to area golf courses.
"Right now, yeah, we're a pretty tough team," said Bruins right winger Mark Recchi. "We've had a lot of adversity and for about a month and half we've played pretty well. We've had to fight for everything we've gotten."
That's the word ... fight.
Sorry Stan Jonathan (in my top 10 all-time favorite Bruins), that doesn't mean fisticuffs. It means doing whatever it takes.