The Bruins won a record 65 games this year. I didn't watch any of them.
I know, I'm not supposed to admit that. How dare I work in sports and ignore history. It's not that I didn't follow the results or periodically fire up the three-minute highlight videos. I marveled at their success like everyone else ... just from a respectful distance.
I make no apologies for being a basketball guy in the winter, I've got a 13-year-old who's always hogging the TV but never wants to listen to Jack Edwards for some reason, and there are only so many hours in the day. I don't watch college sports, either, although I made an exception for Caitlin Clark like the rest of America.
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But the start of the NHL playoffs means one thing: It's bandwagon-jumping time! Scoot over, make room, because casual fans like me suddenly have opinions!
Such as ... what's the big deal about Linus Ullmark? Last I checked, he had never won a playoff game until the opener vs. the Panthers. Half the goals scored in Wednesday's disappointing 6-3 shellacking were S-O-F-T and I feel qualified to say, without equivocation, that it's time for Jeremy Swayman, whose last name is underlined squiggly red in Word because I have literally never typed it in my life. Adding to user dictionary now, just like a real fan!
I may be playing catch-up, but I'm a quick learner. For instance, David Pastrňák sure knows how to pull a disappearing act. He gave a terrible effort on Florida's first goal, and then he whiffed on an open net moments before the Panthers extended their lead to 4-2 in the third period. Is he gonna show up when it matters, or just pile up goals during the regular season while staying on the ice to shoot at empty nets, Felgah? Pasta, always coming up small ...
And for all I've heard about this great Bruins defense, I see Dmitry Orlov handing out turnovers like flyers for the local metal show, Hampus Lindholm consistently skating in molasses, and even the reliable Charlie McAvoy coughing up the puck for the game-clinching giveaway. It's time to bring back Matt Grzelcyk, who's somehow already in my spellcheck? No idea how that happened, but OK!
Of course, the Bruins aren't going anywhere without Patrice Bergeron, who never should've been allowed to wave to his family in Montreal during the season finale because now he's hurt again. You can thank everyone when you're in a home.
Bergeron is a link to an era when I watched the Bruins religiously. His rookie year marked Ted Donato's final season, and the Harvard product played in the early '90s with Cam Neely and Adam Oates and Ray Bourque and Reggie Lemelin, who's almost 70! Now those are my B's, even if they never sniffed a Cup.
Two games, and I'm already feeling up to speed. I wish the same could be said for Bruins coach Jim Montgomery, who desperately needs to make changes, but maybe the moment is just too big for him. His team looks tight and spooked by all this history. Why aren't they doing shots of maple whiskey between periods just to loosen things up? Why come this far and then suddenly ignore science?
I could also do without all the postgame shenanigans and tough-guy posing. You got your butts kicked, and yelling in the tunnels is weak sauce. Hockey people call it "getting chippy" and I'm as hockey as one of Ernie Shore's lumpy old sweaters, but of course Ernie Shore was a baseball player, and I definitely didn't need Wikipedia to tell me I meant Eddie Shore -- nice try thinking you could get me on that one.
If the Bruins bow out in the first round, it will be a disaster every bit as epic as their regular season records, but as a true hockey fan, I know the NHL playoffs are a crapshoot where anything can happen. Eights beat ones, sevens win it all; the greatest squad of all time bows out early.
Here's hoping it doesn't come to that. I'm really getting into this team.