By Darren Eliot
April 21, 2008

Coming off Saturday night's rousing 5-4 victory that forced Game 7 in Montreal on Monday night, the Boston Bruins gave me much to consider. After all, here you have a team that lost 10 straight times to the Canadiens and now has found a way to win three of four and sits poised to come back from a 3-1 series deficit for the first time in franchise history.

In case you chronicle such things, the Bruins are 0-20 in series in which they trailed by such a margin. The storied Habs are 26-0 all-time when up 3-1. In fact, the Canadiens are the last team to erase such a deficit, storming all the way back against -- you guessed it -- the Bruins in 2004. Adding to the buildup, that Canadiens team had current Bruins coach Claude Julien at the helm -- as if Game 7's don't have enough inherent intrigue.

No doubt the scene in Montreal was going to be taut. The locals love their team, but their passion turns pessimistic quickly when things don't go smoothly. For the record, things did not go the way the Habs or their fans envisioned after their 3-1 lead was forged. The Canadiens surrendered four goals in each of the last two third periods while they had a chance to close out the Bruins. They headed into the third period of Game 5 on home ice tied 1-1 only to lose 5-1, and had the lead 2-1 with 20 minutes to play, only to succumb 5-4 in as wild and entertaining a period of hockey as you'll ever see.

And let me tell you, Bruins fans were euphoric. I covered the game for Versus and had not only the honor of calling the action, but the chance to witness the fans' response firsthand. Simply spinetingling. It was by far the loudest, most engaged Bruins audience I've witnessed since the team moved from the Boston Garden. Outside the building after the game, thousands of fans were walking the streets cheering and chanting "Bruins, Bruins, Bruins" in unison, making for a scene that indicated this edition of the B's is officially forging a presence on the local sports scene.

Now, hockey is a vibrant sport in the Boston area, but the Bruins' relevancy in a market that adores the Patriots and Red Sox and is caught up in Celtics pride has been an elusive matter for years. Was this a one-night love affair with the elements perfectly aligned -- the game, the outcome and the balmy spring air --creating a sporting event utopia? Possibly, but there just seemed to me to be more at work here, a palpable connection that has long been dormant.

This fan base seems to identify with this collection of players, especially the young core group of Milan Lucic, Phil Kessel, David Krejci and Vladimir Sobotka. The team's workmanlike approach under Julien, backed by the acrobatics of journeyman yet All-Star goaltender Tim Thomas and fortified by a physical bent led by captain Zdeno Chara, gives this generation of Bruins fans something they didn't have in recent years -- hope: Hope that these guys will be here for the foreseeable future and hope that the young ones will continue to grow and play their hearts out in a rollicking style that Bruins fans have always favored.

Of course, there was the hope that this season would miraculously continue past Game 7and on into the Conference semi-finals. It wasn't to be, but what the Bruins accomplished this season is noteworthy as well as a hopeful sign of much better things to come.

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