BOSTON — The Bruins stared into the abyss Monday night. They were at home, facing a team on the verge of winning the Stanley Cup.
The Blackhawks were the NHL’s best team in the regular season, and proved to be the best in the playoffs, too, winning their second Cup in four years with a stunning 3-2 victory at TD Garden.
Chicago trailed 2-1, but rallied for two goals in 17 seconds to hoist the Cup on Boston ice.
Boston was trying to stay alive as one of its best players, Patrice Bergeron, gamely returned after missing the third period of Game 5 Saturday night in Chicago because of an injury.
Stop me if you’ve heard this all before. Because you have.
Substitute the word Canucks for Blackhawks and it’s a similar situation before Game 6 of the 2010-2011 Stanley Cup finals.
Vancouver won the President’s Trophy with the best record in the regular season, came to Boston for the final game of the year at TD Garden one win away from the Cup, and were facing a Bruins team that had lost Nathan Horton to a concussion.
Norton’s final act of that memorable run to the Cup was to pour a little Boston water onto the ice in Vancouver to bring a little hometown magic on the road.
It worked, and the Bruins hoisted the Cup on the road some three hours later.
Returning to the Stanley Cup finals for the second time in three years makes us realize how special this current group of Bruins is. Yes, special – even as the mind-boggling loss on Monday night sinks in.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Bruins were the fourth-most popular team in town. It wasn’t even close.
As recently as five seasons ago hockey was an afterthought in a city basking in the afterglow of Super Bowls, World Series and NBA finals success.
Now, everyone’s a “hockey guy” in Boston.
Sports talk-radio stations, which held open disdain for hockey just a few years ago, line up experts to shed a little light on the team – and to add a little legitimacy to their hockey coverage.
These are also the shows that call for Claude Julien’s dismissal every few months, and say Tyler Seguin will never be an NHL star.
That’s 21-year old Seguin, who is younger than half of the players on the University of Maine roster.
Losing to the Blackhawks will fire up those discussions again.
For Boston, close is no longer good enough.
We live in a time where all of Boston’s teams are held to championship standards. (Good luck to the new Celtics coach.)
The man who replaces Doc Rivers inherits a rebuilding project – and fans will give him about two months to get that rebuilding done.
Yet the future looks great for the Bruins.
Tuukka Rask has proven to be as much of a big-game goalie as his predecessor, Tim Thomas.
The best years of a great career are still ahead of Seguin.
Torey Krug and Dan Bartkowski have shown that young legs are ready to step in and rejuvenate an aging defensive core.
And that doesn’t include Dougie Hamilton, who celebrated his 20th birthday last week and is going to be a big-time presence on the blue line in the years to come.
The Bruins aren’t going away any time soon.
Cam Neely and Peter Chiarelli have built a foundation that will keep this team contending for a good long time.
And that means Boston fans and sports media will be talking about this team for years to come.
Unfortunately, that conversation will be put on hold until camp opens in October.
Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on the New England Sports Network. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.