On Monday night, I witnessed one heck of a game, probably the best win I’ve ever witnessed hands on. As one of two representatives of the MFHL (along with my father) I was in attendance to accept a check of $4,000 for league expenses granted by the Boston Bruins Foundation at a ceremony in the Celtics’ Courtside Club. After becoming reacquainted with Bruins alumni Tom Songin and Bob Sweeney (both of whom I’d met the previous season at another Toronto game of which I was a V.I.P. guest), we headed to the elevator to go up top to the Luxury Suites. Knowing the Legends’ Box was about 50 feet away, Padre and I made a plan for me to head down there in between periods for the sake of collecting signatures. I went through the same process last year and knew if I held out the check it would pay off.
The first period more or less came and went. Nothing really interesting occurred aside from some athletic saves by both Tuukka Rask and Toronto’s James Reimer (including a lucky skate blade stop by Reimer just a few minutes in). Score at the end of the first: 0-0
In between the 1st and 2nd, I stopped by the alumni box and was invited in by Winchester native and former B’s winger John Carter, who used to moonlight as a comic book hero (insert rimshot here). My check was signed by several retired players and I was formally introduced to the Chief himself, Johnny Bucyk. In one of the most awe-inspiring moments of my eighteen years, I got a second copy of the legend’s autograph and shook his hand. After a dull first 20 minutes, this would exhilarate me for the rest of the night.
Things didn’t exactly start off wonderfully in the second. Fill-in defenceman Aaron Johnson was called for interference 20 seconds in, capitalized on by a Toronto power play goal by Joffrey Lopul and followed by a breakaway score by Nikolai Kulemin approximately six minutes later. Though the Bruins were only able to half the deficit in the second by virtue of Milan Lucic’s first goal in 15 games shortly before the halfway point, it was clear the Black and Gold were back in the swing of things by the time the 20 minutes ended. The blueliners were showing their physicality, with rookie Dougie Hamilton banging bodies and providing empirical evidence for what the scouting reports said. Things looked optimistic going into the third, and the home crowd would not go home disappointed (especially after the boys returning from a weak 1-3-0 road trip).
Coach Claude Julien has always been considered a mad genius since he first became bench boss on Causeway Street, but better that than Nutty Professor. In his defense, the lines did need to be experimented with a bit because what they had was not working at the time. By the time the third period had rolled around, however, the Bergeron-Marchand-Seguin and Krejci-Lucic-Horton lines were reunited, perhaps due in part to Looch finding his touch again. This metamorphosis back to a more familiar configuration paid off, as Bergeron (who finally had a tally on the score sheet after working hard all game in all three zones, doing the subtle things he does so well) tied the game 10:36 in on a great set-up from Hamilton. Footing had been re-established and the machine was working again. All cylinders were firing. Regulation ended in a tie and the 5 minute overtime brought no victor, either. It was up to the post ’04-’05 lockout invention of the shootout to decide who left the ice with the spoils.
Tyler Seguin led things off with a nice top-corner score. Up first for Toronto was Tyler Bozak, who put it past Rask to tie things up, but this was followed only by Bergy playing clutch as he always does. This turned out to be the only cushion that Rask needed, because “Tuukk” stopped both Nazem Kudri and Khulemin to wrap things up in spite of Brad “Honey Badger” Marchand being denied by Reimer. The Bruins were triumphant in a game that my father described as “maybe the best Bruins win” he’d ever seen in person.
While putting myself up for the night at home (and by that I mean desperately searching for my chapstick under my bed looking like an idiot before putting my Dougie poster I got for free up on the wall and turning in), Dad opened the door, and instead of saying a normal good night or quoting his father by saying, “Sleep fast”, he ended our day by saying these 10 simple words in recognition of how much an athlete can achieve by doing all the little things – “Patrice Bergeron. What a great hockey player. End of story.” Basic, but poignant and accurate. That being said, what else can you say?