They played for Martin.
And for Martin's mom and sister.
They played for Jeff.
And Sydney's mom
They played for everyone lost, injured and scarred on that ugly and vile Monday.
They played for their families.
They played for those who witnessed the horror first-hand, those who put their lives at risk to aid the injured and capture the bombers. They played for those who ran - all the way to Mass General and other hospitals to give blood and for those whose race was cut short.
They played for anyone harmed emotionally and physically for just being fans, for just being there.
They played for a city, a state and a region, and its people and fans, all of whom felt attacked, violated, scared, angry and confused on Patrtiots' Day 2013 thanks to the personification of evil.
On top of that incredible burden and responsibility, they also joined many others teams and athletes playing for 26 angels whose last day on this earth was at Sandy Hook Elementary school.
Don't take my words for it.
Just check out what Claude Julien said in the wake of Monday's crushing, bewildering, stunning, angst-filled, nut-busting, comparable-to-every-grand-Boston-collapse-ever 3-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.
“You know, at the end of the day, I think that’s what hurts the most is in the back of our minds. We wanted to do it for those kind of reasons, the City of Boston, what Newtown has been through, that kind of stuff,” Julien said afterward. "I think that's what's hard right now. It hit close to home, and the best way we felt we could try and cheer the area [up] was to win a Stanley Cup.”
The Bruins led 2-1 and were on their way to forcing a Game 7 Wednesday night before Bryan Bickell tied it with 76 seconds to play.
Fast forward through some bad defense. mental lapses. a championship push by Chicago.
The Bruins trailed 3-2 with 58.3 seconds to play.
It was 17.7 seconds of shock and awful that gave the Blackhawks the Stanley Cup and the Bruins their own unique place on the list of big time Boston losses. It was hockey's karmic answer to Boston's comeback - overcoming a 4-1 third-period deficit before beating the Maple Leafs 5-4 in OT - in Game 7 of the conference quarterfinals exactly six weeks earlier in the same building.
On a sports-choke analytic scale, this loss differs from Game 6 against the Mets in 1986, Game 7 against the Lakers in 2010 and Super Bowls XLII (David Tyree, 18-1 and all that) and XLVI (oopsie, Wes) because in each of those games, Boston watched as its team of choice let a championship slip away. The 2003 Grady Little Classic, Bucky F. Dent, the Red Sox Great Collapse of 2011 and Bruins Great Collapse of 2010 were also painful affairs of gag for sure.
The best team won Monday night. The best city did not. That's not a sore-loser's knock on Chicago, but rather simple pride in and praise of my hometown. (Close enough, I was born at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge.)
Monday night's loss was unique for all the right and wrong reasons. The defeat left the Bruins and their fans in disbelief. Those at TD Garden, for the most part, stuck around for a "Let's Go Bruins!" chant, if not the Cup ceremony. Those watching on TV either turned off the set, stomached the post-game or fired up the DVR to catch up on "Mad Men" or "Arrested Development."
On a small scale, the Bruins let themselves down Monday night. The gave away the game and the Blackhawks were more than willing to take it.
Lost opportunities were the theme of the night.
The Bruins went scoreless on four power plays over and fired 32 times at the net in the first 20 minutes of play. The next goal by Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin will be their first in this series. Overdue in Game 7.
Boston fans are used to watching teams win and lose big on the championship stage. That's what happens when you root for real teams in a real city. While the haters reveled in "another Boston choke" they missed the broader point that you don't get to lose so many championships unless you're good enough to play for them in the first place. Since "Varitek split the uprights" in Super Bowl XXXVI, Boston is 7-4 when there's a championship on the line.
11 title shots. 7 championships. Top that, anyone.
Summer hockey faded to the hockey summer. And as the days begin to get shorter again the sports calendar is starting to turn darker for Boston and its partisans. .
Let's go Red Sox - and get a closer, please.
Patriots open training camp a month from today. Tom Brady will be throwing the ball to Danny Amendola and five guys off the street. Gronk is recovering from back surgery, perhaps at the Bunny Ranch for all we know. There's that whole Aaron Hernandez thing. His attorneys came out swinging Monday night, railing against "a relentless flood of rumors, misinformation and false reports as the Bruins were fighting for their hockey lives.
Odin Lloyd, sadly, was never given the opportunity to fight for his.
Doc Rivers was headed West, to Hollywood's team - the Clippers. Insiders, experts and Celtics' apologists are wondering why fans would say "Doc quit on the Celtics." Well, it's because Doc quit on the Celtics, leaving town with 60 percent (3 years, $21 million) remaining on his deal. Ray Allen left Boston for his ring in South Beach with zero percent left on his deal. So did Johnny Damon, Adam Vinatieri and even Wade Boggs.
No one left the TD Garden Monday night.
Fate chose the Boston Bruins to be first team that had the honor of carrying the Boston Strong. It was at TD Garden where the masses first gathered publicly in the wake of the attacks, taking over National Anthem duties from Rene Rancourt. And it was the Bruins who first played, beating David Ortiz and Red Sox by about an hour, on that Saturday after Ortiz's "f--kin' city" was in lock-down.
Monday night, Jeff Bauman, who lost both his legs in Copley Square on Marathon Monday, stood up and walked using his prosthetics on the Garden ice's red carpet. He was helped by cowboy/hero Carlos Arredondo.
Standing strong, indeed.
It's little wonder Patrice Bergeron played Monday night with “a broken rib, a torn cartilage and muscles" and he suffered a separated shoulder during the game. Or how Gregory Campbell finished off a shift during a penalty kill on a broken leg against Pittsburgh. Or why Jaomir Jagr completed a Stanley Cup playoff run at the age of 134.
Remember that the next time Jacoby Ellsbury sits out a week with a sore groin, or Clay Buchholz hits the DL with a sore neck.
"The best way we felt we could try and cheer the area was to win a Stanley Cup," Julien said.
The would have been the best way, but it was not the only way. The Bruins "cheered the area" for two months after the Marathon bombings. They gave the victims' and their families the honor of being banner captains before each home game. They gave the rest of us a wonderful diversion and memorable way to stand together amid so much pain, anger and strife.
Win or lose.
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