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Keep the Cup backstage

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  June 24, 2013 01:56 PM

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The Cup is in Boston, and you don’t want to see it.

What a tease.

Oh, what an evening it might have been in the Hub Monday night were the Bruins able to parade the ice at the TD Garden, lofting Lord Stanley’s Cup in the direction of the rafters once thought long overdue for a new banner of any sort, hanging onto the memories provided by its long-lost predecessor. The Shawmut/FleetCenter-naming rights contest building-TD Garden has, of course, witnessed one of its inhabitants, the Celtics in 2008, have a party on the parquet floor, but it has yet to bask in the glow of freshly-polished silver bearing the names of six former Boston beloveds.

It won’t Monday night either, a possibility that evaporated during the Bruins’ uneven, no, lackluster effort during Saturday’s Game 5, 2-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, who now lead this Stanley Cup finals series, 3-2, and can win the title with a win in Boston. Neat.

Six months after the Baltimore Ravens touted the Lamar Hunt trophy as NFL AFC Champs in Gillette Stadium, en route to winning the Super Bowl, another team could come to New England Monday night and thumb its noses in the ultimate prize. This year was the first time an AFC opponent had come into Foxborough for the AFC title game and celebrated, and of course, the Edmonton Oilers celebrated their 1990 Stanley Cup championship here in 1990, but Boston has, for the most part, been a relative cold-bed for watching others party over the years.

The fact that it could be tonight, in the elimination game of a series the Bruins thought they might have control of, is sobering. It will be the final game of the season at the New Garden, regardless of outcome, awaiting a summer of transition for its basketball tenants, a light slate of concerts, and decisions to be made for the hockey team in terms of long-term contracts (Tuukka Rask) and free agency goodbyes (Nathan Horton).

Despite the heat wave that has enveloped Boston (oh, hello, late June), the NHL still has a potential three days on its active calendar, and the Bruins will be damned if they’re going to cut that down to one. If Patrice Bergeron can, in fact, play Game 6 (and signs point to that happening), the Bruins have a fighting chance against a Blackhawks team that has seemingly been invigorated ever since Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were reunited.

The Bruins and Blackhawks have been even every game until Game 5, dominated by the Blackhawks, despite the 2-1 final. If Bruins fans were boisterous and feeling OK after a triple overtime loss and a Sega-like Game 4, Saturday had to give some pause. It was the first time Chicago looked like it was ready to take control of the series.

You can chalk it up to losing Bergeron midway through the second period, but the Bruins we saw Saturday night lacked less spark than a submerged rock. If that same team shows up Monday, the Garden is going to see something it can’t bear. Nothing against the Blackhawks, who have been every bit the challenge the Bruins expected on the ice without the diva drama witnessed two years ago with the Canucks, but you’re going to have to win it in front of your fans. I know, sorry.

Not much of this roster has changed from Vancouver. It’s virtually identical to the one that beat Toronto in a Game 7 for the ages a few weeks back. You talk about having faith in a team, these Bruins have delivered on that premise time and time again. Why not two more nights?

Yes, Saturday night was awful. That team won’t win.

Monday is a new day, and one that has the Bruins on the two-game cusp of winning their second Stanley Cup in three seasons. Win one, it’s all even. Win two, Boston parties through the weekend.

It’s that easy, right?

If the season ends tonight, it was a good run, one vindicated by the way the Bruins miraculously finished off Toronto and buzzed through New York and Pittsburgh, a performance Bruins fans hoped would come, but one that seems foolhardy after the way the team limped through its final slate of games in the regular season. Lockout? Hockey and the Bruins remain as strong as ever in Boston, as if that were really in question this time around.

But eulogies are a lot more fun when they’re accompanied by hardware. Win one. Just win one.

Then everyone can get greedy about two. We’ll see the Cup in Chicago, one way or another.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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