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Lofty expectations have the Bruins on the brink of greatness

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  June 11, 2013 09:59 AM

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You want the Pittsburgh sweep to mean something? Really mean something?

It begins in Chicago. It ends in the Back Bay with amphibious touring vehicles.

The historic beatdown of the Penguins will linger as a blip in Boston sports history, a moment that will go uncherished despite its significance, if the Bruins don’t find a way to beat the Chicago Blackhawks and win their second Stanley Cup in three years. The series will be a footnote on par with the Patriots’ win over the Chargers in the 2007 AFC title game. It would be like the 2004 Red Sox losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series after the comeback against the Yankees: Incomplete. Unfulfilling.

The improbable comeback against the Maple Leafs. The thorough domination of an offensive squad seen once in a generation. The Jarome Iginla storyline and beating Matt Cooke, it will all go down as a forgotten memory if Zdeno Chara doesn’t hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup by the end of this month. May-June, 2013 will be relegated to nothing more than a fun ride and the electricity that filled this city two years back will be little more than a lost possibility on the horizon of Illinois.

Despite the fact that the Bruins are Dante Hicks from “Clerks” in that they’re not supposed to be here today, the failure to capture the prize will result in disappointment. Had they simply lost to the Penguins in fighting fashion, we wouldn’t have this discussion. But now, well, they’ve upped the ante. We can argue whether or not they should beat the Blackhawks beginning Wednesday night at the United Center, but isn’t it clear that now they need to?

Ok, OK, so it’s not like this edition of the Bruins will be labeled choke-artists if they can’t accomplish the job. It’s clear after the miracle win in Game 7 against Toronto and the way they handled themselves against the Penguins that they are indeed nothing of the sort, a reputation they truly took care of in the wake of the 2010 collapse and the 2011 victory, but still an identity that remained a question following what happened against the Capitals in 2012.

Life, of course, will go on if the parade is Midwest-bound. But the Bruins, these Bruins, will have failed to remain in the argument of the best hockey team in Boston history.

That is a debate that seemed foolhardy in early May when this team came off an uneven end to the shortened 2013 campaign. It wasn’t exactly a huge stretch (despite relentless arguments to the contrary) to predict the Bruins falling to the Leafs in the first round. It came 10 minutes away from happening. Instead, we have “Bergeron! Bergeron!” and another trip to the final. Tuukka Rask can officially put the Flyers behind him. Claude Julien can finally re-up for another year of Field and Stream at his current address. Jeremy Jacobs can raise beer prices without having a revolution on his hands.

But clearly, there’s more at stake than concessions. Well, for everyone except the Jacobs at least.

Julien can go from embattled head of state to the greatest coach in Bruins history with a series win over Chicago, a classification that would have had you committed six weeks ago should you have suggested it. Peter Chiarelli could become the most sought-after general manager in the NHL after what he’s constructed here in Boston. The Bruins can join the Red Sox and Patriots as multiple winners in this decade-plus of magic and party streamers, and make their mark as something as close to a dynasty as the NHL has seen in years.

The Boston Bruins, the franchise that went a decade in between playoff series victories, have a chance to become the model franchise in the league. Sorry, Montreal. Apologies, Vancouver.

The new way of doing business in the NHL has been dictated by Claude Julien and the Boston Bruins. Pinch me.

But they still have to beat the Blackhawks. History and the way this team is remembered is at stake.

The mission begins Wednesday. The parade should be within a fortnight. Please plan accordingly.

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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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