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Bob Ryan

A real crowd-pleaser

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By Bob Ryan
Globe Columnist / October 22, 2010

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Enough’s enough, you know?

You’d have to be 43 years old, minimum, to have any viable recollection of a Boston Bruin skating around with the Stanley Cup. The last time anyone saw such a thing was May 11, 1972, in case you’re wondering.

We’ve had six parades celebrating major American sports championships in the new century. We’ve had three for the Patriots, two for the Red Sox, and one for the Celtics. The Bruins? Nope, nuthin’. Not even close. In fact, the last time we saw them they were making fascinating negative history, not only blowing a 3-0 series lead over the Flyers, but also blowing a 3-0 lead in Game 7.

At home.

But, by God, hope springeth eternal in the hearts of loyal Bruins fans. As bruised and abused as they’ve been during the Jacobs family stewardship, you’d have thought the debacle of last spring would have been the proverbial last straw, that when the new season dawned TD Garden would be half-full, or something like that.

Wrong again. It’s like nothing ever happened. The atmosphere at last night’s belated home opener against the Washington Capitals — the Bruins were the last team in the league not to have played at home — was absolutely festive. There was a Fanfest gala in the parking lot before the game, there was a smoke machine-aided introduction of the home team, and there was even a national anthem delivered by Aerosmith legend (and self-proclaimed Bruins fan) Steven Tyler, about which we can only say it’s very fortunate for Mr. Tyler that Simon Cowell wasn’t in the house to deliver a critique. But his exuberant rendition did have heart, if nothing else

There was a full house of 17,565, and they were treated to a rousing hockey game. The Bruins won it, 4-1, and there but for an “oops’’ moment by goaltender Tim Thomas it would have been a shutout. But whitewash or not, it was, by any measure, an impressive performance by a team that has rebounded from a desultory opening game in Prague against the Phoenix Coyotes to win its last four games. If they were to keep playing like this, well, anything can happen, even a spring parade for the Boston Bruins.

That may be getting a wee bit ahead of the story, but there’s no denying the fact that the Bruins have played four good hockey games in succession.

And the way captain Zdeno Chara talked, the Bruins were more impressed with the crowd than they crowd was with them.

“It just shows we have such passionate fans, such good supporters,’’ he said. “For sure, thanks for coming, it was an awesome opening night. And I’m sure they really enjoyed the hockey game . . . For sure, we want to give it to them back, you know? The best way to give them back is winning the game.’’

Bruin after Bruin talked about the way the team is getting meaningful contributions from all four lines and all six defensemen, but in this game one thing never changes: It all starts with the guy in the net. If he’s on top of his game, the team confidence starts to flow from man to man. And right now, Thomas is flashing that 2008-09 Vezina Trophy form.

Fortunately, he could laugh about his slip-up, the one that kept him from posting a shutout.

The Bruins were leading, 3-0, and the game was entering cruise control when Thomas’s attempt to clear the puck wound up on the stick of Jason Chimera, who basically had an open net.

In a close game this would have been a gaffe of monumental proportions. In this game it was a curiosity, nothing more.

“I don’t feel that bad,’’ Thomas explained.

“It was more important to finish off the game and get the win. It’s not something that was going to get into my head. If they get another goal, then it’s 3-2 and we have a problem. I was able to keep my composure. Fortunately, I’m 36 years old and I’ve been there before. Winning was a lot more important than getting a shutout.’’

There was so much to like about this game it’s hard to know where to start. There had been some concern, for example, about a tepid power play. So how about three power-play goals against a top-flight team that had come in having successfully killed off 25 of 25 power-play chances? And how about two absolutely gorgeous assists by Patrice Bergeron, the first a bullet to Michael Ryder and the second a feed from behind the net to rookie Jordan Caron?

How about another goal from Nathan Horton, his fourth in five games? “It’s been a lot of fun,’’ he said. “I can’t stop smiling.’’

It’s early, yes. It’s early, early, early. But this team is deeper, and exciting youngsters such as the 19-year-old Caron and the 18-year-old Tyler Seguin have oodles of raw talent, and those proverbial young legs that can make things happen in a hurry. Yes, it’s early, but there’s no denying there is a really nice feel to this bunch.

“It’s a good start,’’ confirmed Milan Lucic. “But we can’t get satisfied. We have to keep the mind-set that it doesn’t just happen. We have to make it happen.’’

Here’s the kind of night it was: If you entered the arena simply to see Alexander Ovechkin, you exited the joint raving about the Bruins. And you went home to spread the word.

Something good is brewing on Causeway Street. The Bruins might just be chic again. And if man-about-town Shaq shows up, then we’ll know the Bruins are in.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist and host of Globe 10.0 on Boston.com. He can be reached at ryan@globe.com.

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