THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Dan Shaughnessy

We haven’t run out of ice at this party yet

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / May 25, 2011

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

Text size +

They are coming home for another game. Or two. Or three. Or four. That’s great news.

The Bruins are in Tampa tonight where they’ll play Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals in a building that promotes a metropolitan daily newspaper (how’s that for old school?). If they lose, they will be back on Causeway Street Friday night for Game 7. If they win, they’ll come back to the Garden sometime next week for the third game of the Stanley Cup finals.

In other words, it’s your basic win-win. Even if they lose tonight.

We are blessed. It is finally getting warm outside in this wretched spring of 2011, but there is still ice on the floor of the new Boston Garden. The Bruins have outlived the Celtics by more than two weeks, and Hub Hockey may stretch past college and high school graduation season.

We have not heard the last of Rene Rancourt (there’s still a chance he will be singing the Canadian national anthem). We have not retired Zombie Nation’s “Kernkraft 400’’ for the summer. Local sport media big shots who have dissed the Bruins for a couple of decades are going to have to take a crash course in Hockey 101.

The Bruins have been our Ringo in this century. The local skaters have been outside looking in while the Red Sox, Patriots, and Celtics dined at a table for three at Meritage. Never Duck Boat-worthy, the Bruins have toiled in relative anonymity while the men with ball skills reaped all the attention and glory.

But now it’s the Bruins’ turn. Hockey Krishnas rule.

This Bruins-Lightning series already borders on epic. We’ve had five action-packed games that have established . . . absolutely nothing.

There is no flow to this series. Nothing leads to anything else. Every game, every period, every shift, is its own entity. There is no carryover from play to play. It is as if the Zamboni cleans the ice every 45 seconds.

Boston’s grizzled goalie, Tim Thomas, has emerged as the most compelling figure of the conference final. He is Crash Davis with a Freddy Krueger mask, throwing caution to the wind and alternately giving hope to both teams.

The Bruins have given up five goals in a game three times in this series, but Thomas is the reason they are up, 3-2, as they take the ice tonight. He sort of guaranteed victory in a moment of passion after spitting up Game 4, and in Game 5 he made a save that is already drawing comparisons to Dwight Evans’s catch in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series and John Havlicek’s celebrated steal to beat Wilt Chamberlain and the Sixers in 1965.

Certainly you’ve seen the play by now: Lightning winger Steve Downie skated toward the left post, took a rebound (Dominic Moore slapper) off the rear wall, and flipped the puck toward the wide-open goal. Thomas, who had been screened when Moore blasted, lunged across the crease in the prone position, stuck out his right hand, and blocked the puck with his stick. He looked like a guy lying in his driveway, broom in hand, sweeping debris out from underneath his car.

Thomas’s overall play in Game 5 gives the Bruins a small cushion as they prepare for tonight. They need it. Frustrated Lightning forwards have yet to explode in this series. Tampa’s vaunted power play is 0 for 9 over the last three games. This is astonishing. The Bruins’ penalty killing has offset their inept power play, but one gets the feeling it’s only a matter of time before the dam breaks. (You’ll know if this happens; Tampa’s game presentation folks fix a strobe light on Thomas when the Lightning score.)

The coaches in this series offer an intriguing contrast. Tampa Bay’s Guy Boucher should scare the heck out of every Bruins fan. He has a a Belichickian presence. He also looks like a man who knows he has the better team but still might not win.

And then we have good ol’ Grady Julien, staying the course, changing nothing, advancing the agenda of no-agenda. If Claude were a piece of clothing, he would be Archie Bunker’s shirt.

The Bruins haven’t won the Stanley Cup since “All In The Family’’ was on the air (1972) and they haven’t gotten to the Finals since 1990 when they still played in the old Boston Garden. The first game of that series was delayed when the power went out (just as it did during the 1988 Cup finals). The Bruins lost in triple overtime.

The power has been out for too long. It’s time for a Hub Hockey Renaissance, time for the 21st century Bruins to define themselves. Starting tonight, the Bruins have two shots to bring the Cup finals back to Boston. The “new’’ building is ready, and the fans have been ready for 39 years.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

Bruins Video