Donaldson: Bruins get top spot in Boston sports scene

May 10 2011 - 3:39pm

Typically, the Bruins rank fourth of four among Boston's major professional teams when it comes to winning the affection and attention of New England sports fans.

And also when it comes to just plain winning.

While the Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics all have won championships in these early years of the 21st century, the last time the Bruins won the NHL's Stanley Cup was way back in 1972.

Which is not to say that the Bruins don't have their devoted disciples. They most certainly do. They just don't have as many as the Celts, or the Pats, or the Red Sox. Nor do the Bruins very often capture the interest of the so-called casual fan, who sits unemotionally and disinterestedly on the sidelines until he sees a bandwagon passing by, in which case he enthusiastically jumps aboard.

To which I say: "How 'bout them Bruins!"

Instead, the Bruins have swiftly and suddenly skated into the No. 1 spot in the hearts and minds of sports fans throughout New England.

The ice on the ponds melted months ago, but, as we move into the middle of May, it is the Boys of Winter who reign supreme on the Boston sporting scene.

For the first time in 19 years, the Bruins have made it to the conference finals, having swept the Flyers and, in the process, exorcised both the painful memory and the ignominy of having blown four straight to Philly last year in Round Two, after having won the first three games and then taking a 3-0 lead in Game Seven on home ice.

There was no such epic collapse this time around. Instead, there was domination, especially on the part of goalie Tim Thomas, who all but clinched the series with a 52-save performance in Game 2 in Philly that the Bruins won in overtime, 3-2.

After that, with the Flyers shuffling goalies as often as a card sharp shuffles his favorite deck, it was all over but the shouting, of which there was plenty to be heard in the new Garden as the Bruins triumphed in twice to sweep the series.

Now the Bruins have home-ice advantage for their conference championship series with Tampa Bay.

That seemed far-fetched as recently as three weeks ago, when the Bruins lost their first two playoff games in the Garden to the dreaded, and hated, Canadiens of Montreal. At that point, speculation was rampant that coach Claude Julien, along with GM Peter Chiarelli, were, like their team, on the brink of elimination. After all, not even once in the long history of the Original Six franchise in Boston had the Bruins rallied from an 0-2 deficit to win a Stanley Cup playoff series.

But, despite a powerless power play, the Bruins rallied to beat the Habs in seven games -- three of them in overtime -- and then kept right on rolling over the obviously overmatched Flyers.

Suddenly, and somewhat shockingly, the oft-ignored icers are the talk of the town.

Indeed, the Red Sox, who typically sit atop the list of Boston's most-favored teams, currently have to be considered only third in the fan standings. Which, not coincidentally, is higher than they are in the A.L. East standings.

Ranking second in the popularity polls are the graying Green, the aging-before-our-eyes Celtics, those Grand Old Men battling to make a last stand against the younger, stronger -- and, yes, better -- Miami Heat's terrific triumvirate of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh,

While at the back of the popularity pack are the locked-out Patriots, living in limbo as the NFL and the strategically disbanded NFLPA battle in court while arguing over how to share a $9-billion pie, leaving football fans to agonize over whether to root for the millionaire athletes or the billionaire owners in this shameless tussle of unmitigated greed.

The Celtics gave us a title in 2009, and got us to Game 7 of The NBA Finals last season. It was a great run. But it's about to come to an end.

As we survey the Boston sports scene, there's nothing, and no one, better than our Bruins, who have skated into the spotlight and into our sporting hearts.

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