It's a tough time to be a Boston Bruins fan.
Not this season, this week.
While the B's are still holding a six point lead over the Devils (and everybody else in the east,) they are slumping. Over the last 10 games, only the lowly Tampa Bay Lightning have a worse record, and against the non-playoff bound Ottawa Senators, they allowed anxiety to creep into what had been a great start, and a game that should have been a slam dunk turned into a bit of a nail-biter. Had they lost it, it would have been devastating to team and fan morale.
On the other hand, who really cares?
All good teams go through slumps, and the question becomes not "are you in a slump?" but "when are you in a slump?," or "how do you respond?" And for right now, the Bruins are allowed to drop a couple games. They have earned that much. Don't get me wrong, I'm a Bruins fan, and I'd like to see them win 'em all. But if both the Bruins and the Devils play the next 10 games the same way they played the last 10 (Bruins 4-5-1, Devils 7-3-0) the Bruins are still tops in the east. And while that isn't an ideal outcome, from where we're sitting now, they would still be THE BEST TEAM IN THE EASTERN CONFERENCE.
That is by no means the end of the world, and it might do the Bruins a little good to feel vulnerable. They also would have three games to get their act together, including one against Montreal and another against Buffalo, games that just might give them an opportunity to knock one of those squads out of the playoff hunt. For the record, of their last 13 games half of them are coming against non-playoff teams, so I really don't expect a collapse.
Even if the Devils do catch the Bruins, that really doesn't matter either. Home ice is cool and all if you're a season ticket holder, but ask the Montreal Canadiens how much it helped them last season. In so far as opponents, the team who finishes in 7th or 8th is even more arbitrary than a flip of the coin, and right now, one win can make the difference between 9th and 6th in the East. The Bruins or the Devils are going to be playing the Rangers, Penguins, Sabres, Habs, Panthers or Hurricanes. Of that group, I'd like to avoid the Pens or the Canes right now, but there is no way to predict that. And the Bruins potentially dropping from first to second has no bearing whatsoever on predicting who they might play.
So it's in that spirit, that for the next two games at least, I'm rooting for the Devils. Marty Brodeur is two wins away from Patrick Roy's all time victories record, and is playing in his hometown of Montreal under the recently raised 33 banner of the player whose mark he is soon to eclipse. The only regret I have about that game is that I live in the New York Metropolitan area, so the Hockey Night in Canada Broadcast will be blacked out.
Should Marty tie the record in Montreal, in front of the fans who cheered on Patrick Roy for so many seasons, they return home on Tuesday to face a strong young Chicago Blackhawks team who while talented, have played .500 hockey over their last 10, and had to get two of their Ws via overtime or shootout.
And, I'm going to that game.
So the way I figure it, I'll be looking in on the Bruins for the next week or so, but I just can't obsess over them. For the next 5 days, I'm a Devils fan. All I have to do is root against the Canadiens (easy) and then head to a live hockey game on Tuesday, and hope to witness history. Even if the Devs lose in Montreal, I can go root for Brodeur to tie on Tuesday. And, unlike most Devils games, this history making contest looks to be a full house.
Oh, no- not because of Marty Brodeur.
They're giving away free beer that night. I know it's St. Patrick's Day and all, but I'd like to think this promotion is Lou's gift to Marty.
So go Devils, go!
You know, until Wednesday.