By Sean Sylver, 98.5 The Sports Hub
I’m on a group text called “Bozos & Nutjobs.”
It’s a callback to the bizarre characters who populated a radio station my friends and I toiled at over a decade ago, as well as a bit of a way to turn the mirror on ourselves. Our daily interactions are filled with played-out memes, juvenile GIFs, crude Photoshop efforts and off-color remarks at the expense of other group members. Add in the fact that it’s two rabid Bruins fans/apologists, two Celtics honks (I’m one), and a fifth - perhaps most vital - member, to whom pretty much everything and everybody stinks, and you’ve got a group text that lives up to its name.
The last two weeks have unleashed a flood of Crying Jordans, Microsoft Paint-like renderings of our faces affixed to the bodies of Blades the Bear and Jeremy Jacobs, and plenty of potshots at the Celtics. I’m taking it in stride. It’s all in fun, and Boston is a better place when the Bruins are winning. So let their fans dance on the Celtics’ grave, if they’re so inclined. They deserve it.
This year’s Bruins are everything Celtics fans wished their team could be.
They’re in the Stanley Cup Final, for one. Remember when the Celtics supposedly held a ticket for a spring matchup with the Warriors while the Bruins would be lucky to make it out of the second round?
They’re also on home ice. The Celtics were such a disjointed mess during the regular season, they were forced to open the second round on the road.
Perhaps most importantly, they have the right mix. The Bruins’ combination of established veterans and contributing role players has reached a level Celtics fans begged for all season. The Black and Gold boast a veteran captain and a couple of well-compensated stars whose skates and skills are still extremely sharp. Add in a veteran goalie (who already holds the franchise record for wins) at the top of his game, and they’ve got a handful of players who could one day see their numbers up in the rafters.
Remember when Kyrie Irving said he wanted his number up there?
The self-appointed "leader" of the 2018-19 Celtics spent much of the campaign lecturing Boston’s young talents on what it takes to win. Whether or not they listened is still unclear.
The young guys on the Bruins just do it.
The Celtics were supposed to own the Eastern Conference for the next half-dozen years. The Bruins haven’t seen that level of dominance, but they have managed to resurface with six players from their last Cup run, rebuilding on the fly after the closing years of the Peter Chiarelli/Claude Julien era threatened to flush a contender down the toilet. As the bowl swirled, Danny Ainge pulled off heist after heist and rebuilt the Celtics faster than anybody imagined, delivering the most consistently entertaining product among Boston teams that don’t employ a guy lovingly referred to as a majestic barnyard animal instead of a mere quarterback.
Ainge did everything right, but this year, the Green bumped their heads on the ceiling. Hard. Right now, the blame pie is squarely on the players and coach Brad Stevens. But one has to wonder if the madness of the 2018-19 season will push the head of the front office to do something he eventually regrets.
We killed Chiarelli for trading Tyler Sequin for a pu pu platter, as we did Mike O’Connell when he unloaded Joe Thornton in San Jose nearly a decade and a half ago. Uncertainty can pull a number right off the pulley on its way up to the rafters. The pathway to Banner 18 looks unclear, and when the fog clears, the roster could look considerably different.
Through all of the tumult, the B’s maintained their core. The Bruins employ five guys who've been here for more than a decade. And they’re five of the most impactful players they’ve had this postseason, with the three forwards among the top four point-getters on the roster and Tuukka Rask poised to glove a Conn Smythe.
Hockey isn’t like basketball - can you name how many NBA players have been with their team more than a decade? Dirk Nowitzki was one, and he just retired. Russell Westbrook is still active. Mike Conley, playing in the dimly lit Memphis market, would be another. And Udonis Haslem played a grand total of 74 minutes for the Heat this season.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are also considerably less predictable than their NBA counterpart.
But the fact is, the nut job Bruins fans who believed their team would be in this position are feeling pretty good right now. Celtics fans feel like bozos.
With the identity of their team in flux, it’s a little more than five weeks of torment until free agency starts, and then, who knows what.
For Bruins fans, it’s another shot at the Cup - one you probably wouldn’t have expected, at least not this year.
John Tavares is golfing. Who knows what Terry Rozier is up to.
The Stanley Cup Final kicks off at TD Garden, Monday at 8 p.m.
Sean Sylver can be heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub. You can follow him on Twitter @TheSylverFox.