Loved Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien today when, during a media conference before Game 1 of second round NHL Stanley Cup playoff series vs. New York Rangers, he deflected questions about his team's first-round scare and rally to win against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
As if, somehow, the questions intimated, the Bruins did not deserve to be here.
Julien said the Bruins - who improbably rallied from a 4-1 third period deficit to beat the Leafs in overtime of Game 7 - don't need to apologize to anyone, or justify their advance to the second round.
And they don't. They advanced. The Bruins' comeback is already part of NHL historical lore, as it should be, and the further Boston advances this playoff year it will only gain resonance, but in the end it is simply what it is - Boston won round one and advanced.
That's all that matters. It reminds me of something a basketball coach, not a professional coach in NBA terms but definitely a professional one in terms of approach and results - former Canadian national team player and then two-time national college champ as coach of the Sheridan Bruins Wayne Allison - once told me, in my days as a reporter.
His team, heavily favoured, had struggled in but ultimately won a playoff game to advance on what would become a road to a national title.
It wasn't the performance Allison, the team, its fans or the media expected. But they won. And at that point, in the playoffs, ultimately that is what mattered, Allison said. We won, no matter how we did it, but at this point, sure it would be great to play the perfect or as close to perfect game as we can play but in the end, I just want the 'W'. After a title is won, let's face it, few if any spend much time analyzing the specifics of the final triumph. It's more a case of analyzing the title team in the context of the championship overall achieved.
So Allison was right. As Julien was right today, before round 2, Game 1 against the New York Rangers.
The Boston Bruins won Monday against Toronto. They advanced. Nothing else matters now, except the next game, the next series.
Until the next game, the next series.
It is cliche, but cliches are grounded in fact and, well, facts are facts. Just a for instance...
1989 NHL playoffs - first place overall Calgary needs overtime in Game 7 to beat Vancouver in round one to keep the Flames' ultimately fulfilled Stanley Cup run alive.
Calgary won the game. Could have lost the game and been eliminated, overtime being the crapshoot it can be.
But Calgary won. The Flames advanced, as expected, by the skin of their teeth yet without apology. They eventually won the Stanley Cup which likely makes the first-round Game 7 escape more memorable than it otherwise might have been.
Same with the Bruins, now (with potentially three rounds to go).
As Julien understands.