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First-place Red Sox get swept up in Bruins fever

- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 15, 2011

BOSTON (AP) - Bruins coach Claude Julien took the podium on Wednesday, just hours before Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals vs. the Vancouver Canucks, and spoke in generalities.

There was no bulletin board material. There were no threats. There were no guarantees.

Just the obvious.

"We're hoping," Julien said, "for a happy ending."

He got one.

And so did everyone else in Boston.

As the Bruins battered their way through this postseason, they were able to capture Beantown's attention much like the Red Sox, Celtics and Patriots did in recent championship seasons. Indeed, the city wrapped its arms around Julien's bunch and jumped on board for what was an eventful 10-week ride, a journey that ended joyously with a 4-0 Game 7 victory over the Canucks at Rogers Arena.

The first-place Red Sox caught the fever, clearly. They were often seen wearing Bruins gear in and around the city, and Fenway Park has had a "Good Luck" sign, complete with a Bruins logo on its green fencing for more than a month. Chances are, that sign will soon change over to a "Congratulations" one.

The Red Sox were not in Boston on Wednesday night, but it didn't matter. After they defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 3-0 in St. Petersburg, Fla., every television in the clubhouse featured Game 7, including the one in manager Terry Francona's office.

Before the hockey game even went final, the Red Sox were celebrating.

"That's money in the bank," designated hitter David Ortiz said, as the Bruins took a 3-0 lead in the second period.

Third baseman Kevin Youkilis knew it was over at that point, as well.

"I can't wait," he said, "to see them holding up the Cup."

The love affair is not lost on Boston's newcomers, either. Outfielder Carl Crawford has only been with the Red Sox for a few months, but he, too, found himself swept up in the postseason rush.

"They love their teams. (It's) a sports town," Crawford said. "There are Bruins fans everywhere. They're real passionate. I've been watching them. You definitely get caught up in all of that, because everybody's watching it, wearing Bruins jerseys.

"You get excited about it."

It was hard not to.

Even before the make-or-break date Wednesday night in Vancouver, the Bruins orchestrated a run for the ages, complete with just about everything hockey had to offer. There were three seven-game series _ vs. Montreal, Tampa Bay and the Canucks _ and even a dominant four-game sweep of Philadelphia in Round 2.

The drama was not lost on the Celtics, either, the other tenants of the TD Garden, who were eliminated by the Miami Heat in Round 2 of the NBA playoffs last month. Boston coach Doc Rivers was in attendance at several Bruins playoff games, including Game 6 of the finals on Monday, a 5-2 win.

Not long after the Bruins sealed the Game 7 win, the Celtics' homepage of their official website offered up congratulations with a graphic that read "We believed."

They clearly believed in goaltender Tim Thomas, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the playoffs' most valuable player. He led the way on the ice _ with four shutouts and all 16 postseason wins _ as well as in front of the microphone _ with his colorful jabs and well-thought-out responses.

They also believed in rookie forward Brad Marchand. He stirred the pot with some feisty play in the corners, and his 11 goals, many of which came directly in front of the net. He scored two in Game 7, in fact.

But it was rarely easy for any of the Bruins on this odyssey. They fell down two games vs. both the Canadiens and the Canucks, and fought off elimination four times, all told.

The second time they were in an 0-2 hole, Francona, who has won two championships in Boston, felt motivated to chime in. So much so, that he, in fact, called and spoke with Julien.

On Wednesday at Tropicana Field, before starter Josh Beckett pitched a one-hitter that most Bostonians probably missed, Francona was asked if he'd make a call again to his friend in the coaching fraternity prior to the drop of the puck.

"He's got to take it from here," he said, smiling.

Francona knew enough to leave Julien alone. He knew he had the weight of the city's shoulders on him already. Not to mention the pressure of having to live up to the championship standards the other three pro teams in town have set.

Well, consider that weight lifted.

And now, after nearly four decades, the Celtics, Patriots and Red Sox can make another place at the championship table for a friend.

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