BOSTON -- After a week of tension in the Boston area, the Bruins once again will play a central role in allowing the region to recover from the Boston Marathon bombing tragedy and a return to something approaching normalcy.
But the Bruins -- whose originally scheduled game Friday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins was postponed to early Saturday afternoon after the entire region was put on lockdown during the manhunt -- weren't the only ones feeling that their roles would be sharply different than on most game days.
In the hallway between the dressing rooms Saturday morning, Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma met with reporters, sporting a black T-shirt bearing the Bruins logo and the slogan "Boston Strong." Forward Chris Kunitz also was wearing one of the shirts as he went for a pregame interview.
"Clearly we were all watching for days and being here yesterday and being in the hotel, being inside certainly became a part of the situation and part of what the city of Boston was going through," Bylsma said. "I think although we weren't a part of it, the celebration outside as a city and as a people last night, and just feel like it's a great opportunity to play a game today with the city of Boston, and not just against the Bruins, but with the city and with the Bruins."
Earlier in the week, the Buffalo Sabres likewise embraced their role when the Bruins were the first local pro team to play after Monday's bombings that took place near the Boston Marathon finish line. During the game Wednesday, Sabres players wore a "Boston Strong" decal on their helmets and tapped their sticks in appreciation during in-game ceremonies dedicated to the marathon victims and those who aided in the aftermath of the attack.
The Penguins' Boston hotel is a few blocks from the marathon finish line, and Bylsma said that once the league officially postponed Friday's game, the team was riveted by the drama unfolding in the streets of Watertown, where the second alleged bombing suspect was finally apprehended Friday evening.
The arrest sparked spontaneous celebrations throughout the region. Later in the evening, a large crowd gathered in Boston Common and could be heard chanting "U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!"
So the expectation for Saturday's matinee was definitely something out of the ordinary for the Penguins.
"Again, I feel like we're playing with the Bruins today, not against them, as maybe you normally would say, and with the city I feel like there was -- I don't know if 'celebration' is the right word -- it was a sigh of relief and certainly some pride yesterday, and I think again I'm glad we were able to delay the game and play it today with the city and with Boston," Bylsma said.