The Bruins are Boston’s darlings once again. Even with the heartbreaking end in Game 7 against Carolina, these Bruins seemed to have captured the imagination of the blue-collar fan while casting in the average fan who heretofore has been preoccupied with the Red Sox , Celtics  and Patriots.
“It was honestly one of the best (experiences),” 36-year-old defenseman Aaron Ward  said on break-up Monday at the Garden. “I came in here two years ago towards the tail-end of the season and I don’t know if people even knew what the ‘B’ represented anymore. We didn’t have an identity. We didn’t have guys that you could associate with or to. You ask people who their favorite Boston Bruin was and they’d reach to yesteryear and it would be Cam Neely  or Ray Bourque  or Johnny Bucyk and now I think the game is revitalized.”
Ward, who still sported a bit of a shiner under his left eye from the Scott Walker  punch at the end of Game 5, told Boston fans what they wanted and expected to hear as the pain of last Thursday has hardly subsided.
“The players have taken responsibility for the performance, and the attitude and the perception of this team,” Ward said. “This year was great. Winning obviously does a great thing but players in the community, personalities you like, guys wanting to win for the city and each other. That obviously propelled us forward in the sports community here in Boston. So we’re pretty happy with it and hopefully we maintain the bandwagon we’ve got going and hopefully we can attract a few more.”
GM Peter Chiarelli stressed that he wants to have a good number of veterans around the team who understand the price to be paid to advance further. And Ward, who played on two Stanley Cup  champs in Detroit and one in Carolina in 2006, knows he won’t have too much longer to get back to the holy grail of hockey.
“I’m running out, I’m definitely running out of chances right now at 36,” Ward said. “I’ve got a contract for next year and looking forward to taking the same ride during the regular season and hopefully improving on and pulling out the positives from what we can from this year and applying them next year in the playoffs.”
The Bruins won 53 games, racked up 116 points and blew away the Canadiens in the first round. Then the won Game 1 against Carolina. Visions of the team’s first Stanley Cup Finals trip since 1990 were dancing in all puck heads around Causeway Street.
“I think it was awesome,” added Marc Savard . “They’ve obviously waited a while to get hockey back here and ever since I came here three years ago, fans have always told me this is a hockey city and I got to witness that a lot this year. Hopefully, next year, we can do better and get to where all of us want to be and obviously, that’s in the Stanley Cup Finals.”
“It’s unbelievable,” added P.J. Axelsson. “Because right now when you’re outside there’s a lot of hockey fans back, back on track. So it’s really nice to see.”
But this season will still leave a sour taste in everyone’s mouths who bleed black and gold. For Bruins goalie Tim Thomas , it’s that taste he hopes will inspire the team to experience a much sweeter drink next year.
“I certainly hope so,” Thomas said on Monday. “That first series with Montreal (in 2008) was a big step in terms of fans around Boston going with the success we had this year. There’s a lot of buzz about hockey. Hopefully next year we’ll come in and give them something worth watching again.”