BOSTON (CBS) — When the Bruins acquired Chris Kelly in 2011, there was never any question that his simple, responsible game and hard work ethic would fit right in with what the club was trying to accomplish.
From Kelly’s perspective, he knew Zdeno Chara and Peter Chiarelli from Ottawa, and knew about the team from his many visits as an opposing player, so he figured the hockey part of the trade from the only team he’d ever played for wouldn’t be difficult.
The switch to city life, however, had Kelly a tad worried.
“Coming to Boston, especially from Ottawa, Ottawa is suburb living and you’ve got a house, backyard, driveway, it’s great,” Kelly explained. “And then you move to Boston and it’s more city living. I didn’t know how I’d feel about that.
“But my wife and I love it. We love the city and everyone that comes to visit, they fall in love with it too. People are super friendly. The city’s got such a nice feeling about it, and I kind of say it’s a big-small city. You get around everywhere and it’s a great place to live and obviously a great place to play hockey.”
Kelly showed his love for his second home Wednesday night during the Bruins’ 3-2 shootout loss to Buffalo in the first major sporting event in Boston since the attacks at the Boston Marathon on Monday. Although they only captured one point, the Bruins basically did what they wanted to do to jump-start the healing process of the city by playing with playoff intensity and working hard.
The night started with a video tribute to the victims and first responders and continued with a national anthem that Rene Rancourt shared with the 17,565 on hand. Kelly and several of his teammates admitted they were choked up. But then the puck dropped and the Bruins and Sabres had to focus on the task at hand.
Kelly was right in the thick of things with a solid forecheck all night, a goal (the 100th of his NHL career) and an assist on a goal by his new linemate Daniel Paille. If Kelly’s performance during the game didn’t tell you all you needed to know about his pride in Boston; his dour expression and deflated answers to questions summed things up best.
“We wanted to go out there and win that hockey game. I’m disappointed that we didn’t,” Kelly said. “We wanted to give the city something to be happy about. We went out and battled hard, I’m not taking that away from the guys. But we really wanted to get the two points and hopefully we put a smile on someone’s face. So we’re pretty upset that we didn’t.”
The healing process will continue. The Celtics will take the court, the Red Sox will return to Fenway Park and everyone’s non-sports lives will return to normal, slowly but surely, as well. There will be more chances for the Bruins to put smiles on the faces and more. And down the road, Kelly will have a lasting memory of the evening that will be more about Boston than about what was on the scoreboard.
“I think the tribute video and the anthem, obviously, will be the first things that come to mind [in 10 years],” Kelly said. “The applause that the frontline people got was definitely something special. I’m sure the score will be the last thing I think about in 10 years, but right now we really all wanted to win that hockey game for the city and for ourselves. But down the road it will be those things that stick out.”
He’d be too humble to admit it, but for observers, Kelly’s performance will also stick out in memories of Wednesday night’s game.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes coverage to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.