Special to Sports News Highlights

(SNH) — A whole generation of Boston sports fans grew up knowing nothing but Duck Boat victory parades, Robert Kraft trophy raises and hearing The Standells’ “Dirty Water” on repeat during the postseason.

In the process, curses ended and formerly moribund franchises reached new heights.

The New England Patriots bookended this championship run, winning their first Super Bowl in February 2002, and their sixth almost to the day 17 years later. During that stretch, Boston pro sports teams won a total of 12 titles, led by the Patriots’ six and the Red Sox’ four World Series championships. The Celtics and Bruins each added one trophy to the case, ending prolonged title-less droughts of two decades or more in both cases.

Before that first Patriots Super Bowl victory, you had to go all the way back to the Celtics’ 1986 NBA Finals victory over the Houston Rockets for Boston’s last championship, so the city’s current five-year title-less stretch seems meek in comparison. Supporters should not be alarmed -- yet.

But New England’s 13-3 Super Bowl 53 victory over the Los Angeles Rams sure feels considerably longer than five years ago. Since then, New England has not won a postseason game and posted a 41-42 combined record in five seasons. In the time since, Tom Brady went to Tampa Bay and won another Super Bowl title. Now, even Bill Belichick is gone.

So is Mookie Betts, the centerpiece of Boston’s most infamous trade since Babe Ruth. The Red Sox have posted three last place finishes in the four years since Betts departed. In a packed AL East, that number may increase this season.

That leaves the Bruins and Celtics as the city’s best hope to keep this mini five-year drought from continuing. It looked as if the Bruins would hoist their seventh Stanley Cup in 2023 after setting NHL regular season record in both wins (65) and points (135). Alas, the Presidents’ Trophy curse continued as Boston blew a 3-1 series lead and fell to the Florida Panthers in seven games in the first round, losing in overtime of Game 7.

Losing Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, the team’s top two centers, to retirement portended a tough 2023-24 campaign. But Boston rode star David Pastrnak, new captain Brad Marchand, and perhaps the best goaltender tandem in the league -- Jermey Swayman and Linus Ullmark -- to another postseason berth.

The Bruins just avoided blowing another 3-1 series lead by defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games in the first round. The team is now facing those same Panthers in the second round.

Florida was a decided favorite coming into this Eastern Conference semifinal matchup, despite finishing a mere point ahead of Boston in the regular season.

The Bruins swept all four contests against Florida in the regular season and opened up this series with a dominating 5-1 victory Monday night. Swayman, who posted an impressive .950 save percentage in the first round against the Leafs, was brilliant in goal again. And Boston still has Ullmark, last season’s Vezina Award winner as the NHL’s top goaltender, available in relief. All Ullmark did this season against Florida was go 3-0 with a 1.62 goals against average and .947 save percentage.

And then there’s the Celtics. Boston is still considered NBA royalty, and their 17 NBA titles are still tied for most all-time with the Los Angeles Lakers. However, the team has won just one title in the past 38 years, and only made two other NBA Finals appearances during that stretch.

This year, the Celtics ascended to a 64-18 record, their best record since the 2007-08 season, the last time the team won an NBA title. The J’s – Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown – have been one of the NBA’s successful partnerships the last seven seasons, but it has failed to produce a ring. The Celtics have gone 1-4 in the Eastern Conference Finals and 0-1 in the NBA Finals during that time.

After handling the Jimmy Butler-less Miami Heat in five games in the first round, the Celtics get the Cleveland Cavaliers. Boston is expected to eliminate Cleveland and either the New York Knicks or Indiana Pacers and reach the NBA Finals. However, despite Boston’s glittering regular season record, the team only went a combined 4-4 against the Western Conference’s remaining four teams.

Both the Bruins and the Celtics will need to shake off recent postseason disappointments if Boston is to raise its next championship banner this spring.

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