Thursday, May 14, 2009


So it all comes down to this. Eight months, 93 games and countless highs and lows, all comes down to winning one more game. Funny how expectations change, isn't it? In October, most of the so-called "experts" somehow had the Bruins as either the 8 seed in the East, or not in the playoffs at all. People that were paying attention knew that was laughable. But none of dared to dream they'd be the number one seed. As a young team, we all just wanted them to win ONE playoff round. The fact that it was against the hated Habs would make it all the better. Of course, as soon as they won that round, the expectation became "well, they HAVE to beat Carolina". And rightfully so. A team and a fan base that expects less than the team's full potential will never succeed.

Which leads us to tonight's decisive game 7. The better team never wants to be pushed to a game 7, where anything can happen, even on home ice (just ask Mr. Ovechkin and friends). But at the end of the day, as long as the better team plays up to it's ability, they'll win. And while Carolina may put some early pressure on Thomas, I expect Boston to be ready to go. Claude Julien has done a masterful Job of preparing the boys, and getting them to focus on one game at a time. Well, now there are no other games for them to potentially be distracted by. Focus shouldn't be an issue.
The one thing that could cause issue's for the Bruins is exactly what Chara warned of yesterday; people trying to do too much. Hopefully Big Z takes his own words to heart, because the only time he struggles is when he tries to do everyone else's job. If he, and his mates, take care of their own business and trust in the system, they'll be fine. By no stretch of the imagination is this going to be a cake walk. The Hurricanes will show up ready to take it to the Bruins from the opening face off. As badly as their confidence may be shaken from the last two games, they do still have a game 7 road win under their belt against New jersey to fall back on. The Penguins dismantling of the Capitals in DC last night is further comfort for the 'Canes. Yes, the home team IS beatable in game 7's.

All things being equal, it simply comes down to will to win,talent and execution. Carolina showed a strong will to win, a never-say-die attitude in round one. But that killer instinct has been trumped the last two games by Boston's superior talent and execution of their game plan. Not to sound like a broken record here, but the game plan has to stay the same. Get the puck out of your defensive zone quickly and cleanly. Chip pucks deep where Ward or the 'Canes defensemen can't handle them cleanly and forecheck hard. Be patient with the puck. And above all, crash the net! Once again, every single Boston goal in game 6 was a direct result of getting to the front of the net. Tip-ins, screens....all good things happen when you go to the net hard.

As the day goes on, I can't help but wonder who will emerge as the "star" of the game. While it will take a full team effort to win, there has to be someone who makes the big play. Be it the game winning goal, huge save or momentum setting big hit. Will it be the usual suspects, like Savard (assuming he is as healthy as Julien insists, which remains to be seen), Recchi, Kessel, Chara or even Lucic? Or, will this be one of those games where the "stars" essentially cancel each other out, and it's left to the role players to make the big splash? It's not beyond the realm of possibility that a guy like Axe, Yelle, Bitz or a Mark Stuart pop in a key goal. Personally, I hope it doesn't come down to one key play, preferring a blow-out Bruins win (my heart can only take so much). But if it does come down to late game heroics, I'd love to see a guy like Axe get it. It would be sort of like Wakefield being rewarded after giving up the Aaron Bleeping Boone HR to the Yanks (although Axe has dome nothing he has to "redeem" himself for of course). Just a nice reward for a long time good soldier in a Bruins uniform.

I'd love to sit and say "this is how it's going to go", but that isn't possible in any game 7. As Aaron Ward said on WEEI radio this morning, game 7's have a tendency to get out of hand. So as much as I'd expect this to be a very close game, you never know. Maybe Boston gets an early one, and cruises away with a fairly easy win. Lets hope so. One thing I do feel sure of is this; Milan Lucic will show up in a big way. He's only a kid, but he has been the emotional leader of this team for over a year now. Look for him to throw a thunderous hit or two on his first shift. The crowd, and more importantly, his team responds very well when he's involved early and often. And as he showed with his fantastic assist the other night, his offensive skills are peaking at the right time as well.
The two other guys I expect to bring their "A GAME" tonight are Zdeno Chara and Tim Thomas. Chara has really grown into the leadership role this year, and specifically the last few games. As much as the B's rally around Looch's big hits, the respond the same way when Chara is involved. As long as Z just plays his game, at his surly, nasty best, he'll be a dominant factor in the outcome.
For his part, Thomas is looking rock solid in net. And you just know that little chip on his shoulder is telling him people still doubt he's a "big game" goalie. He's used slights like that his whole life for motivation. I think he brings his best competitive spirit to the Boston net tonight and has, as Fred Cusick used to say, a "dandy" of a game.

If I was to be concerned about anyone, it would be either Kessel or Krecji. But Kessel has shown lately that he isn't afraid of the big stage. His speed is such a key, he just has to use it and use it wisely. I think he'll be good tonight. He may not score, but he'll be "a going concern" all night (thanks again Fred!).
Krecji, for me, is a tougher read. He's shown flashes of absolute brilliance. But he's also shown flashes of.....I don't want to say intimidation, but occasionally he looks like he's trying to do too much. The addition of Bitz to his line seems to have helped him relax a little though. Bitz making space and controlling the puck helps Krecji find plays that most guys could never dream of. So even krech doesn't really worry me tonight.

I hate this part of every blog, because's complete guess work, and I've been right....well, not that often. So, in order to save some dignity I'm going to pass on a final score prediction today. But I will say that Lucic, Ryder and at least one other Bruins scores. So let's say.....Recchi. B's get the win, in a tough, competitive game. But it's by more than one goal.
(no need to do a rough stuff preview, because while it will be a "rough" game, there won't be anything crazy. Even if the game is a run away for the B's. Walker and that nonsense can wait).

Go B's-Kynch

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