Game seven, tonight, fans.
Did anyone expect this scenario to unfold when just last season the B’s were unable to close out their opponent, the Flyers with four opportunities to do so? In their failure, becoming the third NHL team and fourth in all of North American professional sports to lose a best-of-seven series they’d started with three victories.
Did anyone see last year’s least potent NHL offense turning it all around?
Did anyone expect a Marc Savard-less Bruins to charge all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals with a power-play percentage in the single-digits?
Did anyone predict such an absolute monster year for goalie Tim Thomas? A year where he would be the obvious Vezina winner by Mid-December? A year that Thomas would set the record for highest save percentage?
Did anyone foresee Thomas’ lights-out postseason performance? Anyone who would have argued that Thomas would be affirmed by most credible pundits as the Conn Smythe trophy winner with three games to go in the Cup final?
Did anyone believe that Nathan Horton after serving a six-year sentence with the Florida Panthers would erupt in his first taste of postseason action? Becoming the virtual embodiment of clutch by scoring two game-seven, series-clinching goals – in one postseason?
Did anyone think that Tyler Seguin, the B’s 19-year-old rookie, would step up in the absence of Patrice Bergeron to score three goals and six points in the first two games of his postseason career in the Eastern Conference e Final?
Did anyone imagine the slow-footed and diminutive ancient, Mark Recchi would contribute at such a high level, when he’s closer to cashing Social Security checks than being in Seguin’s draft class.
Did anyone fathom that the underdog Bruins would manage to shut down the high-flying Canuck powerplay through six games; that the B’s would be able to limit the production of Daniel and Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler to two goals and six points total through today; and that the B’s would outscore the ‘Nucks by eleven goals, 19 to 8 through six games, setting up a historical game seven?
It’s been an unreal season for the Bruins. I sincerely doubt there were many who predicted that this team would get to the Cup Final, let alone be one win away from hoisting sports’ most revered trophy in 2011. Even at the beginning of the postseason naysayers from within and without regarded the B’s as an also-ran.
This analyst admittedly was one of the many whose enthusiasm for the Bruins’ chances was tempered by honest acceptance of their many flaws and perceived understanding of their limited chances. How wrong we all were. Oft-maligned coach, Claude Julien, steered his team through the gales of the season and playoffs and is now one step, one win, perhaps one bounce of the puck away from the Stanley Cup –truly a remarkable accomplishment.
Game seven is upon us, folks. Bruins’ and hockey fans in general are going to be witness to a rare treat – a winner-take-all match tonight in Vancouver, the fifteenth such game in Stanley Cup Finals history. I suggest that you pull up a chair, grab a beer and enjoy. All the numbers, all the breakdowns, all the factoids mean nothing. The Bruins and Canucks meet in one game to determine the outcome of a season of effort. It should be a clash for the ages. I can’t wait.
I, at last, believe in the Bruins.