“Changes in Latitudes"
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After years upon years upon mediocrity and disappointment, Boston sports fans have been blessed with an extreme turnaround that has seen a total of 6 championships in the past decades split between football, baseball, and basketball.
Spoiled is the term used to describe Boston sports fans these days. But what of those fans who care most about hockey? When will their Bruins bring home the sports world’s greatest chalice?
Despite the fact that one loss in the next two games will end their high hopes for hockey supremacy, this could very well be the year that the Bruins get it done after 39 years without a championship.
The Bruins certainly wouldn’t be the first Boston team to overcome a deficit to win a long-awaited championship. In 2004, the Boston Red Sox overcame a 3-0 series deficit against the hated New York Yankees to advance to the World Series for their first title in 86 years, reversing the fabled Curse of the Bambino. In September of that year, Jimmy Buffett played at Fenway Park and during his set, hit four pitches into the crowd as his way of reversing the curse, and lo and behold, the Sox won it all.
Strangely enough, Buffett will be back in Massachusetts just a few days after the end of the Stanley Cup Finals, playing at the Comcast Center on June 18. Buffett may have more hockey ties than you would think; just last summer he partied onstage with Patrick Kane and the Cup after the Blackhawks took it home to Chicago.
Buffett’s song “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” perfectly describes the Finals series so far. The distance between Boston and Vancouver is the greatest travel distance for a Stanley Cup Finals series in the league’s history, and the attitude of the teams in each other’s buildings has certainly been drastically different. In Vancouver, Vancouver is 3-0 and has outscored the Bruins 5-2. All three games were decided by one goal coming late in the game: a 1-0 win with 18 seconds left, a 3-2 win 11 seconds into overtime, and another 1-0 win. As close as the games have been in Vancouver, they have been absolutely dominated by the Bruins in Boston. At home the Bruins are 2-0 and have outscored the Canucks 12-1, winning 8-1 and 4-0 in the face of a 2-0 series deficit.
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Now down 3-2 with the momentum seemingly on the Canucks side, the Bruins have their backs against the wall, but there are plenty of reasons why they shouldn’t be counted out yet. All that separates them from elimination is one loss, but all that separates them from glory is two wins. The Bruins are headed back home for game 6 where they have embarrassed the Canucks, where their resurgent fanbase will pack the TD Garden and shake it with the decibel levels of a rock concert with chants like “Nathan Horton.” The Bruins have been great in the Garden, and the Canucks have been just plain awful. When down a few goals the Canucks have folded under the pressure, making a plethora of bad mistakes and seemingly giving up on the game. With the way the Canucks have played in Boston, it will be a big surprise to many people if there is not a Game 7 in Vancouver on Wednesday night.
So how can the Bruins win a Game 7 in Vancouver where they are 0-3? Actually, they don’t need to change their game all that much. They have been just one lucky bounce away from winning all three of their road games in this series so far. They were out-hit in Game 5 and many of their players had off games, so for Game 7, they will need to come out firing on all cylinders from start to finish. They need to physically punish and frustrate the Canucks and force them into making bad mistakes. Most of all, they need to capitalize on these mistakes, be they turnovers our penalties. If the Bruins can strike early, they can put the pressure on the Canucks. This is Vancouver’s series to lose, as the league’s top team in just about every category this year. A quick goal or two will put them into panic mode and force bad plays, as well as rattle Roberto Luongo, who has shown in this series that his confidence is massively shaken after letting a few by him.
The Bruins forecheck should be a huge factor. In a thrilling overtime win in Game 7 against the Canadiens in the first round, the Bruins were able to take a quick two goal lead thanks to a relentless forecheck right out of the gate. However, once they had the lead, they sat back and let Montreal back in the game. They cannot give the Canucks an inch with a lead; they need to play their hearts out from start to finish. They cannot sit back period. In close games, the Bruins tend to play more defensively and take fewer offensive chances. It is do-or-die at this point, and they need to take some risks to reap any reward.
The Canucks and Bruins were outstanding road teams this season, so it would be odd to see the home team go 7-0 in this Final. But the Bruins were better on the road than at home this season, and so far has been far better on the road this series than has Vancouver, so that should play into their favor in a Game 7. Also, there is some symmetry in this series to that of the Eastern Conference Finals series between Boston and the Tampa Bay Lightning. For all of the offensive stars on the Lightning, it was the lower line players who were getting the job done. The stars did not show up in Game 7, and the Bruins took the series. So far, the Sedins and Kesler have been horribly unproductive in this series, and that could be a serious advantage to Boston. Keeping those guys off the scoreboard is what keeps them in the game.
When it comes down to it, the Bruins need big games from their best players. With Nathan Horton out, who has scored two Game 7 winners in these playoffs, somebody needs to step up to be the hero. Three players in particular who need to step up are Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic, and Patrice Bergeron. Chara had an awful game in Friday night’s loss. Chara is often the most noticeable player on the ice for either time, from his monster size to his monster minutes to his defensive dominance. However, he went virtually unnoticed in Game 5. The only times he was noticeable were when he was turning the puck over or failing to keep it in in the offensive zone. He needs to play up to his normally high standard if the Bruins are to succeed. Milan Lucic was the Bruins leading scorer and only 30-goal scorer this season. However, he has failed to produce on the top line for the Bruins in these playoffs. With Nathan Horton missing on the other wing, Lucic needs to step up and score some big goals, because center David Krejci can’t do it all on this line. Patrice Bergeron has done has usual outstanding job in many aspects of the game in these playoffs, but he has many offensive talents that we have yet to see. He is a gifted goal-scorer when he wants to be, and needs to take more selfish offensive risks.
Either way, we will have a new Stanley Cup champion in either one day or three.
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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