Six games weren’t enough. Tomorrow night, the puck will drop for the final time this season and for the final time in this strange, yet entertaining, Stanley Cup final. What should we expect in Game 7? Nobody knows.
Whatever has been expected to happen in this series, the opposite has occurred. It’s been one of the most topsy-turvy series in recent memory, as the home team has come away victorious each time.
When the Canucks were in control after two games, they were embarrassed in Games 3 and 4. When people thought Boston’s loss of Nathan Horton would be paralyzing, the defense-first B’s scored a whopping eight times in Game 3. When Roberto Luongo’s critics came out in full force following Game 4, the netminder posted a shutout two nights later.
When everyone expected the Canucks to put everything on the line to try to win the Cup in Game 6, they never even showed up to TD Garden.
It’s been a series full of unpredictability; and that’s what makes the final game of this memorable Cup final even more intriguing.
Boston comes into Game 7 with a total of 19 goals to their credit – 17 have been scored on home-ice; on the road, well, you do the math. Tim Thomas has been sensational whether the games have played in Vancouver or Boston, but he hasn’t gotten much support on the west coast. Will that change here in Game 7?
First of all, they need to bring the physicality they’ve possessed at home. It seems like when they are finishing their checks and initiating contact, their all-around game improves. Maybe that can translate to offense in this do-or-die contest? If history is any indication, two goals tend to be enough to win a Cup final Game 7, so it’s not asking much out of the Bruins.
Vancouver is also one win away from lifting Lord Stanley, but they’ve gotten to this point scoring 11 less goals than Boston. The pre-series favorites have “found a way” on home-ice, but the games on the other side of the continent have been a different story. Luckily, for the Canucks’ sake, they’ve stepped foot in Beantown for the last time this season.
The role players for the Canucks have to step up. In their wins, the third line (Max Lapierre, Raffi Torres and Jannik Hansen) has shown it can be a difference-maker. In the losses, they’ve been virtually invisible. Could Manny Malhotra be the one to step to the forefront in Game 7? What about Chris Higgins? It’s crucial for one of these guys (or the depth in general) to help make up for the struggling Sedins and ineffective Ryan Kesler.
Ultimately, like all Game 7’s, it will all come down to the goaltending. The weight of the world (and the City of Vancouver) is on Roberto Luongo’s shoulders. If he doesn’t revert back to the netminder we’ve seen at home (0.67 GAA) rather than on the road (8.05 GAA), the Canucks are in big, big trouble.
Meanwhile the calm, cool and collective Tim Thomas just has to play the same way he has in the first six games. He has been the only consistent entity in this otherwise-wacky series, posting a 1.34 goals-against average through six games.
Whichever goalie makes that one big save or gets that one lucky bounce will likely come out on top.
The instantaneous bad blood, biting, bite-mocking, diving, goalies hitting skaters and off-ice war of words have added an element of entertainment to this year’s Cup final. Now it’s time to play hockey.
Tomorrow night, one team will lift 35 pounds of silver over its head; the other will ponder “what could have been.”
Tomorrow night, one fan base and one city will be in euphoria; the other will be downright devastated.
One game remains. Who wants it more: The team of destiny, or the team with unmatched heart and determination? The team that has never won the Cup, or the team that has been title-starved for 39 years?
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.