Once again, the “seventh player” had its say and got its way Friday night as Rogers Arena cheered the Vancouver Canucks to a 1-0 triumph and 3-2 series lead in the Stanley Cup Finals.
The best the Causeway Street congregation can do now is push to continue this trend in Monday’s Game 6, when the Boston Bruins will strive to push the series to the brink. If that happens, both the Bruins and the Canucks will have won six consecutive home playoff games, dating back to May 15. And all Vancouver would have to do is avoid messing up the works one more time.
Frankly, it is difficult to envision any other scenario. Both immediate and more distant history, combined with how these adversaries size up on paper and the deletion of Bruins’ clutch scorer Nathan Horton after Game 3, call for one more scrapbook scene in Boston before the Canucks polish things off next Wednesday.
But at least that way, the epicenter of the bittersweet ending will be three, safe time zones away from Boston. And regardless, seeing as both sides are following Crash Davis’ dogma and insist that this be “taken one game at a time,” let’s just focus on TD Garden’s season finale.
The Bruins have yet another chance to reiterate the resilience they have often demonstrated this season and have used to manufacture other memories in their four years under head coach Claude Julien.
With another crowd-pleaser on Monday, they will concoct an enhanced version of another Game 6 victory, namely from the 2008 Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Montreal Canadiens.
Considering the franchise’s state of affairs at that time, having narrowly attained eighth place after egregiously missing the previous two postseasons, Marco Sturm’s game-winner proved a miniature Carlton Fisk moment.
Sure, the heavily favored Habs perked back up and swiped Game 7, 5-0, back at the Bell Centre. But which game had the more lasting impact on the revived New England fan base?
Here’s a hint: the subsequent autumn, every Bruins home game was preceded with a highlight montage―energetic Foo Fighters soundtrack and all―that climaxed with a dramatic, multi-panel replay of Sturm spooning that puck over Carey Price’s right shoulder.
Albeit on a smaller scale, it was no different than Fisk waving his walk-off home run off the pole to cement Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. The Big Red Machine from Cincinnati rebounded to win the decisive game, but who would have thought that decisive game would have even been necessary?
Now, it’s the exponentially resurgent Bruins versus the Blue-and-Green Machine from Vancouver. On one bench, it’s a President’s Trophy winner that has scraped out three, one-goal triumphs at home while failing to connect on the road. On the other, it’s a team and a coach that is a respectable 4-3 when facing elimination from the playoffs and 2-0 when the adversary threatens to drop the curtain in Game 6.
It is also a team that has finally started to utilize its home-ice advantage more consistently―as evidenced by the aforementioned five-game streak as well as Game 7 triumphs over Montreal and Tampa Bay. It is a team that has, for the most part, made amends for a subpar power play by stifling Vancouver’s Cyclopean man-up brigade. It is a team that continues to stymie the Sedin twins, who still have but an aggregate two points in this series.
There is no reason why the Bruins should not, at the very least, continue to keep this pace long enough to end their 2010-11 home slate on a savory note. More obviously, there is no reason for the fans to request anything less of them.
There is already a cornucopia of highlights competing for inclusion in next year’s opening night buildup on Garden HDX. But it would be tremendously better if it could include next Monday’s game-winning goal, no matter what might happen across the continent afterward.