Don't count on the fans to bail you out tonight, Bruins.
This one is on you.
The crowd at TD Garden earned its "fan points" for the next 25 years with its performance of the National Anthem during the Bruins-Sabres game two days after the Boston Marathon bombings.
There is no way any crowd could manufacture the real emotion and passion of that night - especially when the home team is limping back from a solemn and weak performance in Game 6 at Toronto Sunday night. The Bruins weren't able to return to Boston until Monday morning because of airplane problems.
Bad sign or blessing? We'll know soon enough. The Bruins won't be able to use their travel woes as an excuse for losing tonight, however.
Why? Here's pretty much the only stat that matters with this team heading into tonight's Game 7: In the past 140 minutes and six seconds of hockey your Boston Bruins have scored just two - that's right two - even-strength goals. Guess that whole "turn on the offense thing in time for the playoffs" really doesn't work after all. And there were no airplane problems before games five and six, either.
It really shouldn't matter if tonight's game was being played in Boston, Toronto or South Beach, the Bruins ought to be good enough to come out and play inspired, aggressive and balls-out hockey for at least 60 minutes in a Game 7. Having the home crowd is a nice convenience and a great way for Bruins' fans to help the team with a solid emotional push. This isn't a question of fan loyalty in Boston. Remember, the faithful stuck it out for 39 years of Cup-lessness, the majority of which took place at the old Garden and under the thumb of the Jacobs Family and its warm beers, obstructed-view seats and hot and cold running rats.
If any team specializes in Game 7s, it's these Bruins. In the past five seasons, the Bruins have ended their playoff run in a Game 7 (Montreal, Carolina, Philadelphia, Vancouver and Washington). Four times, that Game 7 was a loss. And when they won the Cup in 2011, it took them three Game 7 victories to do it. The Bruins and Red Sox share something else in addition to State Run Media telecasts - both teams have trouble with their closers.
The Bruins blew two chances to close this thing out over the weekend. The Maple Leafs and yes, Phil Kessel, deserve all the credit in Ontario for being able to pack the net at both ends of the ice, push the puck relentlessly and find the right way to score, or stop a goal, at the most important moments. To wit: the clutch stops James Reimer made on Patrice Bergeron in Games 5 and 6. The big one in Game 6 came on a wraparound that would have gotten the Bruins on the board first.
Let's not kid ourselves. Tuukka Rask is the only reason why the Bruins didn't lose this thing in six games, or even less. Tim Thomas remains an all-time Bruins fan favorite because of what he did in 2011. His refusal to go to the White House and political views are not relevant here, but even Thomas would have to consider Finnish citizenship if the Bruins and Rask manage to win this thing. And it's absurd to think that the 2011 oversion of Thomas would have done any better in this series, considering again it took the Bruins three Game 7s to reach the promised land in Vancouver two years ago.
The "Thank you, Seguin" chants Sunday night were both on point and idiotic. They were on-point given Seguin's horrible play in this series yet foolish because Seguin had nothing to do with the trade that sent him (via the draft) to Boston for Kessel. Of course, these same geniuses found a a way to boo during the American National anthem Sunday night. The dutiful hosts on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada - talk about your State Run Media - told their viewers across North America that the boos were not anti-American, but in response to Zdeno Chara's face appearing on the message board.
Nice try, fellas. Thinking the good folks in Toronto would have the decency to hold back any response during the American National Anthem no matter whose face is shown on the video board. That's like taking a call in the middle of church because it seemed urgent. Some things are more important than others. Demonstrating class and respect during any nation's national anthem, except perhaps the old Soviet Union national anthem ("The Internationale") during "Rocky IV," is something we hope a six-year-old can grasp, never mind a hockey fan in Toronto. Four weeks after the Boston Marathon Bombings it's the least they could do. Somehow, we're supposed to give those same fans credit for not rioting after Toronto's win Sunday night. That was probably the most they could do.
The fake Gorbachev from "Rocky IV" might be the next coach of the Bruins if Claude can't get his lines firing tonight.
The Leafs have nullified Big-Z's mythical slapshot by being willing to lay their bodies on the line every time he winds up. Bruins fans may be the ones who end up booing his face at the end of hostilities tonight.
Not even the Bruins seem to know for sure which version of the "Jekyll and Hyde" team will show up Monday. At least the plane landed safely this morning. For Seguin, Bergeron, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton and Brad Marchand, to indict a few, it's mainly been a series of "Jekyll and Hide," as the Bruins' offense and ability to set up rebounds, find the open hole and get more than one player in front of the net at a time has disappeared.
This series and John Farrell's defection to the Red Sox has allowed Toronto to join the ever-growing list of cities that have developed a sports rivalry with Boston. Torontonians - or whatever they call themsevles - can get in line behind the unwashed masses from Vancouver, Montreal, New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, among other locales.
Bring the hate, people. Boston can handle it, and a lot more. After Speed Bump and Asshat, you've got nothing.
The great thing about Game 7 is that offers everyone one final shot to come through, be the hero, or, in the case of the Bruins, perhaps score three goals in a game.
They get that chance tonight, assuming their plane ever gets off the ground in Toronto.
And it will be up to themselves do to something about it.
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