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Time for Bruins to seize the day

Posted by Tony Massarotti, Globe Staff  May 27, 2011 09:21 AM

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No matter where you go today, here is the simple, undeniable truth: you will be asked a question, albeit in a variety of forms. So who do you like? So whaddaya think? At the water cooler. Near the copy machine. In the hallway, outside the bathroom, adjacent to the supply closet. Your guess is as meaningful as anyone else's, which means it is as meaningless, too.

Me?

I like the Bruins.

I think.

So that is what it comes down for your beloved Boston Bruins, a team that has been rebuilt and revived in recent years: a de facto flip of the coin. Tonight at the TD Garden, in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Bruins will play their 100th game of the 2010-11 season, and there is as much reason to believe that the Bruins will win as there is that they will lose. According to a chart in today's Globe, the Bruins have played a seventh and deciding game in precisely 20 series during their considerable history. The results are exactly what one would expect.

Ten wins.

Ten losses.

And so on we go, again, to the deciding game.

At times like this, obviously, perspective makes all the difference in the world. On the one hand, the Bruins have had a very good year, finishing third in the conference during the regular season and advancing past the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1992. On the other, they haven't won a Stanley Cup since 1972. The latter is a trump card impossible to defeat. When the Red Sox lost to the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the 2003 American league Championship Series, few spoke of how successful a season the Red Sox had enjoyed because the end was too painfully familiar.

Recent Boston sports history should remind us that every chance at a championship should be maximized. Tom Brady got hurt in the 2008 season opener after the Patriots lost Super Bowl XLII and New England has not won a playoff game since. The Celtics lost Game 7 of the NBA Finals to the Lakers last year and now seem on their way to assisted living. Beginning with their Game 7 defeat to the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008, the Red Sox have not won a single postseason game.

You just never know when these chances are going to come, no matter how promising the future looks. Winning takes talent and coaching, smarts and guts. Even then, there is a required amount of luck, particularly in a sport where a season can be decided by the bounce off a defenseman's skate.

Ask the San Jose Sharks about this. Or, for that matter, ask the Bruins, who won Game 5 of their first-round series against Montreal in overtime only after a seemingly certain, decisive goal by the Canadiens deflected off the skate of an unknowing Zdeno Chara.

The NHL postseason being the grueling the triathlon that it is, the Bruins' postseason run thus far has been nothing short of exhausting for participants and observers alike. After Game 2 of this series, the Lightning elected to fly home immediately after the game, a decision that may have contributed to their heavy-legged performance in Game 3 (a Bruins win). Maybe that is part of the reason the Bruins elected to fly home yesterday after their Game 6 defeat, choosing to get two reasonably good nights of sleep before the game that will perhaps decide their season.

"We’ve worked all year to win in front of our fans," Patrice Bergeron told reporters yesterday, all but reminding the team's anxious, beaten-down fan base that the players need their full support. "We’ve got to forget about the first six games — it’s all about one now. It all comes down to one game. I think pressure is on both teams, and we shouldn’t allow pressure to get in your head. You’ve got to go out there and play your game."

Indeed, for as much as the focus here is on the Bruins, the same variables apply tonight for a Tampa Bay team that was every bit as good as the Bruins during the regular season. The Lightning have won a Cup more recently, to be sure, but they are assured of nothing.

During the regular season, the Bruins (246) and the Lightning (247) scored a virtually identical number of goals. During this series, the count is 21-20 in favor of Tampa. Overall, in the postseason, the Lightning and Bruins have identical records (11-6) and scored essentially the same number of goals (59-57 for Tampa) while allowing virtually the same number, too (44-45 for Tampa).

From the start, everything about this series screamed for a seventh game.

Tonight, for the Bruins especially, the line between victory and defeat is as fine as ever. In the wake of a Game 6 loss during which Tampa Bay scored three power play goals, the Bruins must stay out of the penalty box. Simultaneously, they must play aggressively. Striking a balance between those two truths could tip the series one way or the other, the outcome kicking off a weekend that will be nothing if not memorable.

Bruins-Lightning, Game 7 tonight, winner playing the Vancouver Canucks for the coveted Stanley Cup.

So who do you like?

So whaddaya think?

Tony's Top 5

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The final chapter on Teixeira and How Red Sox pitchers work the strike zone Jan. 7, 2009 and July 17, 2009. Some actual reporting – an obsession with Mark Teixeira and the art of pitching.
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For 2011 Red Sox, there was plenty of blame to go around Oct. 1, 2011. The disgraceful collapse of the Red Sox stoked the fire in all of us.
3
Behind Garnett and James, Celtics and Heat are digging in June 4, 2012. Improbably, the Celtics pushed the Heat to the limit.
2
Thrill is back for Patriots Jan. 30, 2012. Another Super Bowl has even Bill Belichick musing.
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You’ve got to believe June 15, 2011. On the morning of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, we all had reason to believe.
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Updated: Mar 1, 07:24 AM

About Mazz

Tony Massarotti is a Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. A lifelong Bostonian, Massarotti graduated from Waltham High School and Tufts University. He was voted the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by his peers in 2000 and 2008 and has been a finalist for the award on several other occasions. This blog won a 2008 EPpy award for "Best Sports Blog".

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