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Game 7 preview; One game for all the marbles

June 15, 2011

One. More. Win.

Tonight will be the 107th and final game of the Boston Bruins season and the most important game in the last 39 years in Bruins history. A win tonight would elate the masses of Bruins fans and a loss, no matter the fashion, would be devastating. The story is the same for the Canucks. There is no in between. There is no tomorrow.

There’s also no reason to look back on anything and try to make a prediction. One thing we know about Game 7’s is that they are entirely unpredictable. Game 6 doesn’t matter in the context of tonight’s game, and really the other five games of the series don’t matter either, injuries aside. Styles and schemes are put aside in Game 7’s and will and intensity get pushed into the forefront. Alright, enough of the pre-game diatribe. If you don’t get waves of tonight’s importance randomly today then you might not quite get it. True fans of these two teams feel the nerves, the excitement, the emotion themselves and it isn’t easy to explain to those who don’t feel it. At random times today when thinking of heroic scenarios I’ve welled up with emotions to the brink of tears and with thoughts of a dream crushed I’ve felt the pit in my stomach swell up.

On to the teams taking the ice tonight. Vancouver’s depth has been further pushed to the limit with the Mason Raymond injury. Jeff Tambellini will return to the lineup for the first time since Game 3. Raymond was similar to Rich Peverley in that he got time on multiple lines and his combination of speed and skill make for tough match-ups. Tambellini is -5 with no points in five games in the postseason so it’ll be interesting to see who the Canucks plug in on the second line. If they bring Jannik Hansen up a line it disturbs their third line which has been their best line at home but clearly gives Ryan Kesler more fire power on the wing.

The Canucks defense is also banged up, pushing their depth to the limit. Both Alex Edler and Andrew Alberts were banged up in Game 6, Edler didn’t return in the final stretch of the game but Alberts only missed a shift or so. Both are in the lineup tonight but may not be at 100%. The Bruins aren’t thought to be harboring many injuries aside from Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci‘s concussions, which they’ve both rebounded from. One common thought is that Milan Lucic is playing with a foot injury. That may explain his lack of speed in some games but could also be debunked by his skating legs in other games, notably Game 6. All these injuries will come out to the public late tonight after the game of course but none are excuses.

The biggest matchup in tonight’s game is certainly between the pipes. Tim Thomas is expected to get the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP win or loss but Roberto Luongo is the game/series’ x-factor. In three wins he’s let up just two goals but in three losses he’s let up 15 goals. He plays a lot more comfortable in front of his hometown fans but those fans may be ready to turn on him if he gives up a soft goal early. We don’t yet know the length of Luongo’s leash but it can’t be more than two average-looking goals. In many ways this is the key to tonight’s game. Each team who has scored first has one in this series and as we know, getting in Luongo’s head early can only help the Bruins chances.

The other big factor is which team comes out more physical. As with most Game 7’s the expectation is for the referees to use their whistles sparingly and let the players battle to a resolution themselves. With that being said, the more physical and tenacious team should dictate play early. If the Canucks come out and use their speed to win puck battles they could get the Bruins on their heels early and keep them there but if the Bruins use their size to bang the Canucks and keep the puck pinned along the boards they could force the issue on the Canucks.

I like how Claude Julien purposely didn’t match Zdeno Chara with the Sedins late in the game, preparing as many defensemen as possible for what could happen tonight. The Canucks will still be able to dictate tonight’s match-ups which has been the key in each of the six previous games but with six games in the books these teams know each other extremely well so it’ll be interesting to see if the match-ups are magnified or nullified.

I’ll cut this short because I could ramble on and pontificate all day long but nobody knows what will happen tonight. The most we can do is to hope. Also, I won’t be doing a game story tonight. I’m going to take in tonight in full. Sometime tomorrow I’ll likely do a Random Thoughts post and series/game/season reflection. I hope it’s a happy one.

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