If there is any sporting justice then the Bruins will be squiring the Stanley Cup around Rogers Arena tonight. The Vancouver Canucks don't deserve to beat the Bruins in this series, not with the way the British Columbia bunch has played or behaved.
The Bruins don't deserve to lose, not with the way they've responded from going down 0-2, not with the way they've rallied around the loss of Nathan Horton, not with the sublime play in net of Tim Thomas (who has a 1.34 goals against in the Cup Final), not with this being the last stand of one of the NHL's classiest players, Mark Recchi, not with the resolve they displayed all postseason.
Hopefully, the Hockey Gods have a plus/minus category for pucks probity. If they do, the Bruins win Game 7 of the Cup Final. It's hard to argue that over the course of the first six games the Bruins haven't been the more Cup-worthy team, based on composite performance and comportment.
This isn't simply a good guys, bad guys observation.
The Bruins aren't choir boys. No team that employs lovable (if he's on your side) antagonist Brad Marchand can claim that. But they haven't bitten anyone. They haven't relentlessly critiqued the opposing goalie's playing style. They haven't tried to earn a Screen Actors Guild card drawing a penalty. And they haven't mentally hopped a plane home during any difficult road games. They have been in every game of the series.
Up until Game 6, I was of the belief that either team that ended up winning this series would be a deserving Cup holder. I could rationalize some, repeat some, of Vancouver's questionable decorum as gamesmanship or trying to create a mental edge. So often in sports, morality is viewed through the prism of loyalty to laundry.
But my opinion changed after the Canucks, with the opportunity to clinch the Cup, barely showed up for the first two periods of Game 6. Schizophrenic goalie Roberto Luongo was pulled after allowing three goals on eight shots and Danny Sedin simply took six shots from Marchand with no response.
Regular-season rulers of the NHL with 117 points, the Canucks have treated the Stanley Cup like it's an heirloom bequeathed to them by divine right. Hockey's highest honor is something they deserve, not something they have to fight tooth (well, actually, Alex Burrows has that part down) and nail to earn.
The Bruins have approached the sport's trademark trophy as something that a team has to prove itself worthy of with each shift and each period. They are the latter-day Lunchpail AC, an homage to the lovable, blue-collar teams of the late 1970s that deserved a better fate than to go Cup-less.
The Bruins have shown heart, hustle, guts and guile and wrung every bit of ability out of their roster to reach this point. The Canucks meanwhile have done just enough to get by in this series. They have backed down and backed off at the first sign of adversity or resistance away from home.
Truthfully, the temerity that Daniel Sedin showed in quasi-guaranteeing a Game 7 victory was refreshing. It was defiance from a team that talked the talked and hadn't really walked the walked. But then Danny Boy softened his comments today prior to the game.
"You know, that was probably me being excited and the words came wrong out of my mouth," said Sedin. "What I said was if we put our best game on the ice, I like our chances. That's the way it's been all year. When we play our best, we're a tough team to beat. We show that at home. We like our chances."
What? Your team has ratcheted up the rhetoric all series long, and now hours before the biggest game of its season you choose to temper your talk?
Stanley Cup front-runners all season long, the Canucks have been revealed as just front-runners. They've gone the full LeBron in their three losses in the series, getting smoked by an aggregate count of 17-3 at TD Garden, which is unfathomable for a team as talented from top to bottom as Vancouver, which has a Vezina trophy finalist in goal (Luongo), a Hart Trophy winner as its captain (Henrik Sedin) and the league's leading scorer (Daniel Sedin). I didn't even mention the best American hockey player in the league in Ryan Kesler.
The Bruins' three losses in Vancouver were a pair of 1-0 defeats and a 3-2 loss in overtime. They were games played at the Bruins' pace, games that easily could have gone the other way with a bounce or good-luck goal, games we will rue if they lose tonight. Those were losses after which they could have curled up in the metaphorical covers and bemoaned their fate instead of fighting back to send this series the distance.
Don't confuse the Canucks team with their fans. Like the one's here in Boston, Vancouver's passionate, albeit paranoid, fans deserve to see their team win a Cup. They deserve to have their patience, and feverish fealty rewarded. They have lost two Game 7s of the Cup Final already. The hat trick of heartbreak would be tough to bear.
But their team is not worthy of the support they've shown in this series -- or of being Stanley Cup champions.
Hopefully, the great scoreboard in the sky keeps track of diligence and sports righteousness. If it does then the Bruins are going to get what they deserve.
...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.