Home ice on his side
Factors in series all added up to a 7
Somewhere in Greater Boston, there is a bunch of guys who are thinking the following: “That place we’re going for the rehearsal dinner had better have a TV!’’
You know who you are, and that goes for the bride in question, although in fairness to her, it’s almost impossible to pick a wedding date that doesn’t interfere with some sporting event of consequence.
OK, when the Stanley Cup playoffs began April 13, no one knew for sure there would be a Game 7 on May 27. But when this Bruins-Lightning series began, the idea that it would come down to a Game 7 was a reasonable supposition.
Start with this: Each team had 103 regular-season points. The Bruins received the third seed as a division winner, but fourth-seeded Pittsburgh had more points than either of these clubs. Their seeding means the Bruins get to play Game 7 in TD Garden, but it hardly testifies to them being a better team.
Betting on either of these teams to win would have been a sound proposition. Truth be told, betting on Tampa Bay actually made a little more sense, since no one was sure we’d see Patrice Bergeron play for Boston.
Further proof of the parity: The goal scoring after six games is Tampa Bay 21, Boston 20.
Now, if this were a morality play, the gods would have to favor Boston. Yes, Tampa Bay does have fans. They pack the joint with 21,000-plus every night, and they certainly make some noise. And did you see that little demonstration of loyalty the other day when a bunch of Lightning fans saw the team off at the airport by forming a giant lightning bolt? Pretty cool.
But when it comes to fan fidelity and fan worthiness, let’s get serious. No core fans among our four major sports teams — five, if we count the Revolution — is more deserving of a championship than the people who love their Boston Bruins.
It’s not just the fact that you’d have to be at least 44 years old to have any clear memory of the last time the Bruins hoisted the Stanley Cup, juxtaposed against the annoying fact that the Lightning won it all in 2004.
No, it’s that reality, plus the fact that, in the interim, Bruins fans have consistently been used and abused by an infuriating ownership (as opposed to management), which, until relatively recent times, had done a splendid job of convincing the rest of us that its only real concern was selling hot dogs and beer, with winning a Stanley Cup far down the list of priorities.
The entire Ray Bourque Era was essentially wasted, with just two futile trips to the finals against an Edmonton team the Bruins could not have beaten if given 60-minute power plays (oops, bad reference). There was Harry Sinden’s annual rant about the need for a “sniper’’ following each elimination game (Harry could have saved his voice and us some transcription time by simply rerunning the tape of the original lament).
In the middle of it all, there were occasional attempts at upgrading (e.g. the Kevin Stevens trade). But the prevailing fan and media view was that the Jacobses were content to put a cost-efficient team on the ice and no more, and in Sinden they were fortunate to have a man who liked spending their money for what he considered overvalued players even less than they did.
The result has been a 39-year gap between championships in the unquestioned Hub of Hockey. Enough is enough.
The fans on both sides are obviously jacked, and you’d kind of like to hope the players will have a hard time keeping anything down today, but has anyone thought about what this Game 7 means to the coaches, who, after all, are flesh-and-blood human beings and not just guys calling out line changes every now and then?
These are guys who have paid their dues.
Lightning coach Guy Boucher started off coaching college hockey at famed McGill. He is also a veteran of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the AAA Midget Hockey League. His last apprenticeship was with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League. He also served on the staffs of various Canadian national squads. This is his first year with the Lightning.
His distinguishing physical characteristic is, of course, the curious scar on his right cheek, about which he says nothing, other than it is “non-hockey related’’ and that “my kids don’t even know’’ how it came about. Ah, a man of true Canadian mystery.
There is nothing whatsoever mysterious about Bruins mentor Claude Julien. He’s a hockey guy’s hockey guy; that’s all. At 51, he would be entering virgin coaching territory should he find himself in the Stanley Cup finals.
Unlike Boucher, he did play in the league (brief career as a defenseman for the Quebec Nordiques). His coaching résumé also includes the QMJHL, not to mention the Central Hockey League (Salt Lake City), the International Hockey League (Milwaukee), and the AHL (Fredericton, Baltimore, Halifax, Hamilton, and Moncton, where, no doubt, season ticket-holder Matt Stairs was sitting in the stands, sipping a cold one or two). Like Boucher, he has coached on national team staffs.
Before he wound up in Boston, he coached the Canadiens and, until he was sacked weeks shy of the finish line by Lou Lamoriello, a Devils team that would go on to win a Cup. That being the case, Claude Julien might want to coach in a Stanley Cup finals more than anyone in the Western world.
What it all adds up to is that everyone concerned is ready for a Game 7. Ratings should be astronomical, and let’s see how fast everyone eats at those rehearsal dinners.