Countdown to Game 7: Can you feel the hurt?

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Countdown to Game 7: Can you feel the hurt?

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

You go into a Game 7 and, on the surface, things are even.

Both the Bruins and Lightning have won three games. The best-educated guess for Friday's finale is a coin flip.

But this series doesn't feel even.

Say what you want about the behavior of Bruins fans -- and I know it ain't always pretty -- but you can't say Tampa's crowd can relate. The most diehard, crazy, obsessed worshipper of the Bolts has ridden the wave for 19 years. In Boston, 19 years of fandom is a blink. There are people here who have season tickets, rabid-bear tattoos, and Bulldogs named P.J. Stock, and who would get kicked out of Sully's if they were unable to name the entire 1972 Stanley Cup roster.

And a lot of what they've endured is really, really awful.

One playoff series win from 1995 to 2009. Zero Conference finals bids since 1992. Zero Stanley Cup Finals appearances since 1990. And then there's that 39-year monster: The Cup Drought.

It tests the heartiest of fans. And it's a trial that Tampa supporters -- no matter how loyal -- can't understand. No offense intended; it's just fact. It's history.

And that's why Boston bears the heavier load tonight.

What happens if the Lightning lose? Is Guy Boucher's job in jeopardy? No. The 2010-11 NHL season was Boucher's first as a head coach. His team compiled a 46-25-11 record for the second best record in the Southeast division. The finish is dead-on for NHL's preseason estimates; the Conference Finals run exceeds expectations. The only thing Boucher has to worry about is whatever sliced his face.

And what of the fans? Will they dissolve into bitterness and cynicism? Probably not. Tampa's championship drought is more like a dry spell: Seven years. That's all. Not even one full decade of Cupless hockey. What kind of suffering is that? Not the kind that makes a fan feel jaded or hopeless. It's not the kind of franchise failure that puts a coach under the gun.

Not the way Claude Julien is.

Julien is in his eighth season as an NHL bench boss. He's won more games than he's lost (298-189-69), which is good. He's also been fired twice -- midseason by Montreal and after one year with New Jersey -- which is bad. Look at Julien's resume and you'll see a lot of red: Missed playoffs. Lost in second round. Lost in first round. Lost in second round.

Going into tonight, something else stands out: Game 7 loss to Philadelphia, Game 7 loss to Carolina, Game 7 loss to Montreal.

There is a win atop the pile, thanks to Boston's first-round bout with the Canadiens this season. No matter where you were in New England you could hear Julien's sigh of relief when the final horn sounded. But it's turned out to be like dodging a bullet only to duck into a whole new line of fire. What happens if the Bruins lose this one? Which Game 7 result do you think will matter more to the brass?

Exactly. More pressure.

Mathematics tell us that we are again at 50-50 odds. But add Boston's frustrating, fruitless history into the equation and the series doesn't feel even. Not at all.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Saturday, Feb. 25: Shea Theodore waits for his time with Ducks

Saturday, Feb. 25: Shea Theodore waits for his time with Ducks

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while giving two thumbs up to The Lego Batman Movie after a screening with my 3 1/2 year old.

*Alex Prewitt has a profile on Anaheim defenseman prospect Shea Theodore as he waits for his time with the Ducks.

*The Vancouver Canucks have a mumps problem this season, and we continue to wonder why this is becoming an issue again in a first-world society.

*PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough has Patrick Eaves dealt to the Ducks for what could be first round pick if Anaheim advances far enough through the playoffs.

*Flyers GM Ron Hextall says that Philly’s young team won’t be buying ahead of next week’s NHL trade deadline.

*Along with his “Sutter-isms”, diversity is a family value for the Los Angeles Kings head coach Darryl Sutter.

*Dave Strader gets back into the broadcast booth with the Dallas Stars, and will be a welcomed addition to the national NBC broadcast of Bruins/Stars on Sunday afternoon.

*As cold as he was earlier in the season, New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist is heating up now for the Blueshirts.

*For something completely different: Brie Larson is already prepping for her role as Captain Marvel by stepping up her game as an influence for positive change among her Hollywood peers.


 
 

Backes set to star in Animal Planet special this weekend

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Backes set to star in Animal Planet special this weekend

It’s only a coincidence that it will air the same week that the Boston Bruins went Hollywood with their annual three-game road trip through California, but David Backes and his wife Kelly are going to get some solid TV time this weekend. The animal-loving couple are going to be featured Saturday night in the all-new Animal Planet special "Stars to the Rescue," which highlights the Backes family’s excellent work to ensure every animal has a ‘furever’ home.

The lifelong animal lovers have adopted five rescue pets that all made the move from St. Louis to Boston this summer, and launched Athletes for Animals in 2013, a non-profit organization supporting professional athletes and animal advocacy efforts. The 32-year-old Backes chose a Boston animal shelter as his first setting to meet with the Boston media this summer after signing with the Bruins in free agency, and spoke glowingly about his inspiration for marrying two of his passions: helping animals and sports.

“The full story is that in college we wanted an animal or two, but it just wasn’t responsible because we were renting and the landlords didn’t approve," said Backes, the proud owner of four dogs (Maverick, Rosey, Marty and Bebe) and two cats (Sunny, Poly). "We just didn’t really have the time or resources to support them, so we volunteered at the local shelter for the three years I was in school.

“When my wife [Kelly] and I moved to St. Louis, we wanted to connect with the community, be a part and use our voice to influence social change to do our part making the world a little bit of a better place. So we said, ‘Why not connect with the animal welfare rescue community?’

“We absolutely love doing it: Walking dogs, scooping litter boxes and cleaning kennels. Let’s use our voice to kick this off and see what we can do, and it really just snowballed from that to then trying to tie other guys into it. It’s not limited to the animal stuff, but the animals that don’t have a voice, and the kids that don’t have a voice, really tug at our heart strings. We want to help them with this blessing of a great voice we’ve been given as professional athletes, and to really use that to give them some help.”

The “Stars to the Rescue” special premieres on Saturday night at 8 pm on Animal Planet where there will be a full segment on the Backes family, but here’s a clip where Backes talks about his well-publicized involvement with a number of stray dog rescues during his 2014 Olympic Hockey stint with Team USA in Sochi, Russia.

Backes isn’t the only Boston athlete featured during the Animal Planet special as it also chronicles the stories of other well-known athletes and celebrities and the dogs they can't live without: Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman, Baltimore Ravens’ Ronnie Stanley, Selma Blair, ESPN Correspondent Michelle Beadle, WNBA star Elena Delle Donne, former Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield and more. From training buddies to comforting companions, “Stars to the Rescue” shows first-hand how these celebrities first met their cute rescued canines and how their dogs have impacted and transformed their lives for the better.