A Cup of expectations

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A Cup of expectations

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com Columnist Follow @rlevine33
Walking down to the Garden on Wednesday night, it was hard to ignore the enormous beads of sweat rolling down my forehead. And Im sorry if thats a gross picture, but it was a pretty gross situation.

Its only a 10-minute walk from my apartment to Causeway Street, but I was sweating like an Iron Man on his last leg of the triathlon. Or KG five minutes into the first quarter. And the sweaty irony of it all is that I was going to a hockey game. It was mid-June, at least 125 degrees in the shade, and I was headed over to watch the Bruins.

Summer hockey isnt something were accustomed to in Boston, but weve embraced it like we would any opportunity to end 39 years of misery. Maybe it helps that the NFLs in such a depressing state, the Celtics are off planning vacations for the lockout and the Sox are in the early stages of a painfully long season. But that probably doesnt matter. Hockey doesnt need help right now.

The Bruins are two wins away from the Stanley Cup, and the citys on fire.

By now, the novelty of making it back to the Finals has worn off. After the events of the last two games, theres no one whos just happy to be here. When we look at the Bruins, theyre no longer a gang of scrappy guys trying like hell to catch a break and earn some respect. We see a team thats more suited to win the title than any Bruins squad in the last 30 years.

Theyre the real thing. Theyre a championship team. We know its there.

But were also realistic, So, despite all the recent success, no ones lost sight of the fact that the Bruins are still skating on thin ice. That as much as theyre two wins from glory, theyre two losses from watching Aaron Rome kiss the Cup. And it wont be easy.

First of all, they have to win a game in Vancouver. The Canucks will reap the same benefits of playing at home that the Bruins did in the first two games. The same benefits the Bruins did in the last two. Vancouver had the best home record in the NHL, and the home crowd will never be as hyped as they will be on Friday, or in a potential Game 7.

Theres the fact that the Canucks are the more talented team. Or maybe I should say: They have more individual talent. They have more players capable of making more plays, and again, thats magnified even more at home.

Theres also the fact that momentum doesnt travel in the playoffs. If you dont believe me, just ask the 2011 Canucks. Earlier this week, they came to Boston on top of the world. They were beating the Bruins at their own game; they were the physically superior team, willing and able to outlast their opponent before stepping up when it mattered most. Back then it was the Bruins goalie who subjected to mass criticism. It was the Bruins who were having their toughness questioned, and left trying to reestablish their misplaced identity. The series moved to Boston, and they flipped the script.

Is that an inevitable fate for the Bruins as they trek back across the border? Nope. But heres what we do know for sure: If the Bruins win Game 5, it wont be because of anything they did in Game 3 or 4. Game 5 is only about Game 5. As soon as the puck drops, the celebrations over. No ones accomplished anything. Its a three-game series for the whole damn thing. And the Bruins have a shot. A real shot.

And while the events of this past week wont have any real effect on the game itself, they will have a great effect on how we watch it.

This is no longer just another trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. This isnt 1988 and 1990, where the Bruins served as the doormat to a Western Conference giant. It may have felt that way when this all started. But that feelings long gone. Expectations are higher and realer than theyve ever been. Theyre as high as they can be.

Its summer hockey and weve all taken the plunge, just waiting to sweat out another piece of history.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Tuesday, Jan. 24: Crosby, Matthews top coaches' poll

Tuesday, Jan. 24: Crosby, Matthews top coaches' poll

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while rooting for “Manchester By the Sea” to upset some favorites at the Oscars.

*Sidney Crosby and Auston Matthews top the annual NHL coaches' poll produced by TSN Insider Bob McKenzie.

*The oral history of Fox’s glowing puck used for the NHL during their run with the league is an entertaining one.

*Mike Babcock gives pep talks to the reporters along with his own players while running the show in Toronto.

*The Vegas Golden Knights are moving forward with their timetable toward hiring a coach with some good candidates out there now, and some other ones potentially available soon. I’ve wondered if Claude Julien would be interested in that spot if he’s let go by the Bruins this season, but the one sure thing is that he wouldn’t be out of work long if he is relieved of his duties.

*Claude Giroux needs to start playing a little more fearlessly and without dwelling on mistakes, according to his general manager.

*Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill doesn’t believe that fancy stats and analytics have had a major impact on the way the Wings do things.

*PHT writer James O’Brien has the rundown on a Millenial’s dream of performers at the 2017 NHL All-Star Game: Nick Jonas, Fifth Harmony and Carly Rae Jepsen.

*For something completely different: keeping an eye on the notion that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is going to run for President.

 


 

Julien: 'The less said and the more shown' is good for Bruins right now

Julien: 'The less said and the more shown' is good for Bruins right now

BRIGHTON, Mass – Claude Julien met with the media after Tuesday’s morning skate and there was a bit of a long pause between questions at one point early in the session.

“I understand because everything that needs to be said has already been said, right?” cracked the longtime Bruins bench boss, who was in good spirits after morning skate despite the turmoil around him.

It’s clearly less about words and more about results right now for a struggling team that’s lost a season-worst four games in a row in gut-punching fashion and has fallen out of a playoff position despite teams above them, Ottawa and Toronto, holding five games in hand on them. 

The Bruins are in a freefall at the worst possible time and at this point, Julien wants to see positive action and winning results from his team rather than the empty talk with the media.

“We want to respect our game plan, execute it well and that normally helps you. We’ve been a little bit all over the place, especially in the last game,” said Julien. “That’s what we addressed yesterday, moving forward.

“I haven’t used the All-Star break as a motivation. We’re basically looking at these last two games, and what we have to do in these last two games. I think we’re well aware of what’s waiting for them after that. The players normally know when the breaks are. That’s not for us right now. I’d like to see our focus on what we need to do [against the Wings] to right the ship. We’ve talked about it a lot, and I think right now the less said, and the more shown is probably the best thing.”

With two games left until the All-Star break, one has to wonder what Julien’s fate will be if the Bruins drop both games to Detroit and Pittsburgh before the group breaks up for All-Star weekend. 

A good showing might be enough to keep Julien calling the shots for the Black and Gold down the stretch this season. But the sense is that more of the same fragile, losing efforts from the Bruins in these final two home dates, a familiar look from this group over the past three seasons, could spell doom for the winningest coach in Bruins franchise history.

One thing is for sure: Words aren’t going to do anything for Julien, and instead it’s about cold, hard results for the coach and the Bruins players who are nose-diving in the middle of the regular season.