By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins InsiderFollow @hackswithhaggs
VANCOUVER After one of the strangest, most memorable, and contentious Stanley Cup Finals in recent history, it comes down to 60 minutes.
Either the Bruins or the Canucks are 60 minutes away from hoisting Lord Stanley's cup, 60 minutes -- or perhaps more, depending on overtime -- that will be played Wednesday night at Rogers Arena.
There is hatred oozing all over the ice, of course, which acts as a natural motivator for both teams after a series of cheap shots, head shots and shots to Roberto Luongos combustible self-esteem.
But this Game 7 is all about the legacies of so many great players on both sides of the coin.
So many skaters in Bruins uniforms are getting their Stanley Cup close-up at exactly the perfect moment in their careers, and that just be what gives them the edge in hostile territory.
Guys like Zdeno Chara, Andrew Ference and Tim Thomas will probably never again get the chance to participate in a classic Game 7 scenario during the Cup Final, and theyre keenlyaware of ithat. Chara and Thomas both have All-Star berths and individual awards, but the Cup is the thing for all of them.
The time is now for the Bs skaters who are bumping into the back ends of their primes to stand up and lead their teammates in the search for a Vancouver victory thats eluded them so far in the Finals.
The symmetry of Thomas enjoying one of the best goaltending seasons in the history of the NHL and changing the perceptions on the importance of goaltending when roster-building in the process speaks to just how brightly his star is shining at 37 years old.
Thomas knows this might be his only kick at the Stanley Cup can, and the smile cant be surgically removed from his face. Many have learned in the past that its a bad idea to try and get between Thomas and his place in hockey history, and that should be a lesson for Vancouver in the last game of their season.
The reality is, for me anyway, this may be the only Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final that I ever have in my career, said Thomas. If we happen to make it again, hopefully we can win before Game 7. But it's a big game. When we're in the garage or driveway playing as a kid and you're fantasizing -- well, I was Stevie Yzerman, which doesn't make sense for a goalie -- but you're saying to yourself, 'Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.'
You're not saying Game 6, you know? So this is really, you know, what every kid dreams about.
Its also the dreamofthe grizzled veterans who have been there several times before.
Its what 43-year-old Mark Recchi dreams about before what is likely to be his swan song. A Cup victory would be a storybook ending to the Bruins chapter of his career thats been brilliant, spanning from Bryan Trottier to Tyler Seguin.
Recchi has been a warrior in the Cup Finals and one of Bostons best forwards against the Canucks when it appeared to many including this hockey scribe that hisgastank might haverun bonedryon the power-play unitagainst Tampa Bay.
Instead it looks like the future Hall of Famer was saving his best for last, which explains the six points in the first six Stanley Cup Finals games.
It seems all but assured Recchi will be riding off into the sunset whether the Bruins win or lose. A win wouldcertainly slap a Hollywood endingon Recchis tale.
But true to Recchis impeccable character, and true to the team full of players that legitimately care about each other, the veteran forward wants to win so he can watch his teammates bask in the glow of Lord Stanleys Cup. He wants to bring others into the club to which he already belongs.
Everyone that has been around the team has seen the impact he's had on our young players and the team itself in the dressing room, said coach Claude Julien. He's really been a great leader as a captain . . .
He is a very respected player, because right now, you've heard him say that, and he said that to our players, he's got two Stanley Cup rings. Right now he probably wants it more for others on this team than he does for himself. That's why he's playing, for his teammates. No doubt it would be a great way for him to cap his career with something like that and certainly doing his share.
Recchi and Shawn Thornton know what its like to win a Stanley Cup from first-hand experience, and have intimate knowledge of what it takes to get there.
But there is also a hunger from others within the Bs dressing room. Youngsters like Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Seguin, Brad Marchand and Adam McQuaid, who will probably have other chances to go for the rarified hockey chalice.
Bergeron, too, is hungry. He has been ferocious in the last couple of games in a way that nobody has ever seen, a result of his competitive drive taking over as he's so close to his ultimate goal of adding a Stanley Cup to his World Junior gold medal and Olympic gold.
Ference wants it. He lost a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals to the Tampa Bay Lightning when he was with the Calgary Flames, and the void of that loss doesnt get any emptier than it is right now for the cerebral blueliner.
Thats been obvious in the physical edge Ference has provided during the playoffs, capping off his best season in a Bruins uniform. He's also taken a growing vocal leadership role within the Bs dressing room, as have many players.
Words like love and family are used by the Bruins when talking about the makeup of their roster, and thats the reason "resiliency" and "spirit" register as a lot more than buzz words to the Bs when theyve needed them most this season.
Something special has been going on with this team since it hopped on a plane destined for Ireland way back in September. They are the first Bruins team in 18 Stanley Cup Finals appearances to play in a Game 7 for their chance at the Cup, and they would become the first team to win three Game 7's in the same playoff run. There's a whole lot of special potentially going on here with the Black and Gold against the villainous Canucks.
We want to have our best game of the series in our last game, said Chara, who has grown by leaps and bounds in the leadership category this season. Its the most important game of the playoffs. Its the game of the year for us.
Its actually more than that.
Its the game of their careers for Chara, Thomas and so many other talented, gutsy players on Boston's roster. Immortality awaits as their reward for a job well done.