Levine: Nothing logical about Game 7


Levine: Nothing logical about Game 7

By Rich Levine

In the 39 years since the Bruins last won it all, the Stanley Cup Finals have gone the distance seven times. But of those seven series, only two played out as systematically as this years classic between the Bs and Canucks.

The first was in 2003: New Jersey Devils vs. Gordon Bombays Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. In that series, the Devils took the first two games at home, before losing the next two on the road. They won Game 5 at home, lost Game 6 on the road and the teams headed into Game 7 with neither having won on the other's ice.

The same thing happened in 2009, when the Red Wings took a 2-0 lead at home against the Penguins, before the series fell into that same rare but predictable pattern.

One were all pretty sick of here in Boston.

Over the last two weeks the Bruins and Canucks have played one series on two very different planes. Theres the Vancouver series, where the Bruins sticks go soft and Tim Thomas gambles with the success rate of Antoine Walker. In Vancouver, the Canucks are mentally tougher and find greater strength in the biggest moments; they dictate the action. Meanwhile, Roberto Luongo turns into Patrick Roy (but still looks like Jean Girard from Talladega Nights). The Bruins havent played poorly north of the border, but for one reason or another, theyve never played well enough to win.

Then theres the Boston series. In Boston, the Bruins are unbeatable. The games are so one-sided that you wonder (regardless of whether theyre playing in Boston, Vancouver or Mars) how the Bs could ever lose. Theyre a better team in every facet of the game. Theyre the best team in the league.

But unfortunately, you know the deal. Tonight, with everything on the line, the Bruins wont have the luxury of home ice. Instead, theyll get a fourth chance to win a Stanley Cup road game; a chance bestowed on only two other teams in the last 40 years. Can they do it? Can they break the cycle?

The Ducks couldnt. In 2003, they rode into Game 7 on the back of super goalie Jean Sebastian Giguere (who stepped into the starting role after Goldberg got the chicken pox), but fell to the Devils, 3-0. And if were being honest, no one would be shocked if the Bruins experienced a similar fate.

As great as the entire city feels after the latest Boston beatdown, weve been here before. We know how things change up in Canada, and that as great as the Bruins looked on Monday, the Canucks are apt to look even better tonight. Just like the Bruins, Vancouvers a different team at home. And that home-ice advantage theyve thrived on so far? Tonight it will reach its apex. Game 7 will be louder and crazier than anything the Bruins have ever faced.

Throughout NHL history, road teams are a combined 3-12 in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup. Regardless of what happens in the previous six games, its always rare for the road team to go home happy. And when you talk about the seven Game 7's since the Bruins last won? The road team is 1-6.

But when you talk about that one, the one team that defied the odds and reached the Promise Land on an opponents ice?

Youre talking about the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins.

A team that spent an entire series proving that they couldnt get it done at the Red Wings' rink, but in the end only reminded us of an important lesson.

When it comes to Game 7, you can cite all the facts you want. You can hark back to history, both ancient and recent. You can find every single logical reason why something might or should or will likely happen and stick to those guns like theyre smothered in Luongos greasy hair gel.

But if you do, youre missing the boat.

Because when it comes down to it, Game 7 isnt a time to be realistic. Its not about logic. Its not a time to care about whats happened, because moving forward, anything can happen. Game 7 is Rams-Patriots in 2002. Its Patriots-Giants in 2008. Its every single upset in the history of March Madness. Its stupid. Its illogical. Its . . .

Its tonight.

So lets just cut loose and get lost in the moment, instead of the details of last two weeks.

The Bruins are 60 minutes away from their first Stanley Cup title in 39 years, and who knows how long it will be until they get this close again.

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

Haggerty: Bruins playing it pretty safe at the NHL Draft

Haggerty: Bruins playing it pretty safe at the NHL Draft

CHICAGO – As opening nights go at the NHL Draft, Friday night was a bit of a ho-hum affair for the Boston Bruins at the United Center home of the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Bruins went the safe route by drafting a smooth, defensive-minded defenseman with the 18th overall pick when they selected Finnish product Urho Vaakenainen, and in doing so left more dynamic forwards like Kristian Vesalainen and Kailer Yamamoto still on the draft board for other teams to claim as their own. It was a bit of a curious choice given how many defensemen the Bruins already have in the prospect pipeline, but the lack of strength in the draft class seemed to lead teams to carve their own paths looking for players.

MORE: Bruins select defenseman Urho Vaakanainen with No. 18 pick

The 6-foot-1, 188-pounder clearly has miles to go offensively despite his smooth skating and solid passing skills, but there’s also a consideration that the teenager has been playing in the men’s league in Finland for the last couple of seasons. It makes things a little more difficult to project for the Finn D-man, but the Bruins believe there is some upside to his offensive game given the skills, the hockey IQ and the considerable confidence that the player has in his own game.

“His gap control and skating ability are really good. He’s obviously played in the Finnish Elite League at a very young age for one and a half years now and he’s played on the big stage at the world juniors. We feel like there’s a lot of upside for a 200-foot player that gets back on pucks, and then can transition them back out. Being able to cover ice is an important part of the game, and it continues to evolve in that direction,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney, who indicated Vaakenainen will play in North America in 2018-19 after fulfilling his contractual obligations in Finland. “We tracked what he did on offense at the junior league level prior to him jumping to the elite league, and it lines up pretty well with other elite players that made the jump to that level.

“It’s a valid question and whether he gets put into those [offensive] situations this year is what we’re excited about with his [Finnish] team moving forward.”

While Vaakenainen sounded surprised the Bruins selected him after only a single meeting at the NHL scouting combine, Sweeney said that Boston’s head scout in Finland has enough history with the family to vouch for the kid’s makeup.

So while it’s far from a sexy pick and the Bruins could have tried to hit a home run with an 18th overall selection in a mediocre draft, the B’s will also get some time before anybody is ready to label the Finnish blueliner a boom or a bust.

The rest of the draft night didn’t add up to much for the B’s, however. They made the selection of Vaakenainen after strongly considering dropping down in the first round, and in doing so lost one of the better trade chips in the form of their 2017 first round pick. There were discussions with Minnesota about Marco Scandella and a few trade feelers to other clubs that might listen on a D-man, but the Bruins now have to hit the reset button on trade discussions for left-shot defensemen or top-6 left wings.

Perhaps Scandella’s $4 million per season salary was an issue for the Bruins, or maybe the Bruins didn’t want to give up their first round pick for a 27-year-old D-man coming off a so-so season with the Wild. Either way, there wasn’t enough momentum for the Bruins to get a trade done with a bevy of defensemen rumored to be available if the offer is good enough.

“I was on the record saying that we’d be offering our first round pick for target-specific players, and we did do that,” said Sweeney. “I don’t blame teams for not necessarily wanting to go through with it, so we went ahead with a player we wanted with our own pick. We continue to build what we think is a good group of guys moving forward.

“There are a couple of areas we’d like to address and get better. We’re trying to help our team currently. Certainly Brandon [Carlo] jumped into our lineup and we hope Charlie [McAvoy] will carry over what he did, and we have other players that will push. We have six returning defensemen we feel good about and we’ll certainly push from underneath, but it’s an area we’ll continue to address. We have some forwards that we also hope will come online, but we’ll never stop exploring and trying to improve our club.”

So let’s sum it all up after a week of additions and subtractions from the Original Six organization: The Bruins added a decidedly vanilla defenseman in the first round of the NHL Draft that might be a simple stay-at-home guy, and they weren’t able to muster any kind of deals for a D-man or winger to enhance the NHL roster. On the other hand, they didn’t give up much over the week as well and they didn’t do much at all to harm a solid roster that looked like they were finally on the right track pushing into the playoffs last season.

The Bruins could be in store for an action-packed Day Two of the draft on Saturday full of promising prospects and bountiful trades, but it sure feels like the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago isn’t going to be a very memorable one for the Black and Gold. 

Bruins select defenseman Urho Vaakanainen with No. 18 pick


Bruins select defenseman Urho Vaakanainen with No. 18 pick

CHICAGO – Well, the Bruins are certainly opening themselves up for a little second-guessing.

The B’s were trying to move their first-round pick, but ultimately made the selection in Finnish D-man Urho Vaakenainen, who is described by scouts as a classic stay-at-home defenseman type without much offensive upside.

MORE - Report: Bruins among several teams interested in Wild's Scandella

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Vaakenainen had a goal in six games for Team Finland at a disappointing World Junior tournament, and didn’t post anything eye-catching while playing for JYP of SM-Liiga where he appeared in 41 games, tallying two goals and four assists along with a plus/minus rating of plus-five. He spent the 2015-16 season with Blues of SM-Liiga, scoring a goal and five assists in 25 games.

Some scouting reports cast him as strictly a stay-at-home D-man with limited offensive skills while other scouting reports give him a little more credit for his two-way game and smooth puck-moving abilities without any big holes in his game.

“Has an uncanny ability to get his stick in shooting and passing lanes. Just don’t expect offense,” said Sportsnet anchor and prospect aficionado Jeff Marek leading up to the draft in one of his mock drafts. “He won’t be out there late in a game to tie it up, but you’ll love him out there protecting a lead.”

Vaakenainen said he was surprised to be taken by the Bruins given that he had just one conversation with them at the NHL Scouting Combine, and hadn’t really talked to any Bruins scouts throughout the hockey season. On the plus side, Vaakenainen said he models his game after Nashville defenseman Roman Josi and prides himself on his skating, his passing and shooting and his ability to play the two-way game.

“I think I’m a great skater…good with the puck,” said Vaakenainen. “I have a great first pass. I’m a complete package and a two-way defenseman, steady guy. My expectation was to go in the first round. I wasn’t expecting to go Boston, but the first round was my expectation. I met them at the combine, but that was it. That was the only meeting in person.”

Clearly, it remains to be seen how a young, raw prospect like Vaakenainen develops over time and there were plenty of mock drafts and scouting services that him getting selected in the first round. Still, once in a while it wouldn’t kill the Bruins to go with a player holding larger upside like Finnish power forward Kristian Vesalainen or dynamic, undersized winger Kailer Yamamoto.