By Mary Paoletti
Today's number is seven. As in, Game 7.
Expectations in Boston aren't high. History shows the Bruins don't win Game 7's; they've lost three in the last three years. They haven't won one since 1994 (against the Canadiens in Boston).
But those are stats. They can either terrify or comfort, depending entirely on how they're presented.
Tuesday night, a TV station showed a graphic saying the Canadiens have indeed lost Game 3's before -- four times, in fact. But the station didn't mention the fact the Bruins have never rallied from a 2-0 series deficit. And they've had 26 chances to do it.
It's the eighth Game 7 between these Original Six rivals in this maxed-out series, the most in sports history, and the Canadiens have won five of the first seven. But since 1991, it's even: They've each won two.
The Canadiens as a road underdog during this 2010-11 season? 19-16. The Bruins when playing back-to-back days? 9-5.
I tried to figure out how these statistics intersect for about five seconds before I started hearing that "Mad World" song from Donnie Darko. That freaked me out, so I quit it.
I get tired of the numbers.
The Bruins beat Montreal in the conference semis in 1988. That meant something. At the time, it was a glorious break from Canadian hockey tyranny in Boston. It was wasn't the first time -- they had won in 1929 and 1943 -- but the '88 series was Boston's first playoff win over Montreal in 45 years. It served as a new wave. Since then, the Bruins are 6-4 against the Canadiens in the playoffs. Before that? 2-20.
So, that 6-4 record for recent history gives Boston holds the advantage, right? Or do the Bruins surrender it because of the three-straight Game 7 playoff ousters? Does Montreal have the edge, then? Must be, because the Canadiens have that 5-2 Game 7 advantage. Then again, the teams are even since 1991.
It's hard to digest.
You know what numbers I'm thinking about (besides Boston being 0-19 on the power play)? 50, for 50 percent odds. Though I am terrified of math, I once learned that two teams have a 5050 shot at winning a series when they are tied.
(Really. Forget Vegas. Gambling odds shown don't represent true chances that the event will occur, but the amounts books will pay out to winners. Think about it. If the numbers that are constantly thrown at us could predict who will win a playoff series, we wouldn't be watching, We'd be gambling. And we'd be earning more money for less work than Dan Ellis.)
Interesting to think this war is suspended in the middle of the battlefield.
Especially considering the implications Game 7's have for the people involved. They are nightmares for coaches who are expected to win them -- or who shouldn't even let their teams get there in the first place -- but keep losing. And Game 7's will haunt players who keep hitting them again and again, not like a speed bump, but a spike strip.
Who will win tonight? I have no idea. But neither does anybody else.