Who wins tonight? Who knows?

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Who wins tonight? Who knows?

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

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.

For example:

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.

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

Morning Skate: Brian Boyle embroiled in trade rumors

Morning Skate: Brian Boyle embroiled in trade rumors

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while enjoying Hockey Day in America. 

*Brian Boyle is the subject of trade rumors with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he wants to stay a member of the Bolts. 

*Watch out for the Florida Panthers, who swept the road trip through California and are now back in playoff position for the first time in a long time. 

*It’s great to see play-by-play man Dave Strader back in the broadcast booth doing what he does best after his cancer diagnosis. 

*Hats off to the Bruins ECHL affiliate, the Atlanta Gladiators, for the sweet-looking Boba Fett sweaters worn during this weekend’s Star Wars night. 

*It’s pretty amazing when you’re an NHL player and a former first round pick, and you’re the one most known for being somebody else’s brother. That’s life for Dallas Stars D-man Jamie Oleksiak. 

*Interesting piece about sportswriting, politics and a couple of worlds that were destined to collide at some point. 

*For something completely different: For the 40h anniversary of Star Wars, the toys are being used to recreate classic movie scenes. 

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

The mission for the Bruins on their four-game road swing through the West Coast is certainly to keep the momentum going, but it’s also to quell any talk that the positive results will be short-lived following the coaching change.

The Bruins won there first three games interim head coach Bruce Cassidy headed into the five-day “bye week”, and they’ll come out on the other side with a potentially dangerous road swing through California that will finish up in Dallas next weekend. 

The Black and Gold have gone into death spirals before on the Cali trip, so that’s always a danger when going coast-to-coast to face tough teams in the Sharks, Ducks and Kings.

There’s also the fact that NHL teams are 3-10-2 as of Saturday afternoon in the first game coming back from the five-day midseason vacation. That means the B’s are going to face a stiff uphill battle on Sunday night against the Pacific Division-leading Sharks. 

The challenge is going to be there for the Bruins to answer all of those challenges when they’ve shrunk away from such adversity most of the season. It gives the Bruins yet another chance to show that the three games aren’t merely a sugar-high after cages had been rattled and is instead something that Boston sustains over the season’s final two-plus months.

“Our thinking is to try to win every game. We know the standings. We know it’s pretty tight. We put ourselves in some of the games in tough situations. Now, we’ve got to climb up and fight for every point,” said Zdeno Chara. “It’s going to be very important that we do that and play that way until the end.

“We can look at the standings as much as we want. I think that we really have to focus on how we play, how we want to go into every game, and what we can do to get as many points as possible.”

The good news for the Bruins is that the teams chasing them in the standings really haven’t gained ground on them, and they enter Saturday still in a playoff spot. So, the mathematics don’t look as dire for Boston as they did going into their rest period, and now they should be energized, recharged and highly motivated headed into the final 24 games of the season.

There’s also the fact that the Bruins were playing exciting, aggressive and winning hockey due to some of the tweaks made by Cassidy after taking control of the team. He finally got some production from the third line after putting forwards Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes together, a combo he never truly gave a look because he didn’t trust them to do the job defensively. Cassidy immediately placed 21-year-old Peter Cehlarik into a top-six role with power-play time straight from the AHL. That’s something one almost never saw happen with rookies and inexperienced guys during Julien’s run.

The B’s defensemen corps scored four goals in the three wins and showed aggressive, timely risk-taking to produce offense when playing it safe was normally the call of the day under Julien. The forwards were avoiding the low-to-high passing to the point that so often resulted in perimeter shots from the Bruins in the offensive zone, and instead attacked the net down low with the forwards looking to put some anxiety into the opponent’s D-zone coverage.

It all worked and it all looked remarkably different from the way the Bruins played in the opening 55 games.

“It’s something we need to bottle up and not change our approach, not change what we’re doing, make sure we’re moving [during the bye] and not just sitting idle and getting rusty,” said David Backes last weekend headed into the bye. “Make sure that mentally, we can have those same sort of mindsets for every guy to be contributing. It’s something that doesn’t show up on the score sheet, but guys are recognized in here for doing those things and that’s winning culture. That’s what we’re building.”

The Bruins now get their chance to prove this is a permanent change to a winning culture rather than a short term, three-game adrenaline rush after watching their longtime coach get fired. It won’t be easy, but it shouldn’t be for the Black and Gold if they’re finally going to earn their way into the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in three seasons.