A Cup of expectations


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

Thursday, Oct. 27: Chara top D-man on All-Graybeard team


Thursday, Oct. 27: Chara top D-man on All-Graybeard team

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while saying RIP Vine but not really feeling it since it’s a rabbit hole I never really delved down into. 

*Down Goes Brown celebrates the “NHL’s old guys”, and yes, that means a gratuitous shout out to Zdeno Chara as the top defenseman on the All-Graybeard squad. 

*Hampus Lindholm has signed a long term deal with the Anaheim Ducks, so now that deal leaves everybody to wonder who is leaving the Anaheim roster in the eventual salary cap crunch. It will be interesting to see if this hastens any Cam Fowler trade talk as far as the Bruins are concerned because it looks like they need the help.  

*Pro Hockey Talk has the Oilers off to their best start since the Wayne Gretzky Era and people in Edmonton finally getting to see the hockey they’ve been waiting for over the past few years. 

*In honor of the Halloween season that we’re in, here are a few cool and scary goalie masks with a bit of spooky flair. 

*Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka is confident that his young team is going to rebound after a rough start to the season. 

*Speaking of creative uniforms, it’s a most wonderful time of the year for hockey when they bust out their Oktoberfest sweaters. 

*For something completely different: this matchup of Peanuts and Stranger Things hits all the right notes for fans of both. 


Goalie update: Tuukka Rask dealing with hamstring AND groin injury?


Goalie update: Tuukka Rask dealing with hamstring AND groin injury?

While the good news is that it doesn’t appear that Tuukka Rask is dealing with a knee injury, there are still some significant muscular issues to work with concerning his left leg. 

According to former Bruins defenseman and NHL analyst Aaron Ward on CSN’s Great American Hockey Show podcast, the Bruins franchise goaltender has been dealing with a hamstring issue that’s also become a hamstring and groin issue as he tried to play through in the first week of the season. Rask clearly tweaked something in his left leg opening night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, missed the Saturday night loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs and then appeared to aggravate the injury in last week’s win over the New Jersey Devils. 

According to Ward, it’s hamstring and groin issues for Rask as the Bruins attempt to survive without him while potentially working toward a possible return for the Finnish netminder this weekend vs. the Red Wings. Rask hasn’t skated with the Bruins since finishing out the 2-1 win over the Devils last Thursday night, and tweaking the problematic left leg in the process. 

“What I was told is that it was left leg, and that at first it was hamstring and now it’s possibly hamstring and groin,” said Ward to CSN Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty on the Great American Hockey Show podcast. “You’re always concerned when you’re a goalie and it’s your legs, right? It’s the push-off. The crazy part was watching it on video where the shoot came from the left side and went wide, and the next time he injures it shot comes from the same spot, misses it wide and [Rask] is in the exact same position wincing.

SUBSCRIBE Audioboom | iTunes | Google Play | Stitcher

“I think [the Bruins] are smart rather than trying to play a guy that’s 90, 80 or 70 percent, whatever it is, to just get it over with. Endure the short term pain to get the greater gain, and that’s having Rask in there. There’s no greater endorsement to keep him out than seeing the [bad losses without him] because you need a healthy Tuukka to let the rest of the team settle.”

It’s been disastrous without Rask, of course, as the Bruins have allowed 11 goals in back-to-back losses to the Wild and Rangers with rookies Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre between the pipes, and Anton Khudobin out for three weeks while sporting a cast on his right hand in the last B’s game at TD Garden. 

Meanwhile, Rask (3-0-0, 1.67 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage) is trying to heal and time it perfectly so he returns once he’s past the danger of potentially blowing out the muscles in his left leg and making the situation even worse than it already might be. 

Ward also discusses his relationship with "Toucher & Rich" and the "Cuts for a Cause" charitable event that he helped start.