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

Beleskey knocked out of Bruins game with lower body injury

Beleskey knocked out of Bruins game with lower body injury

The Bruins have added another injury to their current collection of banged-up players. 

This time it’s scrappy left winger Matt Beleskey, who was knocked out of Saturday’s game in Buffalo in the first period with a check thrown at his lower body. Beleskey was hit with a body check targeting his right leg at center ice from Buffalo forward Tyler Fedun, and skated gingerly to the bench before eventually heading back to the dressing room. 

There was no penalty called on a borderline hit that seemed to be targeting Beleskey’s leg. The Bruins announced in the middle of the second period that he was done for the day with a lower body injury. Beleskey finished the day with three registered hits and was 1-for-2 in the faceoff circle with six shifts for 5:27 of ice time in the second period. 

The 28-year-old Beleskey had managed to stay pretty healthy this season to this point, but was underachieving a bit offensively with two goals and five points along with a minus-6 rating in 23 games this season. 

Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line


Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It certainly doesn’t feel like it will go on forever this way for the Bruins, but at this point it’s essentially a case of musical left wings on the David Krejci line as it’s been for much of this season. 

Ryan Spooner has spent the majority of the season adjusting to playing the wing with Krejci, and has been just okay trying to play away from his natural center spot while using his speed and playmaking on the wing. But the speedy Spooner also spent his share of time lately on the fourth line after getting off to a slow offensive start this season with three goals and eight points along with a minus-1 rating in 23 games. 

The bouncing between the second and fourth line has undoubtedly been frustrating for the 24-year-old getting pushed off his natural position after posting 49 points in his first full year as a third line center. But Spooner has continued to toe the company line, work on keeping his confidence high for a productive offensive season and do what he needs to in an effort to get off a fourth line.

That’s opened the door for hard-nosed former Providence College standout Tim Schaller to get some top-6 forward time on the Krejci line as well, but he’s just posted a single assist in the last three games while working hard to keep up offensively with David Krejci and David Backes. The 6-foot-2, 219-pound Schaller has the grittiness to do the dirty work for that line in the corners and in front of the net, and he can certainly skate well enough for a big, energy forward. 

“To think this was going to happen, I would say ‘no’,” said Schaller when asked if he could have predicted at the start of the season that he’d be getting a look from the B’s in a top-6 role. “I’ve been able to play with whoever and whenever my whole career. I wouldn’t want to say it’s one of those things that I had expected, but I’m always ready for it. 

“We’ve been working pretty well together. I don’t know that we’ve had too many great [offensive] opportunities to capitalize on, but Backes and Krejci are good enough players that they’ll come. They’re good enough to bury on those chances, so the goals will come. I’m always going to play the same way no matter who I’m with. Those guys might have the puck on their sticks a little longer than other linemates of mine, but that will just create more space and opportunities.”

So Spooner and Schaller bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table as the B’s coaching staff searches for the right fit alongside Krejci and Backes, and Julien sounds like a coach that’s going to keep swinging back and forth between the two players. He certainly did that with Spooner during the third period in Philly, which led to an immediate goal for Krejci in the third period comeback, and toward the end of the Carolina win with the B's desperate for offense. 

Julien also didn’t rule out Matt Beleskey getting another look there as well with the Bruins having a tough time finding anybody to consistently fill Loui Eriksson’s role from last season.

“At times I don’t think that offense has been producing much because maybe it’s lacking a little bit of speed at that time, so you put Spooner back up there. But sometimes you feel like that line isn’t winning enough battles or spending enough time in the offensive zone, so you put Schaller back in there because he’s going to play a little grittier. So we’re looking there,” said Julien. “We’d love to be able to find somebody to be a consistent player there. We’ve had Matt Beleskey there and that line never really did anything. 

“[Beleskey] has been much better on the [third] line and he’s been getting more chances, so I’ve been trying to put the best scenario together, I guess. Sometimes it’s the situation and sometimes it’s the matchup [against the other team] as well. So there are different reasons for that. I’ve just got to make it work. If it’s working with [Schaller] on that night then you stick with it, and if you don’t think you’re getting enough then you move [Spooner] there and see if you can a little spark with some speed. It doesn’t mean Beleskey won’t go back there. That’s what we have right now.”

So it’s clear Julien, and the B’s coaching staff, have simply tried to find something that will work on a consistent basis with a couple of key offensive players on Boston’s second most important forward line. The one wild card in all of this: the impending return of Frank Vatrano, who has been skating for nearly two weeks as he works toward a return from foot surgery.

Vatrano was initially penciled in as the left winger alongside Krejci to start NHL camp this fall, and the Bruins were hoping he was going to build on the eight goals he scored in Boston last season in a limited role.

Vatrano could be ready to play within the next couple of weeks, and should be back in the B’s lineup prior to the early January timetable originally offered at the time of his surgery. So perhaps the 22-year-old Vatrano can end this season-long carousel of Bruins left wingers getting paraded on and off the Krejci line, and finally give the B’s greater options at left wing. 

But the Czech playmaking center could use some stability also as he looks to find the highest level of his game in a challenging year for the Black and Gold, and do it while the Bruins find the right kind of talent to skate alongside him.