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BOSTON (CBS) — Whether you have 25 years of NHL coaching and playing experience, or whether you started watching hockey last weekend, you know what took place on Sunday night in Toronto.
One team tried harder than the other team. The team that put in the effort won the game.
Really, that’s as simple as it gets. While the Bruins were fumbling around in the neutral zone trying to create the perfect scoring opportunity, the Maple Leafs — from captain Dion Phaneuf all the way down to Joe Colborne in his playoff debut — never once passed up an opportunity to play the body and deliver hits. The stat sheet says the Leafs delivered 58 hits and the Bruins made 50 of their own, but that’s not a qualitative stat.
The Maple Leafs simply took it to the Bruins. They beat them up and bullied them, and they showed they were willing to put in a better effort.
That’s not to say the Bruins weren’t trying or that they put forth an utterly pathetic effort, but there’s no doubt that they failed to match the intensity of their opponent. That’s all that matters.
And because of that, the Bruins have gotten exactly what they’ve earned: A Game 7. When the Bruins went up 3-1, they might have thought they had done enough to crush Toronto’s spirits and could waltz their way to a Game 5 win at home, have five days of R&R, and wait comfortably while the rest of the Eastern Conference battled it out in their long series. Instead, they had to endure the beating on Sunday night, and they have to get right back at it roughly 21 hours after Game 6 ended. The only thing that’s on the line is their entire season.
Claude Julien was, understandably, miffed after the game. He was short with Naoko Funayama in his NESN postgame interview, and he was short with the media at his press conference, answering one question, “I have no comment on my lines.”
At this point, Julien has to be just as befuddled to see this as any fan. They seem to understand what’s at stake in these games. Most of them won the Stanley Cup two years ago, and most of them have gone through some of the low points over the past five years as well. They say the right things after wins and losses. They do everything, except follow through in Games 5 and 6.
There’s not too much to rehash from Game 6, but before we all move on to Game 7, let’s run through some quick leftover thoughts.
–Michael Leighton, Braden Holtby … James Reimer?
That would be quite the triumvirate of netminders to shockingly eliminate the Bruins in a seven-game series, but the Bruins are just 60 minutes away from making it a reality.
The Bruins scored three times on 25 shots on Leighton in Game 7 in 2010, which should have been enough to win, but, well … no need to discuss that one further.
Against Holtby last year, the Bruins scored just once on 32 shots, getting a second-period tally from Tyler Seguin in a 2-1 overtime loss.
James Reimer officially has 221 saves this series, which means he unofficially has given up 221 rebounds. Yet the Bruins can’t capitalize. If they let Reimer look good again in Game 7, that’s going to be one funny-looking list of goaltenders with series victories over Boston.
–By far, one of the more annoying experiences at home games is when thousands of fans together yell “Shoooooot!!” with disgust and contempt during power plays. Often, the player isn’t shooting because a human being in a different-colored jersey stands between him and the net, and it’s difficult these days to put a rubber disc through human bodies. So yes, sometimes the “Shoooooot!!” yells can be misguided.
But if you were pacing in your living room in the final seconds of Game 6 screaming “Shooooooot!!” it was with good reason. Zdeno Chara had the puck, he had time, and he had a clear lane to the net, with Milan Lucic working to screen Reimer with 10 seconds left. But Chara never gave the impression that shooting was an option, and he instead passed to Patrice Bergeron, who had humans in blue standing in front of him. His shot, unsurprisingly, was blocked out of the zone, and the game ended.
Even if the odds of Chara scoring or creating a big rebound with a low shot are 25 percent, the chances of creating a goal with a pass back to Bergeron were zero. It didn’t lose the game — the 59:50 preceding the play did that — but it did waste the final opportunity in a game where scoring chances were few and far between.
–The bad news was obvious. The good news? Daniel Paille’s neck didn’t get gashed open by Leo Komarov’s flying skate blade. It looked like we were about a centimeter from seeing something we really don’t ever want to see. I’ll still probably see Clint Malarchuk in my nightmares for the next week.
–A much bigger missed opportunity than Chara’s came from Tyler Seguin on a 3-on-2 in the first period. Seguin carried the puck down the left wing, Bergeron drove to the net and drew the two D-men with him, and Marchand lagged behind to set up for a one-timer from the right circle. Seguin elected to shoot, which wasn’t a bad idea when you consider Reimer gives out rebounds on nearly every shot on net. The problem was Seguin’s shot wasn’t on net. It was actually nowhere near net, as he missed high and wide by multiple feet.
That line hasn’t been good at all this series, and that was the chance they had to get something on the board. Instead, it just goes down as a missed shot.
–Did you notice after an icing by Boston in the second period, Jagr skated to the bench and asked for a towel to wipe down his stick? I suppose that’s one way to give your team an extra few seconds of rest. Randy Carlyle didn’t look too pleased about it.
–The only thing worse than getting penalized for dive-bombing into a goalie and getting busted for trying to play it off like it was an accident is when it gets captured in a photograph. Photos last forever, Jimmy.
–Tuukka Rask continues to be outstanding, and it’s a shame the Bruins are wasting some of these performances. It took a deflection off a knee and a loose puck sitting in front for three seconds for the Leafs to “beat” him in this game.
One of his flashiest saves of the night came with 1.7 seconds left in the second period, when he moved right to left in his crease and made a glove save on a one-time blast by Dion Phaneuf. The behind-the-net camera showed Rask pointing to his left well before the play developed, showing he was one step ahead of the play. Win or lose Monday night, Rask has proven himself this series. If the Bruins do lose Game 7, Rask should rank about 27th on the scapegoat list.
–A lot of people on Twitter seemed pretty steamed about the “Thank you, Seguin” chant, saying it doesn’t make logical sense and whatnot. Well, yeah, obviously. But it’s sports. Logic is not a prerequisite for anything sports fans think, particularly when 20,000 of them are all happy about something. Plus, with the way Seguin’s played this series, it might have been a genuine, sincere thank you.
–I’ll finish this up with one reason to feel good about the Bruins’ chances in Game 7, and one reason to feel not so good.
First, the bad: The condensed schedule became a bit of a crutch for the Bruins in the second half of the season. It was their go-to excuse, and it was hard to crush them too much, because the schedule was actually pretty grueling. Nevertheless, they’ve played every other day since last Saturday, and they now have to play a back-to-back and travel the day of Game 7 because their plane didn’t work Sunday night. If they got into the habit of falling back on the tough schedule as an excuse, the circumstances for Game 7 won’t help them break the trend.
The reason for hope? Well, it’ll take some faith considering what you’ve witness the past two games, but the Bruins still have the edge in experience. Most of this group has been through a lot of Game 7′s over the past few years. Some have worked out — Vancouver, Montreal, Tampa Bay in ’11 — while others haven’t, but there’s arguably more gained from those losses than the victories. Plus, it would be pretty challenging for the Bruins to look worse in Game 7 than they’ve looked in the past two losses, so the odds are in their favor.
Still, it’s a Game 7, where anything can happen, where a crossbar can save you or crush you, where the unpredictably of bouncing rubber can determine the outcome of an entire season. The Bruins had two free shots to put away the Leafs and move on, but they only have themselves to blame that their 2013 fate may be determined by one bad bounce.