Outside of the obvious electricity surrounding the last game of a classic hockey championship series is the head-on collision set to unfold between its subplots.
The Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks have already added another superb volume to a storied legacy. The Bruins have been pursuing Lord Stanley’s ghost since 1973. Vancouver has yet to even taste the champagne dripping from the Stanley Cup. Desperation, determination, and devastation will categorize Game 7 if the series holds true to the path it’s skated thus far.
Nowhere will those traits be measure more than between the goal posts. According ESPN.com, the Bruins must use goalie Tim Thomas as their catalyst. He’s averaged two goals per game allowed in the playoffs. Part of that strategy is to score first. Boston is 11-1 in the playoffs when they score first. Thomas is a 37-year-old veteran that has allowed seven goals through six games and deserves to win Stanley Cup MVP if the Bruins can pull off the win tonight.
Victory for Vancouver hinges on a far more flappable character in Roberto Luongo. No NHL player has been a clearer case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In three home games against Boston, Luongo boasted two shutouts and two total goals allowed . On the road, the supposed Olympic gold medalist surrendered 15 goals in 66 shots. The biggest humiliation came in three playoffs trips to the bench, two of them against the hated Blackhawks. No one player has a greater responsibility to the welfare of his team than Luongo. When he plays poorly, they lose. This is why the Canucks will attack Boston with their high-octane offense. Not out of want, but out of need. The last thing they can afford is for the Bruins to smother Luongo under an early puck barrage.
As far as predictions go fans and experts know this much going into Game 7. A single goal separates the two teams in every game at Rogers Arena this series. Two of those matches ended 1-0. Both teams have great players, but only one team can claim to have a goalie that is steady. If any factor will decide the fate of Lord Stanley’s cup, it will be which net minder proves more consistent. Thomas is brilliant every game. Luongo is brilliant at home. Something has to give.
If trends hold true in this Stanley Cup and in sports history, then hockey fans could and should see the Bruins and Canucks finish the same way as past foes: in frantic excitement.