If you’ll allow us to mix band metaphors: It’s right outside your door….
Or at least it will be. Lord Stanley’s favorite beer mug will enter the building sometime tonight while the two teams are on the ice, and it can only be brought out of the box by the men with white gloves to be given to someone in a white jersey. And we now know that someone will be the one with the “C”, if it breaks that way.
Let’s get the big news out of the way. A slightly bigger surprise on the Boston side than the Chicago one but it looks like both Toews and Bergeron are a go tonight. Toews is definitely in, and all the hints are that Bergeron is going to try to give it a go though that hasn’t gone official yet. He’ll probably take the warmup and unless his spleen or ribs literally fall out of him, I expect him to play. Whether either of these guys finish or look anywhere close to themselves….that’s another question and would be a bigger surprise if they do than the fact they’re going to play.
There are some encouraging numbers or history here if you’re looking for them. Under Coach Q, the Hawks have been pretty ruthless when it comes time to put a team to the sword. They’re 9-2 in those games, with both losses coming to Vancouver (a limp effort in Game 5 in 2010 that was authoritatively corrected the next night out, and of course Game 7 the following year). Against anyone else, the Hawks have been far more guillotine than electric chair. Quick, and to the point.
Secondly, the last three times the Bruins have snuffed it in the playoffs, they’ve all been at home. Carolina in ’09 and Washington last year got them in Game 7 overtimes, with the Flyers completing the 3-0 comeback in ’10 in Game 7 at The Garden. So while they’re certainly not intimidated by being up against it, it’s not mission:impossible to get the final win on Causeway St.
At this point, there are no secrets and the adjustments left to be made are miniscule at best. Look for Julien to get his top lines out against Elfenben and Ebenholts and Rozsival and whoever (guess is that Leddy goes back into the box tonight and only out for brief gasps of air). The only way the Bruins can slow the Hawks is through forecheck in the Hawks zone, and the bottom three are far more likely to make mistakes that can cost the Hawks. While the Bruins were more conservative about their neutral zone coverage in Game 5, they did not unveil the full-blown trap we thought they might. It’s unlikely they’d choose to do so at home, either.
The defensive coverage the Hawks had in Game 5 is going to have to be there again tonight. It was holding on at points but the Hawks got into almost every shooting lane and really smothered the Bruins at first asking. With more mistakes likely on the road and on the Chutney Slushy that the ice will be, the Hawks will have to do so again.
But again, it’s about speed and support. The Hawks have to have puck support in both ends to really exhibit their speed advantage. Even with the B’s more careful on Saturday, the Hawks still found the odd-man and even-man transitions through clean, short, and precise breakouts from their own end.
When they do that, they expose the B’s mobility at the back. While Chara is getting the negative spotlight, he’s getting no help from his equally exposed partner Seidenberg, who does not have the snarl, reach, or feet to make up for being snowed under by the Hawks fleetness.
Step forward those who would serve. Tonight is a night about taking what you have earned, not about waiting for it to be handed to you. There will be no harder foe to stuff into the coffin and chain shut than these Bruins. They will finish every check, they will do some other things that are not above board, they will be taking shots after every whistle. Their crowd will be baying for blood.
If you don’t have to succumb to the vagaries of a Game 7, where a bad bounce can ruin six months of work, then don’t. You can have it right here. There are gamebreakers throughout the Hawks lineup (I get the feeling Saad is going to have a huge night tonight, based on just guts) who can take this by the neck and bring home silverware.
It’s right outside your door…..