So, which Boston Bruins
team shows up tonight?
The one that won the Presidents' Trophy in the regular season, finishing with the best record in the NHL? Or the one that has looked at times only mildly engaged in the playoffs, with some key players underachieving?
Certainly the Montreal Canadiens
deserve credit for getting their second-round series
to a Game 7 (CBC, CBCSports.ca
, 6:30 p.m. ET), and based on the way they have stood up to the Bruins, it is not inconceivable to imagine the Habs winning tonight and then beating the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference final to advance to the Stanley Cup final.
It isn't always the best team that wins.
"When we won the Cup in 1993 I can't tell you how many people said to me we were not the best team," said former Canadiens left-winger Kirk Muller. "It isn't always the team with the most talent that wins. We had an unbelievably close group that year, and that carried us to the championship."
The '93 Canadiens got great goaltending from Patrick Roy, clutch scoring from the likes of Muller, Vinny Damphousse, Brian Bellows and Gilbert Dionne, and solid defence from Eric Desjardins, Mathieu Schneider, Kevin Haller and Patrice Brisebois.
This year's edition of the Canadiens is trying to duplicate that effort against all odds.
But beating the Bruins at home in a one-game showdown will be difficult because:
- Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask is the top contender to win the Vezina Trophy and leads the playoffs with a 1.90 goals-against average and .937 save percentage.
- Defenceman Zdeno Chara was called out after a subpar Game 6 in Montreal and is likely to be supercharged to make amends tonight.
- Centre David Krejci, who had playoff years of 23 and 26 points in two of the past three seasons, has yet to score a goal in 11 post-season games. You'd have to think he's due to score soon.
- When Boston's season was on the line in the first round last season, power forward Milan Lucic got down to business and carried the Bruins to a comeback overtime win in Game 7 against Toronto. Lucic hasn't scored in four games and can't be held down for too long.
- This could be Jarome Iginla's last chance to get his name on the Stanley Cup after a distinguished career, so he'll be pumped.
Get serious. Evgeni Malkin
should be an untouchable.
The guy is tied for second in playoff scoring despite the fact his Pittsburgh Penguins
Tuesday night by the Rangers.
Changes are needed in Pittsburgh. It could mean a new GM. It could be a new coach. It may also mean acquiring a new starting goaltender.
But talk of trading one of the top scorers in the NHL, who's also a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy winner, is nuts.
Obviously, Sidney Crosby
will not be dealt, despite the fact he was held to just one goal in 13 playoff games and has just a single goal in his last 18 post-season contests.
In today's NHL the best teams have dynamic duos. Think Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in Chicago, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf in Anaheim, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg in Detroit.
To break up the duo of Crosby and Malkin would be silly.
Clearly, the Penguins need a stronger supporting cast, but sacrificing Malkin is not the answer.Sutter strategy
Veteran Los Angeles Kings
coach Darryl Sutter is a man of few words, but when he speaks he often makes a subtle point.
Take, for instance, when he was asked about upstart Anaheim Ducks
rookie goalie John Gibson
, who is undefeated in the NHL with six straight wins, including two shutouts. Sutter slyly said Gibson was the best goalie he has ever seen and added he didn't know how his team got even one goal against him.
Then, after a pregnant pause, he added, "A lot of pressure on him now."
Sutter planted the seed. Gibson has been lights-out, but the fact remains he is 20 years old and playing in his first Stanley Cup playoff series. Sutter just wanted to remind him about the magnitude of the situation.
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