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VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- It could be a banner season for the Boston Bruins.
The only thing preventing the Bruins from hanging the sixth Stanley Cup banner in franchise history from the rafters of TD Garden is Game 7 and the Vancouver Canucks.
The Stanley Cup finals are knotted at 3-all, and the season ends Wednesday night at Rogers Arena. Boston could add to its rich history, while Vancouver could win the first championship in its 40-year existence.
It's been a bizarre but extremely entertaining Cup finals. There's nothing better in all of professional sports, and there's no trophy more difficult to win.
Believe it or not, this is the first time in franchise history the Bruins are playing a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup finals.
The road team has yet to win in this series, but the Bruins are hoping to snap that streak with a Cup-clinching victory that would bring hockey's holy grail back to Boston for the first time since 1972.
"Obviously it's a tremendous time for the city and the organization, and not too many people counted on us being at this point right now," Bruins veteran and future Hall of Famer Mark Recchi said. "It's a great feeling. We battled hard [in Game 6]. We came to play, and it's coming down to one game. This is what we dream of. When you're little kids playing street hockey, you're in a Game 7."
The Canucks' players have similar goals and dreams. And Game 7 will be contested in their city, on their streets and on their pond. In order to be successful, the Bruins need to play their best game of the season and somehow figure out how to win in the Canucks' barn.
The Bruins haven't played that poorly at Rogers Arena. In fact, they could have won one, if not both, of the first two games of the series. They lost 1-0 in Game 1 before dropping Game 2 in overtime 3-2. Boston was a complete flop in Game 5 but lost only 1-0.
The Bruins dominated Game 6 at the Garden on Monday night, and need to bottle that prowess and find a way to make it translate to Game 7.
"We're going to go up there and we're going to go lay it on the line like they are, and I think it's going to be an exciting game," Recchi said. "It's been three close ones up there, and we've got to find a way to win a game to win a Stanley Cup. We're going to do whatever we can."
During those games in Vancouver, Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas was spectacular. With the Cup at stake, it begs the question of what's more important at this stage: great goaltending or home-ice advantage?
"We would love to have the home-ice advantage because we've played well against this team at home," Bruins forward David Krejci said. "We're going there, and it doesn't matter because Game 7 will start at 0-0. Timmy is going to play well again, and we're going to help him out. We have to get the first goal and go from there."
While this final round has been dubbed the "Homer Series," once the puck drops on Game 7, home-ice advantage means absolutely nothing. It doesn't matter how tired, injured, frustrated or energized players on each team feel; there are only 60, maybe 60-plus, minutes remaining in the season.
|David Krejci, who scored in Game 6, recognizes the importance of scoring first in Game 7 for the Bruins.|
The Bruins have the more consistent goaltender in Thomas, who should win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and that should be the key for Boston in Game 7.
Bruins forward Michael Ryder believes it will come down to goaltending rather than home-ice advantage.
"I would say great goaltending," Ryder said. "When it comes to Game 7, I don't think there's that much advantage to the home team. It's one game, and whoever plays the best and plays the hardest will outwork the other team."
Realistically, what it comes down to is getting a complete team effort, and the Bruins know that.
"Playing as a team will win you the Stanley Cup," defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. "It's Game 7 and it's what you dream about. It's the last game of the season, and you have to leave everything on the ice no matter what. You have to do the little things right, play well defensively and capitalize on your chances when you get them."
The Bruins need to score first, and if it's early in the game, even better. Boston is 11-1 this postseason when scoring the first goal.
If the Bruins learned anything about Roberto Luongo, they know he can bounce back. They torched Luongo for 12 goals in Games 3 and 4 at the Garden before he shut them out in Game 5.
The Bruins practiced Tuesday at Rogers Arena in preparation for Game 7. Excluding preseason games, it will be the 107th game of the 2010-11 season for Boston. It all started in training camp this past September. The team played exhibition games in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and opened the regular season in Prague.
Now it ends, one way or the other, in Vancouver, British Columbia.
"The biggest thing is just embracing it," Recchi said of the pressure that comes with Game 7. "This is what we dream of. We've had pressure all year, pressure through the playoffs.
"It comes down to one game. There is no pressure. Go play, go out and have fun with this. It's what you play for and what we've worked hard for all year. We're going to have a blast doing it."
Recchi said that will be his message to his teammates. He's also said that if the Bruins win the Stanley Cup, he will retire after 23 seasons in the NHL as a three-time Cup champion.
"They'll see how I'm acting and see you can't let it grab you. You can't let it bite you," he said. "We're going to play on the road and go play a tremendous road game and compete and try to win a hockey game. The guys will be focused and ready."
The last time Lord Stanley's Cup was property of the Bruins was in 1972. Including this season, the Bruins have had six chances to hoist the Cup since '72. They want it to happen Wednesday night in Vancouver.
"We know the significance; '72 was the last time this town got to see a Stanley Cup," Recchi said. "It's a great sports town, a great hockey town and it would be remarkable. There has been a lot of success with the other sports teams and the Bruins included, but it's been a long time. We hope we can do that."
The city and its fans hope so, too. The Hub of professional sports wants another banner.
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.