The Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes will battle for the right to play for one of the most prestigous trophies in all of sports. The Stanley Cup.
Eight more wins for the Boston Bruins and the duck boats will be ready once again.
As no surprise to any hockey fan, the Carolina Hurricanes have been nails the entire National Hockey League post-season. An historic seventh game took place in Washington at Capitol One Arena in round one, and yet again it was “Mr. Game 7” himself, Hurricanes forward Justin Williams, assisting on the winning goal to knock off the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.
His nickname talks for him. He doesn’t need the media, the fans, the hype, or the glory. Williams makes things happen when he’s on the ice, and there’s no secret he’ll be doing the same in Game One Thursday night at TD Garden in Boston. He wins. Plain and simple.
Williams, like any athlete, will tell you that the media can sometimes stir the pot. Have you ever heard of Don Cherry? Well earlier this season Cherry, the voice of Hockey Night in Canada, took it upon himself to go out of his way and call the Hurricanes a “Bunch of Jerks”.
Hurricanes Not Jerking Around
If you follow the NHL, their videos went viral. After each win, the Hurricanes plan some sort of “play” or “act” on the ice. We’ve seen them play basketball, have boxing matches and we’ve even seen them cast a line or two to try and catch some fish. All in the name of celebrating a win. The fans loved it.
Which brings us to the point of “Oh wait, the Hurricanes have fans?” I’m not one to bash an organization, but the fans didn’t start showing up until the Hurricanes started winning. Call my bluff, but it’s true.
However, I believe with any team that if a slump was occurring attendance would be down. And when they start winning it’s “Oh look, we have fans!”
As for Cherry? I have no opinion on “The Jerks”. It got people into the building, buying merchandise, and having a good time inside PNC Arena. No disrespect whatsoever. Come Game One tomorrow, the storm surge better be ready for a Bruins team that can smell the inside of the Stanley Cup.
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The Hurricanes are no joke. They’ve played good hockey all season long, giving them a playoff birth, and they find themselves four wins away from the Stanley Cup Final. They’re loaded with talent. That talent is lead by the 21-year-old Finnish forward Sebastian Aho. The Hurricanes selected Aho with the 35h overall selection in the 2015 NHL Entry draft. How does that kind of talent fall so late in the draft? Oh yeah, Bruins forward David Pastrnak fell to 25th, Patrice Bergeron was a second-round pick, and goaltender Tuukka Rask was the “prospect” involved in the Andrew Raycroft trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Guys slip through the cracks. It happens.
Battle of the Blue Lines
A huge factor I want to mention in this series will be on the blue line. I absolutely love the back end for the Hurricanes, Personally, maybe not so much Dougie Hamilton, but guys like Justin Faulk, Brett Pesce, and Jaccob Slavin all have such bright young futures in the NHL. They recently just lost Adam Fox,who was traded to the New York Rangers. He was projected to be a top player within the organization. It just didn’t work for what Carolina was trying to build. So it’s no secret the Hurricanes can draft and develop.
A story line circling the news this week is the return of former Bruins draft pick Hamilton. He was the ninth-overall selection in the 2011 draft, the year after Boston had selected Tyler Seguin with their second-overall selection.
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We thought we had it. Our franchise forward, then our franchise defenseman. Things didn’t work out for either of them. Boston traded Seguin to the Dallas Stars for Loui Eriksson and Hamilton to the Calgary Flames for draft picks. Not to mention Bruins general manager Don Sweeney totally struck out with the picks. Not one has been an established NHL player. Yeah, we’ve seen some call-ups but nothing permanent.
In 2016 though, Boston selected defenceman Charlie McAvoy, who’s very much taken over the role of the “pride and joy” on the Bruins blue line. BUT, the Boston Bruins will be without their stud defenseman for Game One. McAvoy is due to serve a one-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head of Columbus Blue Jackets forward Josh Anderson that occurred in Game Six of their last series. Thankfully it isn’t any longer, but the loss of McAvoy to the Boston blue line will definitely be a factor tomorrow night.
Before the NHL trade deadline, Carolina general manager Don Waddell acquired Nino Niederreiter from the Minnesota Wild. Niederreiter has always been a high-end talent in the league. This move has shown dividends. Immensely. He looks amazing, re-energized, and clearly has his eyes on the prize. He’ll be a handful, as will many other Hurricanes if Boston wants to play for the Cup.
Bruins Rounding Into Form
We’ve seen adversity strike this Bruins team through their run to the final. Pastnrak and Bergeron were not scoring, and everyone else just seemed to be “out there”. Since Game Seven of round one, the Bruins look like a better team. I won’t say much better, but better than they did against the Maple Leafs.
Bruins veteran defenceman Zdeno Chara needs to call it quits. During the Toronto series, you could tell he was as slow as anything. The media and fans thought “Oh well, maybe it’s just the speed of the Maple Leafs”.
Chara looks like he’s lost. He’s driving the turnover wagon and creates costly scoring chances every game for the opposition. I know he just signed an extension for one more season, but Chara may seriously consider calling it a career when this season is over.
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Through Games 5 and 7, we’ve seen Boston’s top line find their game. Brad Marchand has been better. Bergeron and Pastrnak (who I think is fighting an injury) have been much better. But, they wouldn’t be playing tomorrow night without their ELITE goaltender in Tuukka Rask.
I’ve written about Rask before, and as hockey fans we know the criticism he’s taken, but my goodness he’s taken everything to a whole new level this postseason.
Goaltending can win you games, and it can absolutely steal you games. Rask has done that. He’s shown up every night, and has answered the bell when called upon. He’s allowed a fluke goal here and there, but overall Rask is the reason why the Bruins are eight wins aways from hockey’s ultimate goal.
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Fans in Boston can smell, see, and taste what might come in June, which is a Stanley Cup victory. However, the Hurricanes are the next victim on the menu. They stand in the way of the Bruins reaching their goal.
Even with their backup goalie, the Hurricanes are going to answer the door no doubt. It’ll be interesting to see who takes the city of Boston and this team on their back, for one more run at The Stanley Cup.
The time is now.
Statistics provided by hockey-reference
Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals