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Game 6: Where stars align or combust

May 25, 2011

“Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.” Har har har. Wait, no way?

Claude Julien wants to look neither backward, nor forward. He wants to look at tonight. Only tonight. But he also acknowledges the Bruins have “two chances” to close this out and move towards the Stanley Cup Finals against Vancouver. The language he used has come under scrutiny–some saying it implies weakness and that closing out the series in game six is unimportant. All this talk couldn’t be further from the truth, and frankly, it’s irrelevant. There are always side-stories to generate in the playoffs, and a million ways of angling in on a series. Any one of them is valid and perhaps intriguing. But I get the impression, when it comes to line-up changes or the importance of turning points in a series, that Boucher and Julien’s words will get mangled every which way to Saturday.

What matters is that tonight is a Big Game. The Bruins have come far in their quest for the Cup. Very far. One game stands. Solid defensive plays with the puck, excellent puck retrieval following dump-ins and great goaltending will lead Zdeno Chara to the Prince of Wales trophy this evening. That said, even with those components, the Lightning are not a team to shy away from a challenge, and will come out guns blazing. A goal scored in the first three minutes by either team, as has happened on three occasions this series, is a distinct possibility. It should be an extremely exciting game.

A very shaggy Johnny Boychuk answers questions while NESN’s Naoko Funayama playfully looks on. 

Players seem to be coming into their own even more. The first line bounced back last game, and the second line continues to be Boston’s strongest and most reliable. The third line is still hit or miss, due to poor match-ups and timing issues. Beyond the first pairing, Boston’s defensemen have looked increasingly haggard, often making sloppy passes, ill-timed chip-ins or have generally been slow these last few games. Take Boychuk–he looks well enough here. But he claimed he felt “foggy” after being smashed to the boards in game five. It may be a “playoff thing” but I dare say if it were the regular season and he’d been hit like that, he might not be playing. But, there are sacrifices to be made, decisions to affirmed.

Tonight.

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