Sit back and enjoy the ride, but beware: the crazy twists and turns aren’t over yet. The Bruins and Lightning will play one more game Friday night at TD Garden. They will drop the puck just after 8 p.m. to decide which Eastern Conference representative will be heading to the Stanley Cup final.
There is absolutely, positively, no way anyone knows what to expect in this final game. It has been a series of incredible twists and turns. Tampa Bay has outscored the Bruins 21-20, has scored five goals in four of the six games played, yet needed a win on Wednesday night to avoid elimination.
They got the 5-4 win, a shoot out that saw the Bruins' first playoff hat trick since Cam Neely go to waste. David Krejci’s three of a kind was trumped by Martin St. Louis’ pair, and the Bolts had the power play cranked up once again, scoring three times on the man-advantage.
We’ve learned around here that Game 7s are not what you’d call fully enjoyable — they're nerve-racking, they leave you on the edge of your seat and they stress you out so much that you can't stop reaching for your antacid.
What comes after Game 7 won’t be a lot of fun, either. If the Bruins win, there will be justified rejoicing as the team heads to the Stanley Cup final for the first time since 1990. There will be talk of the team trying to hoist the Cup for the first time in the post-Bobby Orr era. The excitement for June hockey coming back to Boston will be palpable.
That excitement will quickly give way to talk of the actual matchup in that series. The Vancouver Canucks will be the prohibitive favorites to win the Cup after they dismissed Joe Thornton and the San Jose Sharks in five games. Henrik Sedin leads all players with 19 playoff assists and 21 playoff points. Roberto Luongo is the only goalie with two playoff shutouts this season, and he has the lowest goals-against average of any of the goalies to make it to the Conference Finals.
In other words, we’ll be talking about how tough it will be to beat the Canucks, and that won’t be fun.
Obviously, it won’t be much fun if the Bruins lose Friday night and the talk around town will be about how the Bruins can't win a Game 7. We’ll go back to the pair of blown 3-0 leads against the Flyers last year, back to the Canadiens series of earlier years, back to the 16-year stretch in which the B’s never won a Game 7.
What we’ve learned this playoff season is that hockey is not like wine. It is not something that gets better with age. We like our series to be over quickly, like the four-game sweep of the Flyers. We don’t like to savor these things because the longer something lasts the more agita we get from it.
That’s why you need to enjoy the anticipation, even though it came to us by virtue of Boston’s loss in Tampa. We didn’t want to be here, but there’s no point in looking back.
And there’s no point in looking too far ahead. That’s when the fun could end.