Tonight’s Game 7 in Boston epitomizes all that is great in the competitive world. Grown men are putting everything on the line in a classic American sports city, and are one win away from being one round away, and one loss away from being devastated.
Games like tonight are the reason that teams give solid efforts throughout the regular season, so that they can play these most important games in the friendly confines of their own rinks, in front of their own fans. Both teams gave similar efforts to end up with 103 points apiece, but it was the lack of a serious contender in the Northeast division that puts tonight’s game in Boston. While Tampa Bay was busy smashing their heads against the wall trying to win a division over Washington, Boston cruised to a 7-point cushion over second place Montreal. It should be noted, however, that Boston would have won a tiebreaker over Tampa Bay based on 65 minute wins if it had come to that.
As for tonight’s game, I have liked what I’ve seen out of Tampa Bay for a long while now. Everything in my gut tells me to take Stanley Cup champions like Marty St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier to win tonight, especially when everyone is bringing up the “Dwayne Roloson is 7-0 in elimination games” statistic. I think both goalies are great, but also give games away at times due to questionable fundamentals and risk assessment. But when I see Roloson be bad, it’s usually bewildering because it seems as if he’s just not locked in, while Thomas’ gaffes seem to be the product of a too aggressive style, which is also what makes him as great as he is. I don’t expect either goalie to be bad tonight, but for some reason I trust Thomas more.
I’m not sure there’s much of a home ice advantage right now, since the Bruins fans all remember being knocked out last year at home in a Game 7 that Boston led by three goals. Additionally, the Bruins crowd seems to get tight in important home games, which leads to quietness if the game is going alright, and booing and anger if it is not. As much of a problem as I see in this, and as much as I love the Lightning’s hockey spirit, which I believe at this moment is better than the Bruins’, I’ve seen too many Game 7s to advocate picking the road team to win the game. Now, if we want to talk betting odds, I would probably take Tampa Bay at +140 before I would take Boston at -160, so I think there’s some value there. But as far as winning the game, I reluctantly pick Boston to win tonight by a score of 3-2. Game winning goal to Nathan Horton, and Timmy Thomas will probably have to make 6 more saves than Dwayne Roloson.
The puck drops tonight at 8 p.m. ET, and the winner will fly to Vancouver to open the Stanley Cup finals on Wednesday, June 1.