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THN at the Stanley Cup: Pressure the key heading into Game 7

Milan Lucic's Boston Bruins and Alex Edler's Vancouver Canucks will face off for all the marbles in Game 7. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Milan Lucic's Boston Bruins and Alex Edler's Vancouver Canucks will face off for all the marbles in Game 7. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

VANCOUVER – Based on their recent history in Vancouver and the fact that a team has never won three Game 7s in the same playoff season, the Boston Bruins should logically have no reason to think they’ll win the Stanley Cup tonight.

But as we all have seen over the past two weeks, any sense of logic was tossed out the window shortly after the puck was dropped to start this series. So it should come as no surprise the Bruins vow they’ll be a confident, aggressive group going into the biggest game of their lives.

“It feels like we’ve been tense the past few times we’ve played here,” said Bruins left winger Milan Lucic, who has certainly looked like a tentative player in the games at Rogers Arena. “A wise man once told me you can either feel the pressure or go out there and apply the pressure. In the past few games…to be honest we were kind of like deer in the headlights when we went out there, especially in Game 5.”

Both teams have been saying all the right things in this series, but doing them has been another factor completely. One of the less-talked-about reasons for that is both the coaches in this series are masters of the matchup and have gone to enormous lengths to get favorable defensive alignments on home ice. That might be part of the reason why both teams have been so dominant when they have last change.

The Bruins have been talking all series about setting the pace in the games in Vancouver and they’ve been unable to do it. The Canucks have been able, when they get the matchups they want, to dictate the pace of the game and keep the puck away from Boston and away from places where they are more vulnerable to hits. Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, meanwhile, has been vowing for several games that his team’s power play would be better, but it continues to struggle.

For a team that has had as intense a playoff experience as the Canucks have, they seemed rather calm after the morning skate. Undoubtedly a part of the reason for that is they realize that if they bring their ‘A’ game from the sometimes-shaky goaltender out, there is not a team in the league that can beat them. That’s why Vancouver won the Presidents’ Trophy.

“It’s great, we’ve played 106 games to be ready for this moment,” Daniel Sedin said. “If we play the right way and we play the way we’ve played in 99 percent of the games this season, we’ll be fine. I like our chances when we play our best.”

Daniel Sedin said, like the Bruins, the Canucks have chosen to embrace the pressure of the situation rather than allow it to consume them.

“You feel pressure when you’re not prepared,” he said, “ but that’s not the case with us. We’re prepared as a group.”

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HORTON HEARS A NO

Bruins coach Claude Julien quickly and emphatically dismissed any speculation that the concussed Nathan Horton would be playing in Game 7. There were reports that Horton was pleading with the organization and the team’s medical staff to clear him to play.

“Absolutely no,” Julien said. “It’s ridiculous, so let’s put an end to that.”

DREAMS ARE MADE OF THIS

It’s one of those stories that seems too good to be true and it probably is, but if this Stanley Cup final has taught us one thing, it’s to never dismiss any possibility.

So it was with a 35-year-old journeyman minor league defenseman named Nolan Baumgartner, who was with the Canucks during the morning skate prior to Game 7, touching off speculation there was a chance he could play in the deciding game tonight.

How unlikely would it be? Well, consider that Baumgartner is No. 14 on the Canucks depth chart on defense. He hasn’t played an NHL game this season despite the fact the Canucks used 13 defensemen because of injuries. And until the Aaron Rome suspension after Game 3, Baumgartner was vacationing in Laguna Beach, Calif., with his family.

Sounds preposterous. But then again, the Canucks have no faith in Keith Ballard in such a big game. Alex Edler injured his back in Game 6 and missed the third period, so there could be an opening. For his part, Vigneault said Edler would be good to go in Game 7, but if they were 100 percent sure, why would they have Baumgartner take part in the morning skate?

It might have been to create uncertainty, but it would be one of the most bizarre stories in sports history if Baumgartner were to play in this game.

“Guys got called up (from the Manitoba Moose of the American League) at the end of the year to be black aces and I didn’t get the call, so that was it,” Baumgartner said. “You get the call and you’re not going to say no. This is what you’ve dreamed of your whole life. I was actually by the pool swimming with my son and I got a few calls and I thought it was the wrong number. I didn’t answer for a while and then I picked up my voice message and it was the Canucks calling.”

 

Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com with his column

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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