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12 Wins Down

Posted By Matt Preston On May 28 2011 @ 12:39 am In Boston Bruins | No Comments

May 14, 2009, TD Garden, Boston, MA: Game 7, Eastern Conference Semifinals. Carolina Hurricanes 3, Boston Bruins 2.

May 14, 2010, TD Garden, Boston, MA: Game 7, Eastern Conference Semifinals. Philadelphia Flyers 4, Boston Bruins 3.

May 27, 2011, TD Garden, Boston, MA: Game 7, Eastern Conference Finals. Boston Bruins 1, Tampa Bay Lightning 0.

Not out of the woods yet, but it seems the third time may actually be the charm.

When the dust settles, the excitement subsides and the adrenaline wears off, there will be many different things to be said about this game, this series and this season, but until that time the faithful of the Boston Bruins get to hear eight words that they have not heard since the days of Bourque, Neely and Janney.

The Bruins are going to the Stanley Cup.

In what was easily their biggest game of the season to this point, the Boston Bruins played one of their best games of the season to this point as they defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning, 1-0, in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, earning themselves a chance to play the Vancouver Canucks for the Stanley Cup. For all the doubts, for all the questions about whether or not this team could hack it when it mattered, the Bruins proved a few things to more than a few critics ending the Lightning season as they did.

And what a Game 7 it was. Whether you had any kind of stake in the game or not, it was a masterful hockey game between two evenly matched team. Both teams came into the game with identical records, 46-25-11 in the regular season and 11-6 in the playoffs. Both teams won their opening round series in seven games and then swept in the second round. Tampa Bay had a total of 59 goals scored in the playoffs, while giving up 44 to Boston’s 57 and 45. Yet, all statistics went out the window as the puck dropped.

The Bruins and the Lightning battled back and forth, trading punches with neither team yielding to the other, playing to a scoreless 52:27 before Nathan Horton broke the scoreless tie as he tipped home a feed from David Krejci, providing all the scoring the Bruins would need. The goal was Horton’s eighth of the playoff, tying him for fourth in the NHL, and his third game-winning goal. After spending six years in anonymity playing for the Florida Panthers, in his first trip to the post-season, tonight’s goal marked the second time this post-season Horton has scored a series clinching goal, making him the first play in NHL history to score two Game 7 winning goals in the same playoff year.

The workload was a bit lighter in terms of total number of shots and chances by the Lightning than previous games for goaltender Tim Thomas and the Bruins defense, but they still were heavily tested and put forth a strong performance in shutting down the highly skilled Tampa offense. Thomas recorded 24 saves for his second shutout of the series, while defenseman Dennis Seidenberg blocked eight shots of his own in keeping Tampa off the bored.

Credit to the Lightning in the loss for still playing a strong hockey game, particularly to Steven Stamkos. Early in the second period, teammate Martin St. Louis deflected a Johnny Boychuk slap shot that hit Stamkos in the nose. The young centerman missed no more than five minutes off the game clock before returning to the ice.

Friday night’s Game 7 was the kind of game that, if played at the Peewee level, would have been one where you would have felt bad one team had to lose. As a fan and a critic, it was everything you wanted to see in such an important game. Neither team ran away with it. Neither team chocked it away. Even though the Bruins proved themselves to be the better team on this night, with the way they played tonight, Tampa may very well have proved themselves to be the better of the two teams.

It is not time to be critical, however. It is time to for the city of Boston to celebrate. Yet, the time to celebrate will be brief. Conference titles are nice, but it is Stanley Cup rings that matter and the players of the Boston Bruins still need to win four more hockey games – the four toughest wins of their season – and questions and doubts to answer before they can rest. Tonight, however, is a night to celebrate.

Just four wins to go.

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