One game to decide who advances and who books tee times. As Gary Thorne once said prior to Ducks-Devils for all the marbles eight years ago, 'There's no better theatre than Game Seven.' Either win or go home.
Opportunity presents both the Lightning and Bruins, who have battled this far for a chance to meet the Canucks for the Stanley Cup. After tonight, only one will move on to challenge the heavy favorite with all of Canada glued to the sets a la '04 when the Flames took the Bolts the distance before falling in gut wrenching fashion. However, Calgary's run was as a lower road seed coming as a surprise. Whoever the mighty Canucks draw, they'll be expected to win the franchise's first Cup in their third attempt. A Canadian team hasn't won Lord Stanley since the '93 Canadiens on the broad shoulders of Patrick Roy.
While that's a great storyline for another day, tonight it's Tampa Bay and Boston. Their time to shine. Seventeen years ago today, it was Devils/Rangers in an epic showdown with Stephane Matteau providing a climatic conclusion to an unbelievable series. Will they go that far tonight, digging into resolve for whatever they got left in the second overtime? None of the previous six have reached that point. As a matter of fact, only the Canucks' bizarre ending in Game Five was the only game that needed sudden death this round after a wild first pair. If there's any God (aside from frantic fans of both), there'll be overtime to decide who wins the East. Or as I prefer to say, the Wales Conference. Will either team captain even touch the trophy or will they do what Henrik Sedin did and just take a picture and then skate off?
It's sure to be exciting. At least we hope. Please don't let it be an anti-climatic blowout a la Wings-Avs with Dominik Hasek having a day at the beach after Roy's costly gaffe the prior game almost a decade ago when I was in Bristol. Has it been that long? Crazy. Game Seven is awesome. Let this one be filled with drama that builds all the way up to that final tick. Whether it be regulation or sudden death, a series like this one deserves it.
Who will be the hero? Tim Thomas or Dwayne Roloson? David Krejci or Vinny Lecavalier? Nathan Horton or Martin St. Louis? Zdeno Chara or Mattias Ohlund? Or will it be a grinder like Rich Peverley or Sean Bergenheim? You never know. In '03, it was Grant Marshall and Jeff Friesen combining on an unlikely winner crushing Ottawa hearts. And in '94, Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!