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In the past we’ve encouraged casual sports fans to give the NHL Playoffs a shot because quite frankly playoff hockey is like nothing else in sports. It’s fast paced with players crashing all over the ice with everything on the line. And tonight it all comes down to one game. Just 60 minutes of on-ice action to earn the opportunity to hoist the Stanley Cup. We are talking “must see TV” right here whether or not you like hockey. You’ve got to watch the action and, believe me, you will not be disappointed.
Through six hard-fought contests, Vancouver and Boston have played to a stalemate. The home team has won every game so far. Vancouver has held serve with three tightly contested home wins, outscoring the Bruins by a count of 5-2 in said games. In Boston, the Bruins have done as they pleased, outscoring the Canucks to the tune of 17-3. There have been key injuries to both teams. In Game 3, the Boston Bruins lost their top line right winger Nathan Horton to a devastating hit (resulting in a major concussion) from Aaron Rome (who was suspended for the remainder of the series). In Game 6, Vancouver lost versatile winger Mason Raymond to a vertebrae compression fracture from an awkward hit from Boston’s Johnny Boychuk. The hit looked really scary, but surprisingly no penalty was called on the play and there has been no discussion of discipline over the hit.
Who steps up in Game 7? Who is under the microscope? Who stands to gain the most in the hobby? Here is a quick look at who I will be watching:
Roberto Luongo (G) Vancouver Canucks: A multi-nominated Vezina Finalist has been very inconsistent so far this series, but has played very well at home. He has shown brilliance equally as well as incompetence so far. I expect a very good game from Luongo (he can’t be any worse then last game), but I worry about him if he happens to give up a quick one because then he might just fold for the night. Regardless, he still has an outside shot at the Conn Smythe Trophy should he put up a great game.
Tim Thomas (G) Boston Bruins: The banter back and forth between Thomas and Luongo has bordered on humorous. Between Luongo “pumping” Thomas’ tires, and Thomas not wanting to reciprocate, and Luongo talking about how Thomas let in a (I repeat “a”) soft one in Game 5 that he would have stopped, the two goalies are at the forefront coming into the last game. Chances are really good that whoever plays better will be hoisting the Cup Wednesday night. Thomas is my front runner to come home with the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, win or lose. This team isn’t in the position they are in without him.
Ryan Kesler (C) Vancouver Canucks: Just over a year ago, Kesler played in the gold medal game in Vancouver, his NHL city, where he calls home more than half the year. He was getting booed. Why? Well as you know, he’s American and was playing against the Canadian team. This time, he will have 18 000 people cheering for him. So far this series, he has not been overly effective on the offensive side. In this final game, however, I will say I have a feeling he will have an impact one way or another on how it ends. His rookie cards have shown life through the playoff run, and with a big game, they stand to continue to move well through the summer months.
Milan Lucic (LW) Boston Bruins: The Vancouver hometown boy will be a wrecking ball of energy coming into Game 7. Lucic has proved over his short career that the bigger the stage, the bigger he plays. I expect him to be hitting just about everything in sight, and parking himself in the dirty areas looking for scoring chances all night long. He will present a big challenge for the Vancouver defense, Roberto Luongo. His cards stand to make a rise should he perform well in the biggest game of his life. Should be fun to watch him!
Daniel Sedin (LW) Vancouver Canucks: After losing Game 6 in Boston, he gave a speech reminiscent of Mark Messier in the 1994 Stanley Cup playoffs against the New Jersey Devils. Sedin has guaranteed a win tonight.
The Art Ross Trophy winner has put his legacy on the line here. Very simply put, he will be a hero or a zero. They stand a much better chance if he and twin brother Henrik can finally find their cycle game and get some offense going. It sure would be a great picture for the ages if the twins can hoist the Stanley Cup. As great as they both are, their hobby love is basically regional. If the Cauncks should win, he may see a small up tick in his cards over the short term, but I expect them to stay at about current levels over the long haul.
When all is said and done, there will be no more hockey. We have the draft to look forward to next week, followed by the Awards night, and then the Rookie Showcase, but tonight is the last major hockey event for some time. Tonight another European Captain will hoist the Cup: Zdeno Chara or Henrik Sedin will be the first to lift it over their heads for their respective teams. My guess is that the winning goaltender will be next and then we will see what each team’s pecking order will be. This, for me, is one of the best things to watch. Who gets the Cup from the captain and the path that it takes going from player to player on the winning team.
Who do you think will be raising the Cup tonight? If you feel confident, Upper Deck is allowing fans to order their Stanley Cup box sets before tonight’s game. Check it out here.
Christopher Carmichael has been a hockey fan for over 20 years. He has been an active member on various hobby related sites, most notably www.hobbyinsider.net, and is a moderator on www.cloutsnchara.com.