Going into this series, I found it hard to imagine how the Boston Bruins – a team that struggled to skate with a talented, but flawed Tampa Bay Lightning team – could possibly stick with the Vancouver Canucks. While my prediction of a 4-1 series win was my way of expressing my strong confidence in the Canucks rather than an insult to the Bruins’ prowess, it didn’t seem far off base.
Yet instead of the Bruins holding their breath after every shift, they’ve proved that they’re way beyond deserving to be on the same ice surface as the elite Canucks. With a 12-1 mark in wins and a narrow 4-2 margin in defeat, Vancouver’s honestly lucky that the series is notched up at 2-2.
That’s a big shock, but it’s clearly not an accident.
Bruins fans might have come into this series happy that their medium-hyped squad made it this far. It is the first time a Boston Bruins team made the Cup finals since 1990, after all. Yet with those two wins, the Bruins generated more than just pride and a legitimate chance at their first championship since the days when Bobby Orr had healthy knees and the hockey world at his feet; they’ve also raised the expectations of Boston fans, something Rich Levine captured in this column.
The Bruins are two wins away from the Stanley Cup, and the city’s on fire.
By now, the novelty of making it back to the Finals has worn off. After the events of the last two games, there’s no one who’s just “happy to be here.” When we look at the Bruins, they’re no longer a gang of scrappy guys trying like hell to catch a break and earn some respect. We see a team that’s more suited to win the title than any Bruins squad in the last 30 years.
They’re the real thing. They’re a championship team. We know it’s there.
Of course, with greater expectations come increased chances for deeper disappointments. The Bruins need to win two of their next three games to make Boston a true title town once again. If nothing else, they’ve shown they can fight with the best regular season team in the NHL and capture the attention of a spoiled sports market in the process.
Get set for the Heritage Classic with hot dog facts and more
The Winnipeg Jets host the Edmonton Oilers at the 2016 Heritage Classic at Investors Group Field this afternoon. You can watch it on NHL Network, Sportsnet, TVA Sports 2 or NHL.tv at 3 p.m. ET.
With that in mind, let’s get prepped with super-important stats about unhealthy food, interesting photos and fun facts.
Want to get an in-depth look at the rivalry between the Jets and the Oilers? NHL.com and Sportsnet both have some great retrospectives.
The CBC notes that there was rain ending in the morning but it’s expected to be cloudy. Overall, sounds like a nice climate for an outdoor hockey game. NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika wonders if the sun’s glare might cause some issues.
The Arizona Coyotes received (mostly) good news on Sunday: Mike Smith‘s injury isn’t believed to be “severe,” even if he’s considered week-to-week, according to reporters including TSN’s Darren Dreger.
While Louis Domingue and Justin Peters isn’t the sort of goalie duo that will make shooters think twice about firing the puck, they’re both at least fairly experienced netminders.
(Considering Smith’s struggles with injuries and inconsistency, it’s not surprising that Arizona invested in a little insurance in Peters.)
Domingue is slated to start in net for the Coyotes against the New York Rangers on Sunday. It’s been a bumpy start for him so far, but Arizona has at least a theoretical advantage in that the Rangers played on Saturday.
As far as when Smith will be back? Well here’s a slight idea.
Dave Tippett does not think Mike Smith will be ready for home game vs. Colorado on Oct. 29, but he is not far from getting back on the ice.
Chances are, plenty of hockey fans – and maybe some members of the Colorado Avalanche – were uttering that question after Saturday night.
Well, we know this about Shane Harper: he scored his first two NHL goals at age 27, helping the Florida Panthers beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2.
You can watch both of Harper’s goals in the recap video:
Harper also drew enough ire from the Avalanche to get into a bit of a skirmish following a hit.
So, who is Shane Harper?
For one thing, he’s from Valencia, California and did not go drafted.
His best junior season came in 2009-10, when he scored 42 goals and 80 points for the Everett Silvertips. He’s become quite the seasoned AHL veteran since then, and while his numbers won’t wow you, he did do enough in 2014-15 to maybe turn a head or two. Harper scored 32 goals and 50 points for the Chicago Wolves that season.
You can tell his teammates were happy for him – gentle ribbing and all – when the media asked about his career milestone: