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Emotion in the Canuck-Boston series not surprising—and the streets of Vancouver what Toronto could be...

Some observers seemed to express surprise at the intensity that has been in evidence in the finals, given there is no historic or natural rivalry between the Bruins and the Canucks.

But these are two teams fighting for a once-in a lifetime memory:  a shot at the Stanley Cup.  Something these players and everyone associated with these organizations will look back on—fondly, or with disappointment—for the rest of their lives.

Intense is a surprise?  No, it’s not.

We’re seeing everything.  Low-scoring games.  High-scoring games.  Great goaltending.  Poor goaltending.  Dives.  Heads bobbing.  Stuff after the whistle.  Questionable hits.  Great plays.

It’s the finals.  Everyone is playing hard, but also looking for an edge.

I found it interesting, almost amusing, how virtually everyone (I’m including mainstream media who should know better than to go overboard after every game, one way or the other…) jumped off the Vancouver bandwagon after the games in Boston.  Suddenly Luongo was a bum, the Sedins’ weren’t tough enough and Kessler was lousy.

(I’m not a Vancouver “guy”, but these are quality players—some of the best in the game.  And people are playing with injuries most of us couldn’t get out of bed with.  So I try to look past the first layer when it looks like one team, or a certain player, isn’t performing as we think they should.)

The fact is these back and forth momentum swings happen all the time in hockey.  Over the past 50+ years I’ve been following hockey, this exact type of thing has happened countless times.

I remember back in 1962.  The Leafs were in the finals for the first time in 11 years.  They won the first two games at home, but were knocked around physically by the tough Blackhawks in Games 4 and 4 in Chicago.  I think they maybe scored one goal in two games in the old—and very loud—Chicago Stadium.

Leaf players said after the games in Chicago that they were not getting to the front of the net, and they re-dedicated themselves to being more physical.

It worked.  And despite an injury to Johnny Bower, the Leafs, behind Don Simmons in goal, won the series in 6 games.

In 1993, the Wings seemed to intimidate the Leafs in the first two games of their playoff series, but the Leafs ended up winning in 7 games.

Any number of things can change the momentum in a playoff series.  A goal, a save, a hit.  A penalty call.  An injury.  We all remember just last spring, when the Flyers, down three games to none, came from behind to beat the Bruins in 7 games.

So I was not shocked to see the Bruins come back, though I was far from convinced it was a series just because they won Game 3.  Game 4 made it a series.  But I’m among those who believe that, while momentum is important in hockey and in the playoffs, momentum usually starts with the drop of the puck in every new game, and it can flow back and forth throughout the game.

So I was looking forward to seeing how both teams responded in Game 5 back in Vancouver.  Luongo was due for a great game (and he delivered) and Thomas was “due”, perhaps, for something less than his best performance and he was much better than that.

Again, just the natural ebb and flow that we often see in a tough series.

The finals should have this emotion.  Long-time Canuck fans are on pins and needles, hoping things go their way.  The Bruins have an even longer NHL legacy, but given that the Bruins are far behind the Celtics, Patriots and Red Sox in the sports pecking order, I think it’s fair to say the Cup would mean way more to Vancouver in many ways—at least from a fan perspective.

Many fans in Canada are cheering for a Canadian team (Vancouver) but that’s not an across-the-board sentiment, clearly.

Leaf fans don’t speak with one voice on this one either.  Some would like to see the Canucks prevail, others have a soft spot for the Bruins, maybe for long-time Leaf Tomas Kaberle.  Tim Thomas is the like-able guy, Luongo, fair or not, seemingly less so.

Regardless, that’s part of what makes this great.  Fans are split, again, as it should be.

Now with the Canucks leading the series, does everyone jump back on their bandwagon?

(As an aside, I have to mention young Tanev.  12 minutes in Game 5 on the Vancouver blueline.  That's a heck of a spot to be dropped into and he did the job...)

However this goes, seeing the street scenes during the game in Vancouver was a window into what the streets of downtown Toronto would be like should the Leafs someday get to this point.  So many people care about the Leafs (a lot hate them, too, I realize!), not only in the “city” of Toronto and across Canada but in countries around the globe.  If the “moment” ever comes, well, it will be something to experience.

But for the moment, there are two hard-working, talented, well-coached and very deserving teams fighting for the Cup—right now.



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