It was seventh heaven for Bruins fans last night, as their beloved Boston Bruins won an intense, 1-0 battle with Tampa Bay in game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals at TD Garden.
The win thrilled fans both in and out of the arena, as a sellout crowd of 17,565 rocked inside while Causeway Street was flooded with well over 25.000 people post-game. It is clear that though the Bruins have been largely ignored by the casual fan for years, when the team puts together a great season, they can still draw a crowd like they did in the team’s heyday of the 1970s and 80s.
“(The fans) were our seventh man,” Mark Recchi said post-game. “We felt it and we could hear it inside the dressing room. We could hear the excitement, the chants. It was incredible. A great feeling. Guys were like, ‘They’re ready. Let’s go out and get this.’ ”
The Bruins never disappointed with their effort on Friday, erasing memories of last year’s Game 7 collapse against Philadelphia with a gritty, 60-minute effort. Boston played its best game in the series in the one that mattered most, shutting down Tampa’s offensive attack, having little trouble clearing its defensive zone, and creating scoring chance after scoring chance.
The only problem was Dwayne Roloson also played perhaps his best game of the series, stoning the Bruins at every point. Roloson made 37 saves, including several great saves to keep the game scoreless for most of the night. He certainly cemented his place as a big-game goalie, as he has allowed just three goals in three career Game 7s.
Game 7 Heroes
To win a Game 7, the most intense game in sports, it takes more than one or two guys. The Bruins proved that true again last night, as it took a total team effort to earn the win and advance to the Stanley Cup final for the first time since 1990.
Nathan Horton played a solid game throughout, and again proved his value with his third game-winner in the playoffs, and second Game 7 winner.
David Krejci made the pass on Horton’s goal, drawing the defenseman wide before feathering a perfect pass on Horton’s tape on the doorstep. He also won an amazing 82 percent (14-of-17) of his faceoffs.
Dennis Seidenberg played almost 28 minutes, laid a huge hit on Martin St. Louis in the opening shift that helped set the physical, tight-checking tone of the game, and blocked 8 shots. Who knows how far the B’s could have gone last year if Seidenberg had not been hurt – he has been great this postseason and has proven himself to be a big-game performer.
Zdeno Chara played a great game as well, skating just a few seconds less than Seidenberg and doing a great job bottling up the speedy Tampa forwards and controlling the puck.
Andrew Ference, a guy nobody loved last year, continued his superb season with a great Game 7. He played 20 minutes, blocked a few shots, and made a heads-up pass to Krejci that led to the game-winner.
Patrice Bergeron led the Bruins’ forwards in ice time and won 65 percent of his faceoffs (15-of-23), including 8-of-9 in the offensive zone.
Tim Thomas made 24 saves, including two great saves in the third period. He has proven to be a playoff goalie, finally shaking that monkey off his back.
Milan Lucic played his best game of the playoffs, bringing a physical element to the game and winning puck battles.
Though they didn’t get on the scoresheet, Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley, Brad Marchand and Michael Ryder were all over the ice, creating chances. Even Johnny Boychuk and Tomas Kaberle played great games.
“I could not have asked for a better performance by the team,” coach Claude Julien said.
The Bruins will get back to work on Sunday as they prepare for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals – yes Bruins fans, Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals – on Wednesday night in Vancouver.
The Bruins will go in as underdogs against the team that dominated the league this season, but with the way they played in Game 7, they certainly have a shot of breaking a 39-year drought.