Wednesday AJenda – Going Against Convention for Game Seven

Boston Bruins netminder Tim Thomas has stood out as the difference-maker thus far in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. With tonight’s Game Seven on the Vancouver Canucks‘ home ice, can he make a difference for the Bruins one more time? (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images North America)

Enmityville Horrors
We all have our reasons for pulling either for Boston or Vancouver tonight in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Final, to be decided on the Canucks home ice at Rogers Center.

I mean, let’s be real here. As a Nashville Predators fan you either take on the SEC mentality of pulling for the local conference, i.e.: the NHL’s Western Conference, and Vancouver, the team who ousted your boys or, if you’re like most everyone else in the world, you go the other way, thirsting for emotional restitution if not out-and-out revenge from those som’bitches.

On the other hand, you’ve got Boston, my own personal Enmityville; a cool city, rooted in American historical significance, but home to some of the most insufferable fans on the planet. It’s a city by which I arrive at my prejudices honestly, based on its history with my own favorite pro sports franchises.

As I’ve mentioned before, my dislike for the major pro teams of Boston is well-engrained. Through the years they’ve been a pain in my sports hiney like those of no other city.

Why? Well, as you may know, I’m a SoCal guy. My family moved there when I was in the 8th grade; I called L.A. home for 22 years before moving my family to Nashville in 1992. My sports allegiances were all hard-forged in the Southland — with the notable exception of hockey, which in recent years has moved from #4 on my pro sports leaderboard to #1 with a bullet, obviously in favor of the Preds.

My football faves are the St. Louis Rams, who relocated there from L.A. in 1995. And while the Predators quickly overtook the Los Angeles Kings as my rooting interest among NHL teams, The Lambs were just too deeply rooted in my childhood to be traded out for a new local team when the Titans officially came to town in 1999; ironically, losing to St. Louis in Superbowl XXXIV that season.

Win, lose, or draw, the Rams will always be my team in football. They will also be first and foremost among my justifications to hate Boston.

Prior to the 2000 NFL season, I was neutral towards Beantown teams (except, perhaps, for the Celtics — but more about them later). I even rooted for the Red Sox occasionally in baseball, mostly because I’m a continual fan of the underdog and for decades Boston’s MLB futility was without peer (outside perhaps that of the Chicago Cubs), until they finally broke through in 2004 to capture their first World Series in 86 years.

And of course, in so doing they beat my favorite team, the Angels, along the way.

But as I was saying, as a dyed-in-the-wool (pun intended) Rams fan since 1969, the weather of my feelings toward Boston began to change in the 2000 season, when the Rams met the New England (formerly Boston) Patriots in their second trip to the Big Game in two years.

Pats coach Bill Belichick’s alleged tactic of video surveillance on the Rams’ team practices prior to the SB, along with his team’s equally questionable blocking/tackling tactics in the game itself, were key factors in the outcome of the contest which the Patriots won ushering in a run of three out of the next four Superbowl championships.

I mean, the nerve of those guys, right?!

So with that already sticking in my craw, a few months later came the aforementioned 2004 MLB season and the breakthrough of the heretofore lovably underachieving Boston Red Sox.

As with the Rams, I’m also a lifelong California/Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim fan (and yeah, don’t get me started about inane ownership and name changes with that club…). The Red Sox and the Halos first battled in the postseason in ’04 (springboarding Boston to their WS victory) and have met three times in the playoffs since, ousting the Angels two additional times.

Adding fuel to the fire, Boston’s breakthrough season of ’04 was also when their fanbase officially became the most obnoxious on the planet.

In basketball, need I give any explanation of the bad blood between my favorite NBA team, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics — the greatest championship rivalry in all of U.S. professional sports? ‘Nuff said there.

Keepin’ it real
But lest you’re unable to read between the lines, my hatred is rooted in the best of partisan nature. I’ve never been led to put a beat-down on somebody I saw in a parking lot wearing a Boston jersey (even if I could), or anything like that.

It’s all in good fun as it should be, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care. My inner-competitor in me would never allow for me to completely detach myself from emotion with regard to sports. There is most certainly good versus evil when it comes to championship match-ups; it’s all a matter of what depth of hell the bad guys occupy in my estimation.

However, the mature man in me does allow for some variances, such as those based on the observation of some tremendous play we’ve witnessed in the first six games of this Stanley Cup battle for the ages between the Canucks and the Bruins.

And given that observation, I’m leaning toward Boston as my rooting interest tonight in the madhouse that will be Rogers Centre in Vancouver.

The Difference-maker
Tim Thomas has been everything advertised in goal for Boston. Given that I hadn’t seen that many Bruins games this season prior to the Cup Final; I really wondered just what the fuss was regarding Boston’s effervescent netminder.

He couldn’t really be as good as the Predators’ Pekka Rinne, could he?

Well, I’ll say this, he’s pretty darned close.

The fact is, Boston has been in every game this series, almost exclusively due to Thomas’ stellar play in net. And despite some excellent goal work for Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo, there has really been no comparison between the two. When Bobby Lou has been good, he’s been very good, but when he’s been bad, he’s been horrid. The same can’t be said about Tim Thomas. And while the home team has won each and every game, the Bruins have by far been the better road team this series.

All three of Vancouver’s home wins have been by a single goal, either in the third period or in overtime; each could have all gone either way.

All three of Boston’s home wins have been blowouts, with even Game Three’s 8-1 final score not satisfactorily describing the victor’s domination.

The obvious conclusion is that tonight, anything could happen. The Bruins know how close they’ve come to winning in their opponent’s rink. One break going their way could prove to be the difference.

On the other hand, Luongo has not only been excellent in his own crib, but so has been the forecheck of his forwards and the sticks-on-pucks work of his defensemen. The difference in the Canuck’s confidence level has been astonishing when playing before their home crowd, so I suppose the favorite to hoist the Cup tonight would still be Vancouver.

However the Canucks will be without key forward, Mason Raymond, lost to a vertebral compression fracture in Game Six, in addition to a diminished Ryan Kessler, who has been nursing an undisclosed injury (thought to be a groin strain) that has significantly curbed his effectiveness throughout the series. One would assume that Vancouver’s largely ineffective first line of the Sedin Twins and Alex Burrows will have to carry the day for the Canucks to be able to celebrate the franchise’s 40th anniversary in style; winning its very first Stanley Cup championship at the close of play this evening.

However, if I were a bettin’ man, I know I wouldn’t be betting against Tim Thomas. He’s the sole reason I’ll be going against personal convention tonight and placing my Beantown hate on hold until next season. Yep, Enmityville is getting a Mulligan because of Thomas. He’s a fellow American and a heck of a likeable guy; and man, what a warrior. That’s kinda hard to ignore.

Go you Bruuuuns.

But best of luck to both teams tonight.


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