The Bruins are simply the better team, so the Stanley Cup should be theirs

The Bruins are simply the better team, so the Stanley Cup should be theirs

Pardon the cliche, but Game 7 is where both teams give everything they have. The Bruins have more and should win the Stanley Cup. 

If you make your prediction on Game 7 based on the series so far, you might be torn. The Bruins have greatly outscored St. Louis (21-14), but the Blues have enjoyed lengthier stints in the Boston zone and have carried the play both at 5-on-5 (52% Corsi For) and overall (53%). They've also outscored the Bruins in 5-on-5 play, which is where both teams can expect to play the vast majority on Wednesday. 

But when you zoom out and actually think about both teams' ceilings? This series should already be over. It was underachievement from Boston's top forwards that even put the Bruins on the brink of elimination in the first place.  

Now, the Bruins are going into the biggest game of their lives with a competent and confident top two forward lines for the first time all series. Their defense is coming off a solid showing, thanks in part to us knowing Zdeno Chara can indeed play through that jaw injury. The team has also recently learned it can win a game without needing penalty calls, and oh yeah, the Bruins still have the better goalie (and best postseason player) by a wide margin. 

Everything is trending in Boston's favor. Yes, momentum has meant [area that Brad Marchand occasionally spears] this series, but between Bruce Cassidy and his stars figuring it out offensively, Jordan Binnington finally paying for another one of his so-so performances and the possibility -- however great or small -- that Matt Grzelcyk could return to bolster the Bruins' back end, the Bruins shouldn't feel the need to worry about officiating crews or idiotic quotes from Craig Berube. They have the better team, even if they haven't always played like it. 

This series has been a grind, but "the other team hits more" is not an excuse to lose in the NHL playoffs anymore -- not for a good team, anyway. The disappearing act of the top six greatly hindered the Bruins; prior to Game 6, the Bruins had only outscored St. Louis at even strength in one game (Game 3). Despite the overall meh performance of Binnington, the Bruins find themselves in a 3-3 deadlock because of their own offensive struggles, not because the Blues are some sort of unsolvable riddle. 

There was absolutely the chance for everything to unravel in Game 6. Brad Marchand took an unnecessary -- and yes, very familiar-looking -- tripping penalty midway through the second period of a 1-0 game. If Lady Luck didn't pay Tuukka Rask and Charlie McAvoy a visit on Alex Pietrangelo's seeing-eye bid, it would have been tied in the other team's building when the Blues just got the call the Bruins didn't get one game earlier. 

But that didn't happen. Luck occurred, Rask stayed dominant and the Bruins got out of there feeling as good about their game as they probably have all series.

For all the perplexing struggles of the Perfection Line in the first five games of the series, the offensive woes were exacerbated by the fact that David Krejci was just as unproductive. Krejci turned in his best game of the series in Game 6. Perhaps after five games of praying that just one of its top two centers would give them a decent performance, the Bruins should count on both. 

There have been major questions about the Bruins prior to a lot of these postseason games, many of which recently have started with "what the hell is going on with." Yet through 23 games, there aren't really any questions left. We know for the most part what the lineup is going to be. We know the Bruins can score 5-on-5. We know Rask is Rask. 

And within a week, we're going to know a lot more. We're going to know who's been hurt and for how long. We're also going to know which team will be spending the summer with the Stanley Cup. Thinking that team will be the Bruins is not overconfidence. It's simply expecting the better team to win.

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Slumping Bruins say matchup against Capitals 'should get our attention'

Slumping Bruins say matchup against Capitals 'should get our attention'

The Bruins are always wary going into Capital One Arena given the recent history between the Bruins and Washington Capitals, where the Caps have dominated the Black and Gold for the better part of the last 10 years.

Sure, the Bruins have sprinkled in a win here or there, but the big, fast and skilled Capitals team has routinely pushed Boston around in these matchups between Eastern Conference powers and was the victor in the only recent playoff series between the two teams way back in 2012.

This season, the Capitals and Bruins are No. 1 and No. 2 in the Eastern Conference in terms of record and points through the first two-plus months of the season, and Washington won in a shootout in the teams' only matchup earlier this season in Boston.

Both teams lost in their last games, so there will be hunger for both elite clubs to get back into the win column. But things should be a lttle more desperate for a Bruins team that’s lost three games in a row, including back-to-back regulation games for the first time this season, and has seen their lead in the division “drop” to 10 points with a surging Florida Panthers club chasing them.

“Over the years they have had the better of us, so we’d better be ready to play. Their record this year backs that up,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We’re more concerned about ourselves, but the opposition tonight should get our attention. We’ll see how it all plays out.”

More than anything, however, the Bruins have seemed to lack focus or motivation in the last couple of weeks with forgettable opponents like the Senators and Blackhawks getting the better of them while they hold a commanding lead in their own division. It goes without saying that the challenge of the big, tough and dangerous Capitals should be exactly what the Bruins need to rise to the occasion, and that will be followed on Thursday night by a date with the Tampa Bay Lighting in Amalie Arena.

“[The Capitals] are obviously very dominant. They’ve had our number over the last several years, so it’s definitely one we tend to pay a little more attention to,” said Brad Marchand. “It’s always a hard building to play in. [It’s] a loud, obnoxious crowd so they gain energy from that. It’s a game we know we have to be prepared for. It doesn’t always go our way, so hopefully this one will.”

If anything can snap the Bruins out of their recent self-induced slumber over the last week, it’s the natural challenge of playing against a Capitals team that’s served as the ultimate challenge for them over most of the last decade.

Watch tonight's Bruins-Capitals game on NBCSN beginning at 7 p.m., or live stream the game by clicking here.


Bruins vs. Capitals live stream: Watch NHL game online

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Bruins vs. Capitals live stream: Watch NHL game online

The two-best teams in the Eastern Conference (and perhaps the entire NHL, too) will square off Wednesday night when the Washington Capitals host the Boston Bruins at Capital One Arena.

The Capitals lead the league with 49 points and have won seven of their last 10 games. Washington's offense has been red-hot with a league-leading 114 goals scored in 32 games.

The Bruins have 46 points atop the Atlantic Division, but their recent play has failed to impress. The B's have lost three consecutive games, including a lackluster 5-2 defeat to the Ottawa Senators on Monday night. Wednesday's matchup is the second in a four-game road trip for Boston. This trip also includes tough games against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers.

The Capitals have owned this matchup in recent seasons. Washington has won 15 of its last 16 games against Boston, as well as the most recent playoff series between these teams in 2012. 

Will the Bruins end their losing streak and send a message to the rest of the East with a statement win on the Capitals' home ice? Here's how to watch Bruins vs. Capitals on your computer or mobile device.

When: Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC Sports Network
Live Stream: NBC Sports

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