I admit it. I completely forgot to do a “5 questions for Game 5” because in my mind, I didn’t see the point. I thought trying to solve the issues the Boston Bruins had leading up to the game they entered trailing, 3-1, was futile. Boy, did they prove me wrong.
So now that the Bruins actually put in a 100-percent effort, I’ll do it too.
Here are the five questions that need to be answered leading up to and after Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series tomorrow night at RBC Center:
1. Can the Bruins duplicate their Game 5 effort?
We can know that they can. After all, during the grind of the 82-game regular season that’s how they made their way to the top of the Eastern Conference and nearly won the Presidents’ Trophy. They played with physicality and passion and worked as a team and utilized the system to the best of its productivity. For the first four games of this series, the Bruins looked like impostors (or was the regular-season team the fake?) Then came Game 5, the Milan Lucic hit on Dennis Seidenberg and the rout. In Raleigh, it’ll be more difficult to get their level of play that high in a hostile environment, but the Bruins won big games on the road all season long, including the two playoff games in Montreal. It really all starts with Lucic. Once he gets involved, his teammates take it as a cue to follow him to the Promised Land. No doubt, the fan favorite wants to get back to Boston for a Game 7 so the “Lucic Crew” can be back in full effect. I’d expect the Bruins to at least give another full-tilt effort, even if they don’t wind up on top.
2. Will Scott Walker be a distraction?
No way. The Bruins are too smart to do anything dumb now. Walker will be in the league next year and there’ll be payback somewhere down the road, as Shawn Thornton said today. Of course, if the game’s in hand and Walker is ripe for a quick grapple, I wouldn’t rule it completely out. By all accounts, Walker was a stand-up guy before this. He’s probably somewhat regretful and if this weren’t the playoffs he might have even actually apologized. I wouldn’t expect anything that could cost Boston to happen in terms of a Bruins player crossing the line.
3. Is Phil Kessel finally on the loose?
He sure looked like it in Game 5 and we all know how streaky he can be. If you look at his game-by-game from the regular season, the goals rarely come one at a time — they come in bunches over short stretches of games. Once Lucic gets his motor going, that creates the openings for Kessel and Marc Savard to work their magic and now they’re confidence is back up after a lackluster showing in the two games in Raleigh. I’d expect more Kessel-Savard chemistry.
4. Can Carolina regroup and get back to playing their game?
That’s the best part of Game 6 (and maybe Game 7) – we might finally get to see what this series would look like if both teams were playing their best. There’s no way Paul Maurice will allow his ‘Canes to come apart at the seams like they did in Game 5, but it’d be hard to believe the Bruins would revert to their lowly Game 3 and 4 form. Finally, we have a playoff series and I’d expect the scoring chances, the shot-blocking, the hitting and the acrobatic goaltending to reach the levels it’s supposed to (and has been in other series).
5. Will I finally see Ric Flair in person?
What would be better than following up my encounter with Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake in the hallway at TD Banknorth Garden then a brush with “The Nature Boy.” Well, two more classic hockey games would be the best thing that can happen. But meeting both wrestling icons of my youth in a three-day period would come close to matching that. Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald already cross paths with Flair. I think it’s my turn. Woo!