By Steve Silverman-
(CBS) There’s a looming, nasty presence that is sure to assert itself tonight at the TD Garden in Boston.
The Boston Bruins are playing for their season at home, trying to extend the season one more game with the knowledge that if they end up on the short end, the Blackhawks will be celebrating on the Bruins’ home ice.
That fact is sure to bring out the best effort in the home team. That means that the Chicago Blackhawks are going to have to bring their level of play up one more notch if they are going to win this game and record another six-game triumph in the Stanley Cup Final.
The Blackhawks were in the same situation in 2010 and withstood the Philadelphia Flyers’ best effort in Game 6. Patrick Kane’s invisible goal gave the Blackhawks their first Stanley Cup since 1961 and set off one of Chicago’s most memorable celebrations.
The Bruins this year are a tad better than the Flyers were three years ago. But that doesn’t mean that the Blackhawks aren’t going to win.
They have the Magic Man in their lineup and the Bruins don’t. Kane is a proven difference maker who has started to take over this series. He has the speed and quickness to cause problems for all the Bruins – not just Zdeno Chara — and when he is willing to go to the dirty areas and risk life and limb as he has in Games 4 and 5, it’s almost impossible to stop him.
With Jonathan Toews’ playing injured after he was knocked loopy by Johnny Boychuk in Game 5, it’s on Kane to lead the way.
A repeat performance of what Kane did in Game 5 would do just fine. On his first goal, Kane was simply too quick for the Boston defense when a puck got by Tuukka Rask and he whisked in and backhanded a shot into the back of the net.
On the second goal, Kane made a play that perhaps Sidney Crosby could have made, but nobody else in the NHL could have finished. Kane took a quick goalmouth pass from Bryan Bickell on the backhand side, secured it on his blade in an instant, and popped the water bottle.
That pass would have slid off the stick of 95 percent of the NHL players. That includes Boston’s Brad Marchand, who is supposed to do as much for the Bruins as Kane does for the Blackhawks.
Marchand is a skilled agitator who was one of the difference makers for the Bruins in their 2011 Stanley Cup triumph over the Vancouver Canucks. But that hasn’t been the case in this series.
Marchand doesn’t even have an assist and has rarely made any threatening plays against Corey Crawford. He did get off a very hard snap shot in the first period of Game 1 that appeared to be going to the top corner, but Crawford caught that shot with his glove hand.
That area has proven vulnerable throughout much of the series, but don’t tell Marchand.
It may not get any better for Marchand tonight, especially if Patrice Bergeron can’t play because of his “body” injury. In and out of the hospital, Bergeron is officially day-to-day. If humanly possible, Bergeron will dress and play, but when he tried to give it a go in the second period Saturday night, the Bruins’ best all-around player struggled to go up and down the ice.
If Toews and Bergeron are actually in the lineup, don’t expect either to be at their best. It will be up to the supporting cast to get the job done.
This series has long had the look of a seven-game series. However, the Blackhawks’ Magic Man has hit his stride again and he could prove fatal for the Bruins tonight.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.