The Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins have battled for six straight games, trading chances, wins, momentum. In a perfect world, they could keep doing this in perpetuity, playing every other night forever, growing to hate one another more and more as we sat glued to this storied rivalry, watching the battles -- Zdeno Chara vs. Max Pacioretty, P.K. Subban vs. people who hate fun.
But alas, someone decided long ago these battles should end after seven games, so this series ends Wednesday night in Game 7.
And the Bell Centre is sold out.
Which is weird, since the game is being played at TD Garden in Boston.
In a crowd of over 20,000 people, the odds are pretty good that at least one person attending the JumboTron screening doesn't realize that's what's going on, and this is very amusing to me. But as for the rest of the 21,273 fans, they know what they're getting into: a building full of equally passionate, frenzied fans that don't care that the home team is elsewhere, that they'll be looking up at a screen instead of down at the ice. They've fallen in love with this team over the last two playoff rounds, much like they did in 2010.
This isn't the first time Bell Centre has been at capacity for a road game. The Canadiens played two Game 7s in 2010, against the juggernaut Washington Capitals in Round 1 and the juggernaut Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 2, and they won both. (After that run, maybe the fans think stuffing themselves into the Bell Centre for these games is lucky?)
Superstition or no, Josh Gorges thinks it makes a difference.
Defenseman Josh Gorges went through that playoff run to the Eastern Conference Final in 2010 and remembers hearing the stories of how crazy it was in their home arena. But when asked if the thought of more than 20,000 people paying money to watch a game on a scoreboard ever enters his mind, Gorges said the feeling is no different than being aware of the massive expectation the fans have of their favorite team.
"No, because we know they're watching anyways," Gorges said. "Whether it was at the Bell Centre or on the couch, there's more than 22,000 people watching this game and hoping for us to come out on top. That's part of playing for this team, the support that we have and the fan base that we have is incredible."
Really, the only people who might not be into this are the police, who urged the fans to stay off the streets if the Canadiens swept the Lightning in Round 1, and now they'll have a throng of jubilant fans spilling out of the Bell Centre if the Canadiens win. Those are the ingredients for a happy riot. But they'll be prepared. We'd hate for rioting after a Game 7 versus Boston to become a Canadian tradition.
Whatever about that for now, though. More importantly, the Bell Centre crowd gives P.K. Subban and the Canadiens a place to store all that excess excitement they're hoping to siphon from the Boston supporters.
“It’s going to be great,” Subban said, preparing for the trip to Boston for Game 7. “I can’t wait for the crowd, the noise, the energy in the building [in Boston]. I can’t wait to take that all away from them.”