Collier: It's 1960 again with NHL final
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The Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks convene tonight, as Mike Lange once so famously put it, in the schoolyard, for all the marbles.
That the schoolyard sits on the eastern shore of the breathtaking Strait of Georgia in far off British Columbia likely will not preclude the eternal schoolyard prerogative, meaning any number of unprovoked fists to the head, in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.
Canucks ace Daniel Sedin, minutes after the Bruins had extended the series by several thousand air miles with a 5-2 victory in Game 6, stated flatly that Vancouver will win, likely because Boston's Brad Marchand had just tenderized his cognitive functions with six consecutive punches to the skull.
Not saying here that unbattered brains know Boston will win, only that even if Sedin thinks otherwise, saying so for the record virtually guarantees that whatever you've just guaranteed will not happen.
Trust me on that.
With only about three hours remaining in the hockey season (and really, what's the hurry? There are nearly three weeks left until the Fourth of July), the primary curiosity around here is just exactly how much more this Boston-Vancouver final can resemble with such picturesque imbalance its historical sibling, the 1960 World Series.
When the Canucks win, it is in gripping minimalist horn-to-horn episodes, any of which could have flipped the other way. When the Bruins win, it is utter carnage.
Vancouver has survived, 1-0, 3-2, 1-0; Boston has pillaged, 8-1, 4-0, 5-2.
The Bruins led, 4-0, before 10 minutes had been played in Game 6, but apparently had little interest in winning, 32-0, and, so rather than sustain their own excellence, they simply popped that vehicle into neutral and let it roll home.
This is exactly what the New York Yankees were doing to the Pirates through six games in October 1960, rampaging to 16-3, 10-0 and 12-0 victories, only to find Game 7 looming in Pittsburgh because the Pirates, somehow, had thrice escaped: 6-4, 3-2 and 5-2.
Both series, consequently, produced some ridiculous statistics, the kind rarely seen in championship competition.
The Pirates' team ERA looked better as a convenience store, 7.11.
Canuck Roberto Luongo's goals against average in Boston was 8.05.
Still somebody's gotta win, and the similarities don't end there.
Vancouver, coming in the clear favorite, has its 21st century version of the M&M Boys, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, who led the American League in homers (40) and RBIs (112) respectively that year. The Canucks have the S&S Kids, who share not only the same surname, but, before that, the very same womb. Born six minutes apart Sept. 26, 1980 in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, identicals Daniel and Henrik Sedin wound up nearly 31 years later just three places apart in an NHL scoring race.
Seriously, what are the odds?
Daniel, the league's leading scorer, had 104 points this season. Henrik, the league's fourth-leading scorer, had 94. They were a combined plus-56.
Both series also had compelling story lines adjacent to that always telling statistic -- hospitalizations.
The 1960 World Series had only one, when Yankees shortstop Tony Kubek took Bill Virdon's bad-hop grounder off the Adam's apple in the eighth inning of Game 7, but this Bruins-Canucks conflagration has had two ambulance rides already.
Boston's Nathan Horton took the first one after Vancouver's Aaron Rome drove a shoulder into his head, causing both to leave the series. Horton via concussion. Rome via suspension. Vancouver's Mason Raymond was hospitalized Monday after Boston's Johnny Boychuk drove him tailbone-first into the corner boards, resulting in a compression fracture of the vertebrae that will prevent Raymond from playing Game 7 or doing anything else that happens in the next three or four months.
Violence associated with the 1960 World Series was generally confined to the bar tabs run up during happy hour Oct. 13 and beyond, but the dichotomy that has marked the mayhem in this Stanley Cup final is almost shockingly instructive. In the close games, i.e. the ones Vancouver has won, there has been an average of 19 penalty minutes per game. In the blowouts, the average has been, um, 94.
That's something for the National Hockey League to ponder as it presses further into the struggle of how to adjudicate the game's inherent lunacy.
In the meantime, there's the matter of who will hoist Lord Stanley's Cup tonight. For some reason a winner in black and gold, some last-minute heroism, got it -- Boston 10, Vancouver 9.
First Published June 15, 2011 12:00 am