Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Next stop: 1st Stanley Cup Finals Game 7 in Boston Bruins history
It seems only natural that the most exciting playoff run for the Boston Bruins in my lifetime will end in the ultimate finale: Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals tomorrow night at the Rogers Centre in Vancouver.
Home ice has carried all the weight in the series, making Boston forget its offense at the border while Vancouver loses its will to compete in the Hub. The home teams have won the first six games so the B's hope to break that tomorrow night while also gunning for their first Stanley Cup in 39 years. Meanwhile the meek and mild, pale folks of Vancouver are praying that the Canucks grab their first Cup in the franchise's 40 years of existence.
Either way, the Cup will be in the building tomorrow night and the entire hockey universe will be watching one more time.
For the third straight contest, Boston absolutely rolled over Vancouver at TD Garden, taking Game 6 by the score of 5-2. It didn't even feel that close as the Bruins basically guaranteed a winner-take-all Game 7 with a Stanley Cup Finals record four-goal flurry in a span of 4:14 of the first period.
LeBron James is the biggest fraud in the U.S. when it comes to crunch time (like say the fourth quarter of NBA Finals games) but can we agree that Roberto Luongo owns Canada in terms of being pathetic and completely unreliable in the big moment? After crying to the media between Games 5 and 6 about how he wasn't getting enough attention and somehow making fun of Tim Thomas, Luongo deserved all the grief he got.
After giving up three goals and making five saves, he lasted for just 8:35 of Game 6 before he took a seat on Vancouver's bench and called his agent with dreams of a sequel to Mr. Deeds 2. Marblehead, MA native Cory Schneider (30 saves; 2 goals allowed) came in for the second straight time in his hometown as Luongo gave up 15 goals combined in two games and less than half of a period.
Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault has already stuck by his emotionally-shattered Vezina trophy candidate for the start in Game 7 and as a Bruins fan, I say yeah Alain! In his limited sample size, Schneider looks much more calm and capable of not getting overwhelmed by the stakes.
With another great game (36 saves) and a win, Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas wrapped up the Conn Smythe trophy (given to the playoffs MVP). It's clear by now that he's completely in Vancouver's heads as they can't bury breakaways or chances that would be sure-fire goals on almost anyone else in the world.
Boston is a team of solid players that are currently excelling at stepping up their games at just the right time. This was beautifully illustrated last night as five different guys scored goals. 10 different players had points for the Bruins and that doesn't even include Chris Kelly (14 of 19 on faceoffs) and Shawn Thornton (game-high 7 hits), who both left their stamp on this performance.
Vancouver has the big stars offensively in Daniel Sedin (1 goal and 3 assists vs. Boston), Henrik Sedin (1 goal, 0 assists vs. Boston) and Ryan Kesler (0 goals, 1 assist vs. Boston) who's clearly hurt but they've been totally held in check by Boston's lockdown defensive pairing of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg.
Brad Marchand (9th of the playoffs, setting a new Bruins rookie record) beat Luongo at 5:31 with a quick snap shot on the high, short side. Mark Recchi and Seidenberg assisted on the goal, Marchand's third in his last four games.
35 seconds later, before the PA announcer had even said the first goal, Milan Lucic scored his fifth of the postseason. It was a soft wrist shot that leaked through Luongo's Paris Hilton-esque five hole. Rich Peverley had the first assist with a nifty drop pass and Johnny Boychuk had the other helper.
Andrew Ference's power-play goal at 8:35 (his fourth of the playoffs) made it 3-0 and signaled the end of Bob Louie's not so excellent adventure. Michael Ryder and Recchi (who had a perfect screen) were credited with the assists.
Only 1:10 into his outing, Schneider gave up a goal to Ryder (his eighth of the playoffs), who tipped home a shot from the point by wait for it, wait for it, TOMAS KABERLE.
Not much transpired in the second period and the Canucks showed a slight pulse as Henrik scored a power-play goal (his third of the playoffs) 22 seconds into the third. His brother and Christian Ehroff assisted on the backhander.
Thomas' shutout was over and Jannik Hansen had a great chance to make it somewhat scary by cutting it to 4-2 but his shot went off the post (haha, that didn't stop the Canucks from celebrating). Replays showed it didn't go in and David Krejci was able to score Boston's second power-play goal of the contest at 6:59 (his 12th of the playoffs from Recchi and Kaberle).
Maxim Lapierre scored in garbage time (his third of the playoffs) at 17:34 from Daniel Sedin and Hansen but there would be no insufferable dancing like in Game 5.
Throw out all the numbers and everything that has happened in this crazy series over the last two weeks. Tomorrow night is all that matters and the Bruins are in a great position to end decades of frustration with the sweetest reward of all: a Stanley Cup on a rival's home ice.