BOSTON- The Vancouver Canucks can clinch the first Stanley Cup in their franchise’s 40-year history with a win on the Boston Bruins’ home ice Monday.
With nearly every significant member of their team drawing high praise and harsh critiques within the same postseason, the Canucks understand the magnitude of their opportunity.
“Louie and us played in the Olympic finals and that’s obviously a big game, too. But as a hockey player, this is what you want to win,” Daniel Sedin said. “It’s the toughest thing you can win. You work so hard with your friends and teammates to get to this point.”
If Vancouver seizes that opportunity, it will be the first road win of the series for either team. They also face a Boston team that’s twice pushed series in which they trailed early to a deciding game–and won.
“I don’t think there is anybody in that dressing room panicking,” Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said. “We’re focused. We understand the situation.”
Boston leads in several key categories over the length of the series, including goal differential, yet they trail in the series thanks largely to a pair of zero-goal efforts in Vancouver.
“I know it’s a bizarre stat, but as they say, ‘It is what it is,'” Julien said. “Probably our inability to score down there has been the
result of why we’re down three games.”
Julien emphasized the re-establishment of the physical game at both ends and the struggle for critical offensive space.
“We need to get to the front of the net and win battles, and it’s part of our game and part of their game, as well,” he said. “If you’re going to score goals, you have to win those battles and you have to put the pucks in the net and be there.”
There have been plenty of questions about Vancouver’s offense as well, particularly the limited production out of Ryan Kesler, Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin. The trio has been stuck on just two points, both of which belong to Daniel.
Kesler did not practice Sunday but he is expected to play.
“He’s fine, just gave him a day off. That’s all. Usually keep it at day-to-day. Don’t want to spoil you guys too much,” Canucks Head Coach Alain Vigneault said, eliciting some laughs.
Home ice means the last line change for Boston, which will afford them better control of the match-up of their shut-down tandem of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg again the Sedins and Alex Burrows. Vigneault addressed their lack of production on the off day.
“When you’re dealing with those two players in particular, they’re so demanding on themselves that they don’t really need anyone to point certain things about their game out to them,” Vigneault said.
“You’ve got to give credit where credit is due. Their goaltender has made some great saves on them. And their defensemen have done a great job.”
Chara said the Bruins were more “on edge” in their two wins at home, an attitude they must recapture to succeed again at TD Garden. In both games, Bruins legends like Cam Neely and Bobby Orr paired with an energetic home crowd to help fuel Bruins blowouts.
“The first two home games where they were unbelievable and for sure they gave us an extra boost,” the backup goalie Tuukka Rask said. “I can’t see any reason they won’t be the same way in a game six.”
The man in front of Rask, Tim Thomas, has allowed a meager six goals in five games, the most perplexing stat for a team that now faces elimination.
“I think he puts it on his shoulders every game,” Seidenberg said.” He has been bailing us out every game and making huge saves for us.”
Seidenberg also said that Thomas has thrived in the underdog role, that he set aside criticism and even used it to fuel his effort in net.
“He started over in Europe, then came over here and became a star late in his career,” Seidenberg said. “Ever since he has just been outstanding and proving everybody wrong.”
His latest criticism came from opposing goalie Roberto Luongo, who offered his assessment of Maxim Lapierre’s winner in game 5, the lone goal scored in the contest. Luongo said a goalie playing deeper in his net would have likely been able to make the save, a statement he insisted was merely honest and not a criticism.
“Obviously my whole comment I don’t think was a negative comment if you take the whole comment,” Luongo said. “But at the end of the day, I’m one win away from winning a Stanley Cup and that’s all I really care about now.”
Another prominent quote from the series came from Mike Milbury, a former Bruins player, coach and executive who now works in broadcasting. Milbury referred to the Sedin twins as “Thelma and Louise” during game 4 of the series in Boston.
Milbury also served as coach and general manager for the New York Islanders, where oversaw a period of dismal deals that sent away current Stanley Cup competitors Roberto Luongo, Zdeno Chara and Raffi Torres among many others.
“He did a great job on Long Island. I’m sure he is happy with that,” Henrik Sedin quipped to The Globe and Mail.
His brother Daniel also took a turn responding to Milbury.
“We don’t really worry about those kind of comments. He made a bad comment about us, calling us women. I don’t know how he looks at women. I would be pretty mad if I was a woman,” Daniel told The Globe and Mail.
The back-and-forth between players and announcers took a decisively anterior position to the task at hand for both teams. Boston will look to continue the success of home teams in the series to stave off their season’s end, Vancouver will look to buck the trend and savor hockey’s ultimate prize.
“We’re in a great spot,like Louie said, we’re one win away from winning it, so we’re excited,” Henrik Sedin said. “But we know if we get out of our comfort zone and start getting overly excited, it’s going to take away from our game. That’s a key focus, to come in here tomorrow and play the way we have all year.”