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BOSTON -- Here are five things that will be on our radar for tonight's Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals between the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins:
Yes, we know Roberto Luongo's comments about Tim Thomas have been overblown and overly dissected. Get over it. It's the Cup finals. But what remains a key for the Vancouver Canucks is whether they get the "home" Luongo, the goalie who has shut out the Boston Bruins twice in Vancouver in this series, or the "road" Luongo, who allowed 12 goals in less than two games in Boston last week.
Luongo has shown remarkable confidence since being yanked in Game 4 and has sounded very captain-like in his dealings with the media, even when it pertained to the Thomas issue. Still, these are the facts heading into Game 6: Luongo is 5-5 with a 3.49 goals-against average on road this postseason and 10-3 with a 1.70 GAA at home. If he cannot reverse that road trend, we're headed for Game 7.
|The Sedin twins have a combined two points so far in the Cup finals.|
There are two schools of thought on Daniel and Henrik Sedin's lack of production in this series. One is the two Vancouver forwards are working hard, getting chances and simply ready to burst with a cacophony of scoring just when the Canucks need it most. The second is, Daniel Sedin has the only two points between them in this series because the Bruins have found the same kind of formula other top teams did in keeping the twins from working their cycling magic in the corners and off the half-wall.
The fact the Bruins will get the last change at home in Game 6 should give Boston coach Claude Julien an easier time in getting his shutdown defensive pairing of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg on the ice against the twins.
If Daniel and Henrik do break out, it will put even more pressure on the Bruins to open up and match offense for offense, which will increase the odds of Vancouver hoisting the Cup for the first time in franchise history. If not, look for plenty more pointed questions about the twins' ability to bring it when it matters most as the series shifts back to Vancouver.
That has been the pattern for two of the Bruins' top players, Milan Lucic and David Krejci. Lucic, a Vancouver native and former junior star in that city, has looked out of sorts in the three games he's played there. While he has only one assist at home, he has been better in the two wins in Boston. So has Krejci, the team's leading playoff point producer (22).
In Vancouver, playing mostly against Ryan Kesler's line, Krejci has been bounced around and looked timid and uncertain. At home, Krejci has a goal and three assists and has been the dynamic puck-mover that caused problems for Tampa Bay and Philadelphia.
We understand the third member of that top unit, Nathan Horton, has been gone since early in Game 2, forcing Julien to roll through a number of wingers, including Rich Peverley, who scored twice in Game 4, Michael Ryder and rookie Tyler Seguin. But Lucic and Krejci are the engines that drive this line and the Bruins' offense. They have to deliver in Game 6.
Is it possible the Stanley Cup will be awarded tonight to the Canucks, whose prolific regular-season power play is clipping along at just 4 percent in the finals? Is it possible the Bruins will force a seventh game with a power play that is cooking at 14.3 percent?
Through the first five games of this series, the power play has produced a combined four goals on 46 opportunities. Two of Boston's three power-play goals came in Game 3, an 8-1 rout of Vancouver. If the Bruins can somehow manage to win the power-play war (popgun though it might be) in Game 6, they'll be headed back to Vancouver.
Julien insisted Monday morning he thinks it has been more a matter of execution than personnel that has been plaguing the Bruins, especially in Game 5 when they were given the first four power plays of the game and came up empty en route to a 1-0 loss.
"It was more what we didn't do in our decision-making," the coach said.
Like the Sedins, though, there is a lingering belief Vancouver could simply explode with the man advantage and pour two or three past Thomas and that will be that. Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault, who has said he believed the power play has been ready to break out for the past two games, joked that he thinks Game 6 might be the night.
"Now I really, really mean it," he quipped.
Daniel Sedin agreed.
"We feel that we're close," Sedin said Monday. "Our confidence is high and it should be. We've got to go out there with a swagger and that's when we're at our best. We're going to do that tonight and I think we have been the last few games, too."
So, everyone knows the Stanley Cup will be in its protective case at TD Garden on Monday night. The Vancouver Canucks' family and friends have descended on Boston in the hopes of a celebration. There are parade plans afoot in Vancouver.
Does all that disrupt the thought process for either team?
"We're not really worried about it being here," Boston forward Michael Ryder said of the Cup's presence. "We just want to win the game."
Andrew Ference was part of a Calgary Flames team that blew a 3-2 series lead against the Lightning and lost Game 7 in Tampa in the 2004 finals. He said you have to approach this game like every other game this postseason.
"I don't know if you ever want to win one game more than another. The motivation is so strong for every game," the Boston defenseman said.
Ference recalled preparing for Game 4 against Philadelphia in the second round. Even though the Bruins led the series 3-0 and would sweep the Flyers, he said the team's approach didn't change.
"I remember the emotion in here before Game 4 was pretty much the same," he said. "There wasn't any less motivation then to do the job."
As for the Canucks, they don't have a single Stanley Cup winner on their active roster (Mikael Samuelsson won with Detroit, but is injured), but Vigneault said he thinks the team's approach will not vary even with the Cup on the line.
"We're not going to talk about the Cup. We're going to talk about the process," Vigneault said. "That's been our whole mindset since the first day of training camp."
Manny Malhotra is one of the older Canucks players at age 31. Vancouver is his fifth NHL team and he understands there are no guarantees of ever getting back to this point.
"So you keep that in the back of your mind and you think that this may be the only opportunity you have to make the most of it," Malhotra said. "[Thinking about holding the Cup] is peripheral stuff right now. We realize the type of effort that's going to be needed to win and our focus, as it has been all year, is on the process and how we play the game."