|ESPN.com: NHL Playoffs 2011||[Print without images]|
BOSTON -- The 2011 Stanley Cup finals might just need an asterisk if the home teams go 7-0 with a Vancouver Canucks victory against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.
Sorry, but that's just how we feel about it.
A Cup champion, in our mind, is a squad that has the intestinal fortitude to win a game in the enemy rink on the biggest stage of all.
In this series, the Canucks have looked awful in Beantown, outscored 17-3 in three games here at TD Garden. And, yes, while the games have been much more competitive in Vancouver, that's in large part because of Tim Thomas' Conn Smythe Trophy-worthy brilliance. Otherwise, the rest of the Bruins have been shrinking violets at Rogers Arena, unable to muster any offense with two measly goals in three games there.
The last 7-0 homer series was 2003, when New Jersey beat Anaheim in the most boring Cup finals of the past two decades.
This series has not been boring at all. There has been some entertaining hockey and great storylines on and off the ice, but if the Canucks win Game 7, we will not have seen either one of these teams step up in unfriendly confines. The Chicago Blackhawks stepped up in Game 6 last season in Philadelphia and the Pittsburgh Penguins did it on the road in Game 7 against Detroit in June 2009. That's how we like our Cup champions.
The Bruins have one chance left to make themselves champions worthy of the Hawks and Penguins before them.
Hey, don't get us wrong; if Vancouver wins Wednesday night, you have to tip your hat to long-suffering Canucks fans who have waited 40 years for glory. They are some of the best fans in the game and deserve a Cup champion. But their team would have grown a lot more in our eyes had they come here to Boston on Monday night and delivered a championship-type performance in a tough rink.
When the Montreal Canadiens were a dynasty in the 1970s, they came here to Boston and won big playoff games en route to four straight Cups despite the intimidating crowds. That's how it's done.
With Lord Stanley's prize in the building Monday night, the Canucks didn't even come close to having the Cup's traveling case opened a millimeter. The voice of Rene Rancourt was still echoing in the air when the Bruins exploded with four first-period goals. It was another disappointing game by the visiting team in this series, a 5-2 Canucks loss.
Both clubs have had too many players disappear on the road. Take Maxim Lapierre's third line for the Canucks. They were the best unit on the ice, for either side, in Game 5 in Vancouver. Not only did Lapierre score the only goal of the night, but the unit with Jannik Hansen and Raffi Torres hit every Bruins players in sight and kept the puck in the offensive zone with a ravenous forecheck and cycle. In Game 6? They were nowhere to found (Lapierre's late goal with the game long decided doesn't cut it, sorry).
Likewise, David Krejci and Milan Lucic were terrific at home Monday night with each player scoring a goal. In Vancouver? Lucic had a brutal night in Game 5, and Krejci seemed so scared of the puck it actually made you wonder if he thought touching it would make it explode in his face.
Of course, the king of the Jekyll-and-Hyde club is Roberto Luongo. Two goals against in three games at home, 15 goals against in three games here in Boston. Oh wait, not quite three games, he was pulled in two of them.
If Luongo could have made some early saves Monday night, this could have been a much different game for the Canucks. His teammates might have not looked so darn deflated had their goalie made a save or two early instead of letting in at least two goals that he should have had, if not all three.
It also might have been nice if the Sedin twins stepped up after having just two collective points heading into Game 6. Until they combined for a goal in the third period when the score was out of reach Monday night, they were yet again shut down by Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg. A big Sedins performance on enemy ice to cap the season? That's Hart Trophy-worthy. Instead, the Sedins and their teammates produced another road stinker.
That's why Thomas is a lock for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. His performance in this series has been stellar in Vancouver and Boston. He's a champion no matter what happens Wednesday night.
Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.