Is it something in the water in Vancouver? Did someone spike the "chowda" in Boston?
This will be the sixteenth time that a Stanley Cup Final series has gone the distance, but it's fairly safe to say that no previous series has turned out the way this one has.
This series has been extremely difficult to dissect and analyze. It seems that the only momentum that exists between games is the home-ice advantage. Not to say that playing at home isn't important during the grueling NHL playoffs, but it's almost as if the audience has seen two different teams matched up depending on the arena.
The home team has won every game so far, but it's the way they are winning it that is boggling minds across both countries.
Games 1 and 2 were played in Vancouver. Vancouver won those 1-0 and 3-2 (OT) respectively. These games featured hard hits, superb goal tending on both ends and the Canucks stepping up with big goals in clutch time. Vancouver effectively slowed the Bruins down in both games; making skating space spare and punishing them with big hits in all three zones. Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo slightly outshone his Boston counterpart Tim Thomas in both games, seemingly answering many questions about his ability to deliver when his team needed him the most. It looked as if Vancouver was in a great spot headed to Boston.
Games 3 and 4 were in "Beantown." The Bruins spent approximately one period of play before they found their rhythm. After a scoreless first period of Game 3, Boston poured on the offense with an 8-1 drubbing and followed that with a 4-0 shutout in Game 4. Thomas looked impenetrable and Luongo looked awkward and out of place; tarnishing the legacy he was making for himself after the first two games. As the floodgates were opening, Boston seemed to find more open ice through the neutral zone, passing lanes appeared in the offensive zone and their play clamped down in the defensive zone. Analysts and talk-show hosts soon began predicting that the Canucks wouldn't win another game and the Stanley Cup would be making it's way to Boston this summer.
After two sloppy efforts, Vancouver must have been anxious to get back home. As a pivotal Game 5 played out, it began to take shape of what fans had come to expect after the first two games. A tight, grinding game by both teams with limited scoring chances. It took until early in the third period before the first goal was scored. Maxim Lapierre knocked in a rebound off the boards for the Vancouver lead. Typical of the series, the puck bounced off Thomas and barely trickled across the line for the goal to stand. Luongo and the Canucks would ride that goal out to another 1-0 win and a 3-2 series lead.
Which brings us to last night.
All Vancouver needed to do was to put together one complete game in Boston. Luongo needed to have one solid showing on the road. The power play and penalty kill would need to show up for one more away contest. Instead, things stuck to the script seeming written by the hockey gods as Boston charged out to a 4-0 lead before the game was 10 minutes old. Thomas saved the Bruins whenever the Canucks got a rare scoring opportunity and Luongo was pulled in favor of playoff novice Cory Schneider. Vancouver will get credit for a decent third period of play, but Game 6 belonged to the Bruins from start to finish, capping off a 5-2 win and a chance to hoist the Cup.
The Vancouver Canucks look like the clear favorite to win in Vancouver every night, but the Boston Bruins have shown that they are by far the superior team when the teams meet in Boston. In Vancouver, the series is tough and close. In Boston, the series is high-flying and open. Vancouver, Roberto Luongo could stop a golf ball. Boston, he couldn't stop a beach ball.
It's a fact that Game 7 will be on the night of Wednesday, June 15 and that one of the two teams will hoist the Stanley Cup. Which set of teams shows up will be the mystery that night. The game will be held in Vancouver which is a good omen for the Canucks; but the Bruins are coming off a backs-to-the-wall win and it's always good to have momentum.
Lastly, a few stats to make both sides feel a little more confident going into Game 7.
Why the Canucks will win Game 7:
- Roberto Luongo has a 0.67 Goals Against Average and .971 Save Percentage at home in the Stanley Cup Finals while going 3-0. He's 10-3 with a 1.71 GAA and .943 SP at home overall in the playoffs.
- The home team has won Game 7 of the Cup Final 80% of the time (12 out of 15 times)
- Not since 1945 has a team with two or more shutouts in the Final not won the Stanley Cup (The Detroit Red Wings shutout the Toronto Maple Leafs in Games 5 and 6 but Toronto's Frank McCool recorded three shutouts in that series to help the Leafs win the Cup)
Why the Bruins will win Game 7:
- Mark Recchi has won every Stanley Cup Final he has ever played in (1991 PIT, 2006 CAR)
- Out of the 17 Final series that featured a team scoring over six goals in a game (like Boston's 8-1 rout in Game 3) only two of those teams that scored in bunches lost the series (1973 Black Hawks and the 1980 Flyers) Teams like the 1996 Avalanche (8-1 over Florida), the 2000 New Jersey Devils (7-3 over Dallas) and last years Chicago Blackhawks (7-4 over Philadelphia) have all gone on the win the Cup.
- Since the Stanley Cup has been awarded to the winner of the NHL (starting in 1927) only three teams have outscored their opponents and still not go on to win the Cup. They are the1928 Montreal Maroons (outscored the New York Rangers 6-5), the 2004 Calgary Flames (outscored the Tampa Bay Lightning 14-13) and the 2009 Detroit Red Wings (outscored the Pittsburgh Penguins 17-14). Boston is outscoring Vancouver 19-8 through six games.