|06.15.11 at 4:31 am ET|
VANCOUVER ‘ The Bruins and Canucks are a matter of hours away from determining who wins the Stanley Cup. Either way, the season will be over after Wednesday’s Game 7, but the Bruins just want to end it on the ultimate high note.
Here are seven keys, stats and players to watch.
SEVEN THINGS THE BRUINS NEED TO DO
– Get traffic: It was after Game 5 that a frustrated Patrice Bergeron stood in the visitors dressing room and said the Bruins didn’t do enough to get traffic in front of the net. Given that they could do it at home, it’s clear they’re capable. No better time to finally start doing it in Vancouver than Wednesday.
– Score early, shake Robert Luongo: Given the way the first three games here have gone, that could have simply read ‘score.’ Maybe nobody cares what goes through Luongo’s head, but as long as pucks go through his crease and into his net, the mental stuff will follow. The Bruins learned in Game 5 that the floodgates open easily if you can get to him in the first period. Yes, there’s something to be said for getting the first goal of the game, but it’s generally an overrated statistic. Yet when it comes to Luongo, scoring the first, second and maybe even third goal is gigantic.
– Win the special teams battle one last time: The Canucks’ power play was supposed to be a reason Vancouver would win the series, yet through six games it is 2-for-31. The Bruins, meanwhile, have five tallies on the power play this series. The Canucks can still make a difference they’re on the man advantage, but if the B’s can weather it one last time, they’ll be in good shape. As for their own power play, nothing could be worse than how they looked in going 0-for-4 on the man advantage in Game 5.
– Have the first line show up: David Krejci and Milan Lucic may be coming off a strong Game 6 in which they each scored, but the trio of Lucic, Krejci and Rich Peverley is no sure thing, as they were as silent as silent gets in Game 5. They need to prove that Game 6 was a statement they feel they can put an exclamation point on Wednesday.
– Get a lead and hold it: Each loss this series has provided at least one lesson. Game 2’s lesson was to hold a lead, something the Bruins didn’t do particularly well in two of their losses to Tampa Bay in the conference finals. If the B’s can secure a lead at any point, they shouldn’t sit back and wait for Vancouver to claw their way back in it. The Canucks can easily come back from a one-goal lead, and the Bruins learned that in Game 2.
– Keep getting the good stuff from Thomas: Not many Bruins have been excellent in every game this series, but Thomas has. The game-winner in Game 2 was ugly, but Thomas has allowed just eight goals this round. It would be a shame if he turned in another tremendous performance only to see it squandered as they were in Games 1 and 5.
– Keep it in perspective: The Bruins haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1972, so after coming this far, how daunting can the fact that they’ve dropped a few in this building really be? Considering how close they are to what they want and how close the games in Vancouver have been, they shouldn’t have any reason to be intimidated.
– While Nathan Horton had the game-winners in both of the Bruins’ Game 7’s this postseason, it is Andrew Ference who leads the Bruins in Game 7 points this year with three. Ference had a pair of assists in Game 7 vs. the Canadiens and picked up a secondary helper on Horton’s third-period goal against the Lightning.
– Tim Thomas seems to have wrapped up the Conn Smythe trophy barring a Canucks blowout Wednesday. His stats this postseason (2.06 goals against average, .937 save percentage) fall between those of the last two goalies to win playoff MVP in Jean-Sebastian Giguere (1.62 GAA .945 save percentage) in 2003 and Cam Ward (2.14 GAA, .920 save percentage) in 2006.
– All Thomas needs is one save to have registered the most in a single postseason in league history. He enters Game 7 at 761, tied with Canucks goalie Kirk McLean, who stopped that many in the 1994 postseason. McLean played 24 games, while Wednesday will mark Thomas’ 25th game.
– Tomas Kaberle leads all Bruins defensemen with 11 points this postseason. All 11 of his points are assists, as Kaberle and McQuaid are the only regular Boston defensemen without a goal this postseason.
– Since 1971, only two teams have won Game 7 of the finals on the road: the ‘71 Canadiens in Chicago and the 2009 Penguins in Detroit.
– Either Dennis Seidenberg or Christian Ehrhoff will become the second German player to win the Stanley Cup. Uwe Krupp won the Cup in 1996 with the Avalanche and played eight regular-season (two postseason) games for the Red Wings when they won it in 2002.
SEVEN PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON
– Milan Lucic: The last three games have summarized exactly the way it’s been for Lucic when playing in Boston vs. playing in Vancouver. He fired five shots on goal in Game 4 and picked up an assist at the Garden. In Game 5 he was a complete no-show in a zero-shot performance at Rogers Arena before returning to Boston to score in Game 6. Though he scored in Vancouver in Game 2, he’ll need a performance in Game 7 far better than his previous ones on the road this series.
– Robert Luongo: The Vezina finalist stepped up big time in Game 5 after struggling in Boston. Will it happen again or is Luongo too fragile to shine when it matters most?
– Brad Marchand: For how much of a pest he is and how much he gets on the nerves of opponents, it’s a wonder Marchand hasn’t shined in Vancouver ‘ the hockey capital of infuriating players. Marchand, who has scored in every home game this round, failed to get a single shot on goal in Game 5 at Rogers Arena, so he’ll need to bring his four-shot, one-goal performance from Game 6 over to Vancouver. The Bruins have not lost this postseason when Marchand has scored, as they are 8-0 in such games, including Marchand’s two-goal performance in Game 1 against the Flyers.
– Jeff Tambellini: The bottom-six forward will be back in the lineup due to the injury suffered by Mason Raymond in Game 6. In doing so, Tambellini will be playing for the first time in eight days, as he was benched after Game 3 in favor of Tanner Glass.
– Tyler Seguin: For starters, it will be interesting to see how much ice time Claude Julien gives the 19-year-old in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals. Goals have been hard to come by at Rogers Arena, so the potential that Seguin offers is enticing. Regardless of how often he sees the ice, there needs to be zero hesitancy from the rookie: no pulling up to avoid getting hit and no slowing down to avoid going in the corners. It may be his first year, but there’s a good chance this is the biggest game he will ever play in his life. Seguin has not scored on the road since March 17 in Nashville.
– Dennis Seidenberg: The Bruins’ leader in time on ice this postseason was limited to 19:27 when he missed essentially half of the third period. He would come back on the ice and take shifts for the remainder of the game, but he may be a guy to add to the list of players playing through pain.
–Alexander Edler: Edler got just three third-period shifts, though Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis said Tuesday that he is ‘fine’ and will play in Game 7. If there’s anything slowing Edler down Wednesday, that will be big for the Bruins and crushing for a defensively thin squad.
|06.14.11 at 11:28 pm ET|
VANCOUVER — It wasn’t immediately clear whether Nathan Horton would be well enough to endure a coast-to-coast flight, but the concussed Bruins forward did indeed make the trip to Vancouver to watch his team play Wednesday’s Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.
“He certainly wanted to be here. We wanted him on this trip,” coach Claude Julien said Tuesday. “As you know, when you get this far, you’re a pretty close-knit group. Our guys wanted everybody here and they’ve got it.”
Horton suffered a severe concussion that ended his season when he was dropped by Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome early in Game 3 of the series. The first-line right wing left the game and arena in a stretcher and was ruled out for the remainder of the playoffs the next day. Rome, meanwhile, was suspended for four games for the hit. Horton was at TD Garden for Game 6, being shown on the Jumbotron with tears in his eyes waving a pair of Bruins flags.
Now, the Bruins have left Horton’s equipment in his locker, a sign that he is still just as big a part of the team as anyone else. Given that he came to the Bruins with a reputation as a player who was indifferent to the game, the former third overall pick certainly made a strong impression on his teammates in his first year in Boston and found an NHL home.
“That’s something the guys wanted to do,” Julien said of the equipment gesture. “They wanted him to be part of our group here. Until, again, the third game of the playoffs, he was a big contributor to our hockey club. If the doctors would let him, he would play [Wednesday] and we all know that that’s the way he feels right now. He would be willing to play through what he’s gone through.
“But we know that’s not the right decision to make. But that’s the way he’s feeling right now. He wants to play so badly, he would be willing to play through that. So when a guy has that approach and has that will to want to do that for his team and teammates, the least you can do is honor him in your own way. Our players chose to honor him by making sure the trainers brought his equipment. Before the game, his sweater is hanging in his stall. He’s part of our team and we want him there to the end.”
One man who will not be at Rogers Arena Wednesday is Marc Savard. Like Horton, Savard is dealing with issues from a concussion, though Savard’s history of concussions likely make traveling more difficult. Savard has been in attendance at for a couple of games in Boston, a significantly shorter trip from Peterborough, Ontario, this postseason.
“Marc is probably the only one right now that’s not here, and his health varies from day to day, week to week,” Julien said. “He’s still in our thoughts and he’s part of our hockey club as well. We’ve got a lot of guys that are part of this and some of them are here and one of them isn’t.”
Horton developed a reputation as a clutch player in his first postseason this year, scoring series-clinching goals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals and finals. He had eight goals and nine assists for 17 points and a plus-11 in 21 games.
Video courtesy of Bruins.NHL.com.
|06.14.11 at 11:11 pm ET|
VANCOUVER — Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference may be playing for his first Stanley Cup championship, but Wednesday night in Vancouver won’t be his first Game 7 of the finals. Ference has been one win away from the Cup before, but it wasn’t as memorable an experience as he would have hoped.
Ference and his Flames led the Lightning, three games to two, in the 2004 Stanley Cup finals before Tampa Bay took Game 6 in double overtime to force a seventh game. In that decisive contest, Ference led all Calgary skaters in ice time, but with the Flames trailing, 2-1, in the third period, he took a charging penalty with 1:01. The Lightning held on to seal Game 7 and hoist the Cup at St. Pete Times Forum.
Asked Tuesday at Rogers Arena whether being in another Game 7 with the Cup on the line, Ference wasn’t his generally elaborate self, saying he hasn’t given much thought to the way things panned out last time he got the chance.
“You don’t have to block [the memories] out,” Ference explained. “It was a long time ago. I don’t know. You obviously remember it and stuff like that, but it’s not really on my mind.”
Like the Bruins this year, the 2004 Flames had to deal with a seven-game series more than once. Ference’s squad opened that postseason as the No. 6 seed and defeated the No. 3 Canucks in seven. They then eliminated the Red Wings and Sharks (both in six games), to reach the finals and eventually come one victory away from wining it all.
Coming as close as he did to winning it in ’04 doesn’t give the 32-year-old Edmonton native any more motivation to winning the Cup. Though he’s been so close he could taste it before, he never felt the urge to close out the series was lacking. He just learned the hard way that one team wins, and one team loses.
“I had all the motivation last time as well,” Ference said. “Sometimes it shakes out the right way for you, and sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t think the approach is any different or the desire is any stronger. It’s the same. You just hope that the team that you’re on puts it together.”
Ference, like Mark Recchi, can use their experience in the final game of the postseason to prepare guys who haven’t been there before. The second-pairing blue-liner likes to think he’s helped his teammates get ready for it all year.
“You talk about it all year. You become friends with people on your team,” he said. “It’s not like you just start talking about these things when you’re in the situation. You live together all year and spend so much time together that stuff like that is always talked about.”
After Wednesday night, perhaps Ference won’t have any pointers left to give his teammates. If they’re all Stanley Cup champions, they’ll be on the same page.
|06.14.11 at 4:08 pm ET|
The Canucks announced Tuesday that forward Mason Raymond sustained a vertebrae compression fracture in his first-period collision with Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals and will be out for three to four months.
Raymond remained on his stomach after the play and was taken to the hospital. He had no points and was a minus-3 in the finals vs. Boston and finished the playoffs with two goals and six assists for eight points and a minus-1 rating.
With Raymond out, forward Jeff Tambellini should return to the lineup after sitting the last three games in favor of Tanner Glass.
|06.14.11 at 11:27 am ET|
The Bruins and their fans are no strangers to a Game 7, both this postseason (when they’ve already seen two such do-or-die contests against the Canadiens and Lightning) or even the past decade. But a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup finals? Well that’ll be a first for anyone who has ever donned the black and gold, either on the ice or in the stands.
The NHL as a whole, however, has seen a couple of battles for Lord Stanley’s extra-large chalice go the distance in the last few years. In fact, Wednesday’s matchup between the Bruins and Canucks in Vancouver will be the sixth Game 7 in the finals since 2000. So while the B’s, Canucks and their fans have an off-day to pause and collect themselves for the historic events to come, let us look now at the historic Game 7s that have already come to pass since the turn of the millennium. (Note: home teams are in all caps.)
2009: Penguins 2, RED WINGS 1
If you’re a Bruins fan, this may be the only good news you’ll read here. The Penguins win at Joe Louis Arena was the first victory for a road team in a Game 7 of the finals since the Canadiens beat the Blackhawks in the Windy City back in 1971. Maxime Talbot played the hero for Pittsburgh, potting both goals for the Pens in the second period. The Red Wings dominated the third frame, outshooting their foes by a 7-1 margin with one of those shots resulting in a Jonathan Ericsson goal with 6:07 left. But Marc-Andre Fleury sent the Detroit fans home unhappy when he made an incredible diving save on an open-net shot by Red Wings blue-liner Nicklas Lidstrom just before the final buzzer (5:30 in the clip after the jump) to ensure that the Cup was headed to western Pennsylvania. Read the rest of this entry »
|06.14.11 at 7:50 am ET|
If the Canucks were hoping that Brad Marchand would wilt as a rookie under the pressure of his first playoff experience, they obviously did not judge or scout him nearly close enough.
And there’s no reason to think Marchand is about to crumble under the pressure of the first Stanley Cup finals Game 7 in Bruins history.
“We have to make sure that we have a good start. And they just seem to get so much momentum and energy off their crowd and we just have to find a way to counter that and come out strong,” said Marchand sounding every bit the veteran of 24 playoff games.
When he scored in the Game 3 blowout of the Canucks, he referred to the fact that he is considered the modern-day “rat” of the Bruins, a nickname lovingly bestowed on Ken Linseman for being the bur in the side of every opponent. It’s a nickname that he continues to wear with pride as he proved again to the Canucks on Monday.
“I was there, it was a good shot but I have to make that save,” Luongo said. “He put it where he wanted but I have to make a save there.”
“We weren’t too worried about that in here,” Marchand said of Luongo’s talk after Game 5. “He can say what he wants to say. We were just trying to focus on playing this game so we got a couple early, and you know, obviously they switched the goaltenders up. Obviously he’s bounced back every game and I expect the same thing back in Vancouver.” Read the rest of this entry »
|06.14.11 at 4:48 am ET|
With the Bruins one game away from winning it all, Recchi could very well be in the final days of his career. He’s won the Cup twice already, having hoisted it with the Penguins in 1991, and against with the Hurricanes. This might be the last time he’s come this far, and he knows from experience that it’s worth savoring. Especially with this team.
“That’s the great thing about it. You know, I was fortunate to win one early in my career,” the 43-year-old said after recording three assists in the Bruins’ 5-2 win Monday. “From ’06 when I won in Carolina to every playoff I’ve played in after that, I’ve been able to embrace it and enjoy it and watch how guys react and watch how they’re acting and enjoy the experience of seeing guys go through the firsts.
“It’s neat and you’re able to do that. I’ve been doing that for a number of years now and it’s been just a great, great year this year for me. [It’s been] great from the get-go with this group of guys. You knew there was something special right from the first time we got together. When we went over to Prague, we knew we had something good there.”
It’s unclear what Recchi will do if the Bruins do not the Cup this year. In a scenario in which he hung them up regardless of the series’ result, Monday could have been his last game had the Canucks won.
“It crosses my mind, but, you know, I have a job to do out there for the guys and I can’t put those thoughts in my head,” Recchi said of thinking about playing in his last game. “I’m going to lay it on the line one more time and see where it takes me after that.
“No matter what, it’s been a great 22 years, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. This has been one of my best ones, regardless of what happens and I’m just still proud to play in the NHL. I love playing hockey and love being in the NHL and I think it’s the greatest sport out there.”
Perhaps there’s something to be said for Recchi finishing strong. He has six points (three goals, three assists) the last five games. The next one might be is last. If it is, Bruins fans should consider themselves fortunate to observe a player who is a winner above all else.