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Bob Ryan

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By Bob Ryan
Globe Columnist / June 9, 2011

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Let’s hope the Vancouver Canucks took advantage of this excellent opportunity they’ve just had to visit our sun-splashed fair city.

Consider a few of the options: They could have walked the Freedom Trail. They could have visited Old Ironsides. They could have strolled through historic Beacon Hill, and while in that vicinity, they could have scratched any “Cheers’’ itch they might have had. They could have taken a Fenway Park tour. They could have enjoyed Keith Lockhart leading the legendary Boston Pops. They could have taken in the Arts of America exhibit at the expensively refurbished Museum of Fine Arts. They could have enjoyed some sumptuous meals at one of our world class restaurants.

Any or all these activities would have been far more fulfilling than the dreadful 120 minutes of ice time they spent at TD Garden.

First, there was Monday night’s 8-1 debacle. Logic dictated they would regroup, reflect, and come out last night with some spark. Nobody said they had to win, but they did need to remind the Bruins just who had the best regular-season record in the league.

Instead, they played worse. It was Boston 4, Vancouver 0 in Game 4 last night, and it was just as artistically a convincing triumph as Game 3. Yup, the vaunted Canucks came into Boston and left having been outscored, 12-1. There will be more one more game of hockey played in this town Monday night. And it ought to be an interesting game at Rogers Arena tomorrow evening. If ever a team needed to enter some friendly confines . . .

“We’ve got to put these two games behind us,’’ said Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault. “We play real well at home and we’re going to have to feed off the energy of our fans and give it our best shot.’’

The danger here is assuming that we have anything more than a classic home-ice series. The Bruins held serve. Before anyone wearing Black and Gold can dream of a trip around someone’s ice holding Lord Stanley’s Cup aloft, the Boston squad must win a game in Vancouver.

But any neutral observer might choose to draw at least some inferences from the totality of these first four games. Here are three indisputable facts: 1. The Bruins coulda/shoulda/woulda won both Games 1 and 2, each a one-goal game and each lost in stunning, heartbreaking fashion; 2. The Canucks had zero chance of winning Games 3 and 4; 3. The goaltenders seem to be going in opposite directions.

Tim Thomas was — stop me if you’ve heard this before — positively Vezinanian, stopping 38 shots (That’s 78 saves in the last two games) while posting his third shutout of the 2011 playoffs. As usual, he made some early superb shots when the game was scoreless, and, as usual, he made more big stops to preserve the lead. After showing signs of mortality in Game 2, he has come back with a pair of goaltending Rembrandts.

Roberto Loungo was — stop me if you’ve heard this before — positively ordinary, beaten for at least two soft goals. He watched the final 16 minutes and 21 seconds from the bench. He had an in-and-out first-round series against the Blackhawks, and anyone interested in the welfare of the Canucks has reason to worry that he has entered into one of those funks that have marked his career. That gold medal game against the USA now seems as if it were played a century ago.

The big mystery going into this game was which team would better tap into its emotions. The Bruins wished to Win One For Horty (Nathan Horton). The Canucks wished to Win One For Romer (Aaron Rome). Is it any surprise the team defending the honor of a fallen comrade would badly outplay the team defending the honor of the perp who put the other guy out of the series with a reckless hit? Surely, the Hockey Gods spoke resoundingly in favor of the Bruins last night.

This bump from the travails of Horton isn’t over, either. For when the Bruins entered the locker room to celebrate this tremendous victory, guess who was there to greet them? Of course. It was Horty himself. For what’s left of the hockey season Nathan Horton is now the official team inspiration.

There’s even more to the Horty saga. One of the men Claude Julien chose to replace him on that first line was Rich Peverley, and it was obviously preordained by those impish Hockey Gods that Peverley would challenge Thomas for the game’s No. 1 star by scoring a pair of goals, the first of which at 11:59 of the first period was the only one needed. I mean, really. The more you think about it, the more you realize the Canucks never had an honest chance in this one.

So, what is going on? What exactly are the Bruins doing to stymie the high-powered Canucks? Why, among other things, is last year’s Hart Trophy winner, Henrik Sedin, an embarrassing 0-0—0 after four games of the Stanley Cup Final?

“No secret,’’ said defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. “It’s about taking away time and space.’’ Ah, the old time and space reference. Of course.

“We made some strong plays,’’ said captain Zdeno Chara. “We’re winning the races and battles.’’

Races and battles. Of course.

The Bruins totally and simply dominated the Canucks in these two games, period. And yet in their minds it’s just a start.

“We can definitely play better,’’ declared Seidenberg. “We can cut down turnovers. You can always do better, not just on the special teams, but in five-on-five. You always strive for perfection.’’

As far as the delirious Bruins fans are concerned, in these two games they have almost succeeded in reaching that goal.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist and host of Globe 10.0 on Boston.com. He can be reached at ryan@globe.com.

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