Finale will be the icing on a very filling sheet cake
There is an opposite-ends-of-the earth feel to Vancouver and Boston, in terms of distance, topography, culture, scenery. Both are wonderful cities, beautiful in their own ways, vibrant, essential to the politics and economies of their respective countries.
Now, mix the two together on a hockey rink for seven games, keep resetting the clock every 60 minutes, and what you get is perhaps the wackiest, most entertaining Stanley Cup Final ever played in the NHL. The opposite ends of the earth have come together and it’s as if the Marx Brothers have taken control of the script, score board, and game sheet.
History is in the making, but after six games, no one is really sure what any of it means, where it will lead, or who goes home the winner.
“What’s important now,’’ said Bruins coach Claude Julien after watching his club knot the series at 3 with yet another humbling of the Canucks last night at the Garden, by a 5-2 score, “is not what is being said, but what is being done.’’
In quick review, pushing all the noise and clutter aside, in the three games played in Vancouver, the Bruins scored only two goals. In the three games played on Causeway Street, the Canucks scored only three goals. That, more than anything, is why these teams have won three games apiece, lost three games apiece, and will play Game 7 tomorrow night in Vancouver for the championship. Whenever either of these clubs takes to the road, it has a way of coming up to meet them — and biting them on the backside.
“I can’t really explain it,’’ said Boston captain Zdeno Chara. “It just seems we play better at home. On the road, we have some lapses, do some things wrong and do some things right. You have to pay attention for 60 minutes, and with that attitude that there is nothing to save it for.’’
The NHL season ends tomorrow night, no matter what the outcome, which means all savings accounts are closed on both sides. The Bruins never have played for the Cup in a Game 7. They haven’t won a Cup since 1972. If they were to win tomorrow night in OT, it would be the first time in NHL history that a club has won the Cup on its last shot, simultaneously with taking its first series lead (that nugget compliments of Bob Waterman at the Elias Sports Bureau). Likewise, if the Canucks were to lose in OT, it would be the first time they trailed in the series. Hold the lead wire to wire, lose by a photo finish.
“We just have to find a way to get some energy,’’ noted Brad Marchand, the Bruins’ new-age Li’l Ball o’ Hate, who opened the scoring deluge last night on the enigmatic Roberto Luongo. “We have to find a way to get a win there.’’
In the three losses in Vancouver (1-0, 3-2, and 1-0), the Bruins did not play poorly. But they didn’t play so well that they should have won. The Canucks opened Game 1 with their best hockey of the series, only to have Tim Thomas stone them into the last minute of regulation. Game 2 was much closer, but again the Canucks were that itsy bit better to take a 2-0 series lead. Game 5, after taking back-to-back shellackings in the Garden, had Vancouver in uber-aggressive mode, and Luongo looking fully recovered from his back-to-back Boston beatdowns.
Luongo last night was back to looking like what one tweeter here during the game referred to as Roberto LeBrongo. When the score reached 3-0 at the 8:35 mark of the first period, Andrew Ference driving in the lead on only Boston’s eighth shot, Vancouver coach Alan Vigneault brought out the hook.
“Because I wanted to,’’ was Vigneault’s terse explanation.
It was a passive-aggressive Luongo who criticized Thomas for giving up the game-winner to Maxim Lapierre in Game 5. Now, with the 3-0 lead posted, he was out of the paint and out of the picture — parked at the end of the bench while ex-Boston College star Cory Schneider took over the chores. On Sunday, Luongo clearly sounded slighted when he noted that he had been “pumping up [Thomas’s] tires’’ but had yet to hear a flattering word from Boston’s Vezina Trophy-winning goalie. Bobby Lou suddenly sounded like Boo-Hoo Lou.
Thomas, meanwhile, continued his mastery last night and guaranteed that he will be named the Conn Smythe winner as the postseason’s MVP. Six games into the Final and Thomas has allowed eight goals. Luongo gave up that many in Game 3, an 8-1 demolition in which he told Vigneault that he wanted to remain in net for the full ride. Vigneault hasn’t let his top stopper finish a game here ever since.
Midway through the second period, the Bruins holding a 4-0 lead, Canucks general manager Mike Gillis made a point of coming up to me in the press box to dispute a Globe/boston.com story that ran Sunday, noting that the Canucks attempted to sell sponsorship rights to their upcoming (maybe) Stanley Cup parade.
“Totally false,’’ said Gillis, who played forward for the Bruins some 30 years ago. “And totally irresponsible. Never happened.’’
Gillis added that he felt it was a member of the Bruins’ organization who steered the story to the Globe (filed by staff writer Fluto Shinzawa). When asked if he could identify the person in the Boston organization who had steered the story, Gillis, an attorney, shrugged and walked back to the club’s box on the ninth-floor press level.
It doesn’t get much richer than the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Alex Burrows bit Patrice Bergeron’s index finger. Aaron Rome tried to behead Nathan Horton (seen last night deep in the Zamboni entrance waving flags). Ex-Bruins defenseman Mike Milbury, now a Versus/NBC commentator, openly hazed Henrik and Daniel Sedin by calling them “Thelma and Louise.’’ Luongo made himself look petty and insecure with his comments about Thomas. The Canucks say they didn’t try to suck sponsorship bucks out of a parade that may never happen.
It’s so ducky, we can only call it Duck Soup. Maybe it all will make sense tomorrow night. Maybe not. But it’s a good bet, no matter the outcome, we’ll wish it had never ended.