Defensive corps clears the way
By any standard, their performance has been extraordinary. The defensive corps in front of goaltender Tim Thomas has held Vancouver’s group of gunners to six goals in five games and only one on Causeway Street. And yet the Bruins were facing two elimination contests going into last night’s Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden. What else could the D-men do except more of the same?
“That obviously can’t change,’’ coach Claude Julien said after yesterday’s morning skate. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job of keeping the puck out of our net for the most part against a team that’s dominated the league in goals scored. Unfortunately, when we’ve gone to Vancouver we haven’t been able to score the way we should be scoring. I think that’s been the difference in the series.’’
Scoring hadn’t been a problem in their own building, where the Bruins pumped a dozen goals past Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo in 8-1 and 4-0 routs before getting three off Luongo before he was pulled in last night’s 5-2 win. But that didn’t mean they could figure that Luongo was going to turn back into a colander last night and that another W could be assumed. “It’s not going to happen automatically,’’ said Andrew Ference, who scored last night. “Nothing happens just by showing up in this game.’’
Unlike the visitors, the hosts didn’t have the luxury of a loss and their history of survival wasn’t encouraging. The Bruins are 2-17 when they’ve trailed, 3-2, in best-of-seven series and 4-10 in elimination games in the Final. Not that they were dwelling on the odds. “You can’t think about that,’’ said Dennis Seidenberg. “You have to focus on your task at hand, play in the moment and don’t worry about what is going to happen. That has to be your mind-set to play well.’’
It’s not as if the Bruins hadn’t been on the brink already this spring. They had to go seven games to oust the Canadiens after dropping the first two here and had to go seven again against the Lightning. The way the players see it, the championship was on the line then as well.
“If you lose in the first round, you still lose the Cup,’’ said Ference. “I’ve lost in different rounds of playoffs before and they all feel pretty crappy.’’
It would feel worse, though, after waiting 39 years to win the Cup and worse still to have to watch the Canucks parade around the Garden ice with it. In a series in which the Bruins have lost three games by one goal, any miscommunication or miscalculation by their blue liners could be fatal.
So far the Boston defensemen had done an exceptional job stifling Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who combined for 198 points during the regular season and 37 in the three previous playoff series but had managed only five in the Final. The secret had been to throw a twin-sized blanket over them, which is what the Bruin defenders had done. “I said it right before the playoffs, right before the series — try to take time and space away from them,’’ said Zdeno Chara.
If the Sedins were to get loose, the Bruins likely would be exchanging hockey sticks for golf clubs. But worrying about making the killer mistake wasn’t on their minds yesterday. “If you’ve got that much going through your head, you’re in trouble,’’ said Ference.
John Powers can be reached at email@example.com.