Writing about this year’s Stanley Cup has not been difficult. One, it has been an exciting and well-played series. Both teams deserve to be here, and both are laying it all on that ice to win the Stanley Cup. Secondly, the teams do not like one another, which means plenty of side stories about that. Third, the Canucks seem to like to try and tweak Tim Thomas in an attempt to get him off his game. Alain Vigneault, Henrik Sedin, and Roberto Luongo have all taken turns going after Thomas’ playing style. It has not worked yet, as Thomas has been brilliant in the series.
As the two teams skate this morning to prepare for Game 6, here is what each team should be focused upon if they want to skate away with a win tonight:
The Bruins have a lot of pressure on them, as a loss tonight ends their season. Hiwever, there is no reason to think Boston cannot force a Game 7, as the Bruins have been the far superior team in both games at TD Garden. Here’s what the Bruins need to do:
1. Pressure Luongo: The Bruins tortured Roberto Luongo in Games 3 and 4, putting bodies in front of him and confusing him with shots from every angle. In Game 5, the Bruins put no traffic in front of Luongo and allowed him to see every shot. That cannot happen if the Bruins want to win tonight – get in his face and get in his face on every shift, on every shot.
2. Bang the defensemen: The Bruins beat up Vancouver’s defensemen in Games 3 and 4, making them look
like Roberto Duran at the end of his fight with Sugar Ray Leonard by the end of Game 4. In Game 5, Kevin Bieksa and company turned the tables, and Boston did not answer the bell. The Bruins win with a physical style, and they need to hit the Canucks’ defense every time they touch the puck.
3. Feed off the energy of the building: TD Garden should be an electric place tonight, and the Bruins need to take that energy and funnel it into their forecheck. The Bruins are 9-3 at home in the playoffs, and they have used the energy of the crowd in each of those 9 wins. They need to do that again tonight.
4. First line needs to show up: In the games Boston has won, David Krejci and Milan Lucic were big factors. In the games Boston has lost, they have been ghosts. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out Lucic and Krejci need to play well to get Boston’s offense going.
5. Get Seguin some ice: Tyler Seguin was one of Boston’s best players in Game 5 – when he was on the ice. He needs to get some power play time and some time with Krejci. Play the kid 14-16 minutes tonight – he has speed, skill, and the ability to snipe.
The Canucks would love to close out the series tonight and not have to travel back to Vancouver to prepare for another game. They know each of the three games in Vancouver could have gone either way, so a win here tonight would be a much better way to end the season.
1. Score first: The best way to take the wind out of the Bruins and the crowd is to score an early goal.
2. Get the power play going: If Vancouver can score on its power play, it could cut back on how physical the Bruins can be. Right now, Boston has no fear of taking a penalty, as the Canucks are just 1-for-25 in the series.
3. Protect Luongo: The Vancouver defense was spectacular in Game 5, and deserve as much credit for the shutout as Luongo does. They need continued strong play from the likes of Kevin Bieksa, Christian Ehrhoff, Sami Salo and Alex Edler (a team-high 10 hits in Game 5) to win the Cup tonight.
4. Get to Tim Thomas: The Canucks have just six goals in the series, and will likely need to score more than one goal to win tonight (or Wednesday, for that matter). They need to find a way to solve Thomas.
5. Wonder Twin Powers: Daniel and Henrik Sedin have been invisible for the most part, combining for just two points. It is difficult to fathom a win in Boston without the Sedins producing some offense.
Prediction: The Bruins have been great with their backs against the wall all season, so I’m not going against that now. Thomas plays great, Krejci nets a goal, Seguin has a good night, and the power play even scores in a 4-2 win.