BOSTON – The stats don’t lie.
In six of the seven games in the Stanley Cup Final, the home team has taken hold of the reigns and given true meaning to the term “home ice advantage.” The series itself has been a roller coaster of a ride. The Canucks managed to take the first two games in the series, with Roberto Luongo taking the front stage, looking and playing like he has all season.
In the three home games this series, Luongo has posted a 0.67 GAA and a .979 save percentage, allowing the Bruins only two goals in those three games, including two shutouts. But, in Boston, Luongo showed a completely different side — a side that the Bruins hope to showcase in front of the Vancouver faithful for the first time at home.
The Bruins took Games 3 and 4, with little to no problem, outscoring the Canucks 12-1 in those two home games. After Monday night’s 5-2 victory, that increased to 17-3, chasing Loungo from the net in two out of the three games and replacing him with backup Corey Schneider. In Monday’s game, Luongo only lasted 8:35 into the first period before head coach Alain Vigneault pulled him from net, after Luongo allowed three goals on just eight shots.
Though Vigneault said “it was the thing to do at the time,” and told reporters Luongo will be the starting goaltender in Game 7, the Canucks head coach seemed a bit rattled and uninterested in talking with the media, repeating himself over and over again.
“At the end of the day, they’ve won at home, we’ve won at home, and we’re going back home,” Vigneault said. “That’s it.”
But despite it all — despite the fact that the Bruins unraveled the Canucks in every game back home in Boston — the truth now takes hold in Vancouver, the safe haven for the Canucks. Even looking back at Game 5, the Bruins had just finished manhandling Luongo and the Sedin twins the previous two games, and, the very next game, get shutout, 1-0.
But none of that matters now. There is only one game left in the series and because the Canucks managed to secure home ice, the final drop of the puck for the hockey season will be in Vancouver.
So, what’s next? How do the Bruins have any chance at winning Game 7, and what makes each team so dominant at home?
“Both teams do a really good job of feeding off the crowd,” Canucks center Manny Malhotra said. “Both crowds have made it a very hostile environment for the visiting team and we’ve lived on that, and its definitely exciting to be in this moment with so much at stake and to be able to play in front of our fans. This is ultimately what everyone has dreamed about at some point or another in their career.”
But the dream will only come true for one team tomorrow night. While the Bruins have not yet won a game on the road, they are confident that something has to break at some point, and why not in the last game of the Final?
Tim Thomas, a Conn Smythe favorite, has remained consistent in the goal, not allowing more than three goals in any given night. In fact, he allowed three goals only once in Vancouver in a 3-2 OT loss in Game 2, while the other two games, he allowed only one goal a piece despite losing both games.
“Well how big has he been all series?” Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuck asked. “What can you say about him? Right now, he’s the best goalie in the world.”
But when you match up a goalie who hasn’t lost yet at home in the series with the potential Vezina and Conn Smythe recipient, you have a Game 7 that will be a guaranteed battle.
“It’s the Stanley Cup Final. It’s one game, winner take all,” Luongo said after Monday night’s 5-2 loss. “I’ve been in those situations before, I know how to handle it and I’ll be ready for it”