Canucks, Bruins play one game for the Cup
The 16th Game 7 in Stanley Cup Final history takes place Wednesday night at Vancouver, where the Canucks will play host to the Boston Bruins. Homes teams are 17-2 in the Final since 2009, with those two losses coming in Cup-clinching games — the Penguins at Detroit in Game 7 (2009) and Chicago at Philadelphia (2010). Only three road teams in any North American professional sport have won a Game 7 on the road over the past four decades. Can the Bruins join those 2009 Penguins and the 1971 and 1979 Pirates• Well, the Bruins do sport black and gold. The Trib's preview of tonight's big game ...
An NHL insider who contributed opposing team scouting reports during the regular season shares his thoughts on Game 7:
On what Roberto Luongo has done better to keep Boston from scoring in Vancouver than in Boston:
"He has done nothing different as far as his game performance overall. The difference has been Boston. The Bruins have been aggressive on home ice with their shots and net-front presence. In Vancouver, although they have played well enough to stay in games, the Bruins have not brought that aggressive style toward their offense. They've allowed Luongo to see too many shots."
On how the Bruins have limited the Sedin twins through six games, and how do the Sedins get past that in Game 7:
"The big reason for the Sedins struggles has been (Bruins defenseman Zdeno) Chara with either (Dennis) Seidenberg or (Andrew) Ference as his partner. Chara's pairing has been successful making the Sedins earn everything on the inside with a physical game. The Sedins are highly skilled players, but not highly courageous. If you want to score consistently this time of year you must pay the price on the inside, and they have been reluctant to do that."
On what so-called role player from each team is most likely to make a significant contribution in this Game 7:
"It has to be (left wing Chris) Higgins for Vancouver. He has been virtually invisible thus far and with injuries and stars canceling out stars, he will have to use his skill and speed to generate offense and a big play or two. It's hard to choose one player for Boston. (Center Rich) Peverley would be the guy that has to get his team going early with offensive chances and confidence. The other factor for me would be the third line of (Chris) Kelley, (Tyler) Seguin and (Michael) Ryder. If that line wins the battle of third lines in Game 7 the Cup is coming to Boston."
FROM THE WEST
Former Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi was one on the ice for the final shift in Game 7 of the 2009 Final at Detroit. The next year, as a member of the Los Angeles Kings, he faced the Canucks in Round 1 of the playoffs. His thoughts on Game 7 of this Final:
Q: What makes winning in Vancouver so difficult?
A: From playing a couple of years in the Western Conference and some playoff games there, I know that it's just a tremendous atmosphere to play in, and they draw a lot of confidence from that. Every team plays better at home, but they seem to really relish it. Maybe it's just something where they draw a lot of energy from the fans. I wouldn't call it particularly intimidating, not like playing in Philadelphia. Vancouver has got some of that, but not as bad as some places. There is energy in the building and (the fans) do a good job of supporting a team even when things don't get well, which is important in Game 7.
Q: How does a visiting player look at home-ice advantage going into a Game 7?
A: I wouldn't say there's no pressure because you very much want to win the Stanley Cup; but when you're on a home team — especially one that has lost momentum for one game — the pressure might be slightly more on your side. As a visiting player, you say, "We did everything we could to get it to Game 7, so let's just lay it on the line and leave everything out there." You cannot be ashamed of consequences if you have that approach. Our Game 7 against at Detroit went until the second period before a goal. There was a lot of feeling out, like nobody wanted to make a mistake. I don't think there's a lot of credence to any advantage of scoring first. Nobody gives up in Game 7 based off one goal.
Q: Who wins this game and why?
A: I'm expecting the Canucks to win just because they are the home team, they always play well in that building and they've been the best team all season long in a tougher conference. It's no secret who is the key — it's Luongo. The Bruins have been incredibly impressive in the way they've played in Vancouver. The chances they've generated on the road; they've played three very good games in Vancouver. Luongo has to be the difference because the Bruins won't be intimidated playing in that building.
FROM THE EAST
Penguins forward Mike Rupp scored the winning goal for the Devils in Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Final against Anaheim. That game was played at New Jersey after the Devils lost Game 6 at Anaheim. An impending free agent, Rupp shares his thoughts on Game 7 of this Final:
Q: What is the key to bouncing back from a Game 6 loss on the road to play a Game 7 at home?
A: Ours was an all-home series, just like this one. In a Game 7 there are no more "what if" scenarios. You know it's over after this game. At some level the anxiety goes out the window because you know someone is winning the Cup tonight. Too many times there are things like, "This team's desperate." I don't think there's carry over from Game 6. The Vancouver guys aren't thinking, "Wow, we've got it taken to us a lot of this series."
Q: How does a home player look at home-ice advantage going into a Game 7?
A: The only thing you're concerned about is the energy you're going to get from the building, and you don't want to start running around because of the fans. If you can get an early lead it's really tough on the opposing team. In our case the home team won every game, and it was just a matter of controlling ourselves emotionally. It's a mindset on not getting too caught up in the moment and just trying to play. The first goal, especially when it's a Game 7, makes everybody feel a couple of pounds heavier, feel a couple of inches taller, and you're like, "All right, we've got it." You can start dictating, because the other team is like, "OK, we need a goal."
Q: Who wins this game and why?
A: That's tough. From what I've seen Boston has had some pretty good showings in Vancouver, but I just can't imagine Vancouver going home, being in front of that country, and not winning this hockey game. Plus, Luongo is far too good of a goalie not to respond in this situation. Then again, (Boston's) Timmy Thomas can throw up 64 saves and turn it. That gives you a huge plus as a player knowing your goalie can just win it. It's similar to our series in 2003, because (Anaheim's) Jean-Sebastien Giguere was going to win the Conn Smythe no matter the outcome, just like Thomas will. Our coach, Pat Burns, was telling us, "Look, he's going to stop your shot not matter what," so we had to change our plan for shooting. We had Martin Brodeur behind us, though, so we knew we were good. Vancouver has to feel confident knowing that Luongo is capable of backing them up too.
BIG BANG SERIES
The 2011 Final has featured more combined penalty minutes through six games (335) than any since the 1991 Final between the Penguins and Minnesota North Stars (327). An alternate captain for those Penguins, and currently a Root Sports Pittsburgh broadcaster, Bob Errey recalls the 1991 Final:
"I was watching it again and thinking, 'They were butchering us.' They just tried to hack us all the time. That was their way to knock us down. They felt they couldn't match it skill wise, so they were going to try and beat us up.
"I think it did galvanize us a bit. We had enough veterans that we saw what (the North Stars) were doing. We figured we could take our shots when we could. We were down 2-1 in the series and had to use our skill to put pucks on the net, too.
"I don't remember one thing sticking out. It was just all of it. I know Mark Recchi got injured in the last game by Jim Johnson. It was a cheap shot. There were a lot of those. I remember all that hacking. You go back and watch that series, and it was incredible what Minnesota was doing. Mark Tinordi wasn't a quiet guy back there, either. They had a lot of those guys. They had skill guys, too, but they had some guys who hacked."