Another epic battle, another heroic goal late in the game and the Vancouver Canucks are now 1 win away from their first Stanley Cup Championship. Has there ever been a series that was more night and day different in each other's rinks? Home ice advantage may never have meant so much to either team. The key for the Canucks tonight was a team approach to playing their game, and not getting rattled after a parade to the penalty box that bordered on comical as it went along. But with each penalty kill this team, boyed by a rock solid Roberto Luongo, began to take over the game, dominating the Bruins physically and possession-wise as they went from the 2nd to the 3rd. And as they put pressure on Tim Thomas, he began to scramble more, the Canucks speed and tenacity began to force the Bruins defence into mistakes, leading to the biggest goal in Maxim Lapierre's career.
One of the most disheartening scenes from the last two games was how the Bruins continually ground the Canucks down, taking away their biggest weapon: their team speed. Tonight, to a man they had much more jump, and it was the Bruins that looked tired as the game wore on. Most noticeable was Ryan Kesler, who had looked extremely lethargic through the series thus far. Tonight he looked more like the Ryan Kesler we know, and was dangerous all game long, as were linemates Mason Raymond and Chris Higgins. Safe to say however that all four lines were a threat tonight, and the defence did a great job of getting back to basics: making smart, simple plays and not panicking against Boston's forecheck as they had in the previous games.
Can't say enough about Chris Tanev tonight. The rookie showed great poise under the spotlight, a couple jittery plays but overall he and Andrew Alberts were solid. And Alberts brought that physical game that makes him so effective in the bottom D pairing. Kevin Bieksa returned to form, as did Alex Edler, who was less mistake prone. Even Christian Ehrhoff's name was hardly mentioned in the Twitterverse tonight, a sign he had a good game.
Roberto Luongo discussed something that had been brought up by Henrik in the post game dressing room scrums: That he had taken a walk along the Seawall in Stanley Park today. "I don't know if they have any seawalls in Boston, but I'm going to look for that. I put my hoody on and my headphones, and I don't know if somebody said anything. I can't hear" he said. "But I just focus on the journey and everything I need to do to be ready for the game and that's what gets me prepared". Maybe it says something about the respect that the community shows the team, but I think you'd be hard pressed to find other athletes that are able to do that in the cities they play in, especially star players.
As far as the winning goal, Lapierre brushed off suggestions that it was a set play: "We got lucky, good bounce. It was challenging there for us, right spot at the right time". When asked to relate how difficult it is for goalies to play that kind of setup, Luongo grinned and said "It's not hard if you're playing in the paint. It's an easy save for me, but if you're wandering out and aggressive like he does, that's going to happen. He might make some saves that I won't, but in a case like that, we want to take advantage of a bounce like that and make sure we're in a good position to bury those".
ESPN's Scott Burnside tried to get Lapierre to respond to criticism of his embellishment of the Zdeno Chara spear in the first period, but no dice:
Q. Max, looked like you were mortally wounded when you had that encounter with Zdeno Chara. I wondered how you were able to carry on after that. Describe the emotion of being one win away from the Stanley Cup.
MAXIM LAPIERRE: I think we know it's going to be the biggest game of our life in Boston, and Boston is going to be ready. We're going to have to be ready for a challenge.
I will have some more post game quotes later, but I did want to share this one from Henrik, when asked to respond to the Mike Milbury 'Thelma & Louise' comments: "sometimes grownups have to say things because they have low self esteem, they have to get on guys and say stupid stuff. I'm sure it's great for his career, he did a great job on Long Island, and I'm sure he's happy with that". Awesome.
Not sure what it looks like outside right now, but hopefully it's a safe and fun party. We're almost there, Canucks fans. Believe.