Tonight, the Boston Bruins will face the Vancouver Canucks in the seventh and final game of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. The winner of this game will be awarded the Stanley Cup. The sentimental side of me wants Vancouver to win but logic and reality point towards another clear and concise Boston victory. The signs just don’t look good for Vancouver. The likelihood of a Vancouver win seems exceedingly small.
Every game so far has been won by the home team. We are essentially waiting to see if Vancouver will be the first (and I guess only) home team to blink. While people might point out that past indicators will play out again in the last home game, consider the extreme circumstances of a game seven. No team will be holding back, as there are no more games after this. Boston has the momentum going into the last game. They ventilated Roberto Luongo in a span of four minutes, essentially ending the game in that short time frame. They know he is beatable and can be beat multiple times in quick succession. Boston knows Luongo can be easily shaken mentally. They will spend the first ten minutes of the game trying to get any type of shot at him, from afar, from close, using hard shots and soft ones, all in hopes he’ll give up a soft goal. It’s that first soft goal that Luongo has been so infamously known for. It’s almost a sure-fire blueprint for beating the Canucks. Shoot enough pucks at Luongo so he gives up a soft goal. Then watch as his team gets the life, jump, and energy sucked from them because of that weak goal. The Canucks are ripe for the finish at that point. Once rattled, Luongo will surrender several more weak goals before he’ll be pulled for Cory Schneider. By then, victory has been secured. It’s a game plan that’s worked for Boston for all of their victories. I just know Luongo will let in the first goal of the game on a weak shot.
Of course, goal deficits can be erased if a team’s offensive threats can rally and take back the game with their own goals. Sadly, the Canucks have been horrendous offensively against Boston. They have scored just eight goals in six games. Each of their victories over Boston have been by just one goal. Their anemic offensive means that Luongo has to play almost perfect for them to win. That’s an a tall order for a goalie who has been pulled three times in the series so far and I stress “so far”. The Sedins, who tallied so many points in the regular season, have been nearly invisible this series. Desperate to shake the stigma of players who wilt under playoff pressure, they’ve done nothing to change people’s impressions of them. The Swedish twins could easily take control of games with their offensive magic in the regular season; they’ve done nothing of the sort against Boston. They’ve failed to adapt to the stifling defense arrayed against them. They could also be crumbling under the weight of massive expectations.
On the other side, Boston is playing confident. The Bruins are playing to win. The Canucks will play game seven not to lose. Who looks like a champion in that case? Let us not forget the stellar play of Boston goalie Tim Thomas. He has surrendered just eight goals in six games. Let that stat sink in for a minute. The Canucks themselves surrendered that many goals in game three alone. The almost assured winner of the Conn Smythe trophy has played like the dependable, rock solid, elite playoff goalie that teams need to win the Stanley Cup. In other words, he has been everything that Roberto Luongo has not. The Canucks must find a way to score more than 1.33 goals against Thomas if they want even a faint hope of winning the seventh game. With their current woeful offense, that seems almost impossible at this point.
They say anything can happen in a game seven but there’s lots of indicators and stats to show that the Bruins have a hefty advantage going into Wednesday night. It would be a damn shame for Vancouver to lose the series at this point but it sure seems like we’ll be watching the Bruins lift the Cup in Vancouver tonight. A damn shame.