Perhaps on 6/6/11, the American team involved in the Stanley Cup will actually make it a series tonight in Beantown. For the Boston Bruins, that requires a maximum effort against the faster and more talented Vancouver Canucks, who by sweeping the first two at home, are two steps closer to the franchise's first Cup. Yes. Both Games 1 and 2 were competitive but only due to outstanding play from certain Vezina selection Tim Thomas, who stood on his head giving his team a chance to steal home ice. If not for a couple of key breakdowns, it would've been enough. Instead, thanks to Raffi Torres' heroics, Daniel Sedin and Public Enemy No.1 Alex Burrows, who took the 'bite' right out of Claude Julien's guys a jaw dropping 11 seconds into sudden death, the B's find themselves in a huge hole as they return to TD Garden.
They'll have to have short memories if they want to make it interesting over the next 72 hours. In the NBA, the expression is a series doesn't start until the road team wins. Using that philosophy, all the Bruins have to do is hold serve and get it to a pivotal Game 5 even. If they can, anything could happen like it did in '09 when the Penguins became only the second team to rally from an 0-2 deficit to win Lord Stanley. Of course, they still lost Game 5 before winning a third straight at home and then finally becoming the lone road team to win in a dramatic Game 7 that's still fresh in Pens' fans memory banks. Marc-Andre Fleury stacking the pads to deny Nick Lidstrom's last second bid.
What has to happen for the Bruins to turn the tables starting tonight on the Canucks?
1.Get a 2-goal lead- they say the 3-goal lead is the worst in hockey and Julien's club are proof. However, they've yet to build a cushion and put the pressure on Vancouver. How will they react if it happens? Against the Blackhawks early on, we saw what happened when Chicago was ahead, digging out of a 3-0 hole to force a seventh game that required overtime where the all too familiar Burrows clinched it.
2.Don't sit back- one of the fundamental flaws with Julien's Lemaire-esque system is they often try to hold on instead of pushing for more. Throw out the perfect regular season record. At this point, that doesn't matter. Especially against an opportunistic club like Vancouver, who only needs a few chances to cash to turn a game. We saw it the other night when they predictably tied it up with over 10 minutes left and then took it to OT where the B's never recovered.
3.Chara Time- simply put, Zdeno Chara is a beast on the ice who logs a ton of minutes in every situation. While the Boston captain did set up Mark Recchi's go-ahead tally, he also was caught out for Sedin's equalizer and didn't recover to stop Burrows from skating around Thomas and stuffing a wraparound for the stunning winner. Chara must be better along with Julien, who got duped by Alain Vigneault's on the fly change that caught Andrew Ference instead of reliable partner Dennis Seidenberg. With the last change on home ice, that can't happen.
4.The Horton Affect- when Nathan Horton scores, good things happen for the black and gold. The big man has been instrumental during their run, scoring big overtime goals while setting up teammates. When the going got tough against Tampa, the ex-Panther shined brightest with two goals and two assists over the last three games including the series clincher. He'll need to be a factor in front of Roberto Luongo, who hasn't dealt with much chaos compared to his busier counterpart.
5.Shoot The Puck- there were opportunities to shoot the puck when it was tied late in regulation that the B's mysteriously passed up. One such chance saw a streaking Johnny Boychuk passing up an open shot from the right circle, instead overpassing to a covered teammate. Vancouver's D is too stingy. They take away that East/West option, which hardly works during this time of year. The Bruins must pepper Luongo from every angle. He's good at making the first save but will let out juicy rebounds, which the B's must be in position to pounce. Fire away and score in the dirty areas.
6.Special Teams- the B's have been brutal on the power play but finally connected when ultimate warrior Recchi parked himself in front of Luongo and neatly deflected a Chara blast that steered them ahead. Vancouver has a dangerous PK that comes right at you. Their tendency is to overcommit. So, crafty playmakers like David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron must distribute the puck quickly. Short, concise passes can trap Canuck attackers high, giving them a decided edge down low. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Vancouver boasts the best PP with many weapons ranging from the Sedins to Ryan Kesler, Burrows plus sharp shooters Christian Ehrhoff, Sami Salo and Alex Edler. The advice is simple. Stay out of the box, which requires not targeting Burrows or knucklehead Max Lapierre.
On paper, it sounds like they'll have to play a perfect game just to give themselves a chance. However, these are all winning qualities good teams execute during a primetime series such as this. It's not won early but late. All depending on how you adjust. We'll see if Boston can use the crowd to their advantage. They'll be loud. The B's haven't won the Cup since 1972 when Bobby Orr skated the fancy chalice in front of Dad after beating the Rangers. They've failed five times since then including back in 1990 to Mark Messier's Oilers, who won the last of their six Cups. Starting tonight on Versus, we get to see what they're made of.