I really want to hold back from saying who wins. I have a belief in karma and how it came back to haunt Luongo last night, I have a gut feeling and a team I side with more than the other, and then I have the past to look upon. The pattern that has emerged in this series is almost unbelievable. Every game seems to have been played out by some formula that dictates the home team will be victorious. Winning the President's Trophy might have actually been the saving grace of this year's Canucks. And yet, I get the funny feeling that in game 7, everything is up for grabs.
Ponderings, Previews & Premonitions: Game 7 between the Bruins and Canucks.
It could be easy to forget that there happens to be 20 players on each team. With all of the focus and pressure placed on goaltending, the series has become about how spectacular Thomas can be and to question when Luongo will crack. Luo wonders where the criticism comes from, but you need not look much further than his own comments. Agree with it or not, when Luo made comments about Thomas he was inviting a hail storm of verbal and psychological attacks to his mental stability. It was immature and reckless, especially knowing he had to play in Boston again. The best goalies are the ones that are strong mentally. This is why Crawford will make such a great goaltender for the Hawks. Luongo feeds criticism and then pleads for it to stop. Sorry to say buddy, but win or lose on Wednesday, the critics will never leave. You have allowed 15 goals in 3 games, 8 in one of those, been pulled twice and was part of the quickest 4 goals ever scored in Finals' history. It is fair to say that Luongo is setting the wrong kind of records.
Some of the talk surrounding this series has focused on the Conn Smythe Trophy and surprise, surprise it involves goaltending. It looks to be unanimous that Thomas will take it home win or lose the Cup. After making his 38th save last night, he tied the record for most saves in the playoffs. A record he is sure to surpass in game 7. He has allowed 8 goals in 6 games while facing nearly 40 shots in each contest. He is set to take the Vezina, Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe in one year which would definitely convince anyone that this was the year of Tim Thomas. He is having fun and enjoying the every second of it, making highlight reel saves, carrying his team, and serving as a perfect symbol of professionalism of the ice. When asked about the pressure he faces with a game 7 in Vancouver, he responds that he is "happy to be here and have the opportunity."
One can create a viable mental picture regarding the integrity of a team by the comments made to reporters and mental reactions to loses as well as wins. Leadership has been another concern among the Vancouver squad and the lack of it shown in these types of environments. Who will step up and ask more of their team, who will say the right thing at the right time and model the type of behavior necessary to hoist the Cup? When Recchi took the stand along with Thomas last night, he painted a picture of camaraderie, of a team having fun who looked up to the veterans for support and to the youth for energy. The coach, along with the players seem like a group ready to have fun on Wednesday night. Is Vancouver having fun?
Vigneault's comments or lack there of paint a picture of a frustrated and concerned team. One that is questioning who to look up to in this situation. They are feeling the weight of being the team who might lose the Cup. A place they put themselves and one they need to dig themselves out of to win just one more game in a season filled with wins. Someone has to step up and take control. Remind them of how deep and talented they are and that they play this game because they love it. Recchi said, "this is what we live fore, this is why we play the game." Vancouver needs to be reminded of that.
Boston is enjoying the ride and getting rougher with each game. The hits were 43-38 last night, favoring Boston and I have to say that it looks like they have become the ones getting away with a few. I am all for physical, but keep it fair and clean. Raymond suffered a vertebrae compression after getting crammed against the boards awkwardly by Boychuk. If Boychuk doesn't make that extra shove (an unnecessary shove) Raymond probably plays tomorrow, but now he misses game 7. I think a lot is riding on who leaves the ice with the most hits on Wednesday, but I hope it is a bit cleaner than we have seen. Boston needs to stay out of the box after all. Too many Vancouver PP's will spell disaster for Boston.
In fact, it might just come down to who wins at the special teams. If Boston can score on the power-play, I think they win the game. That might have been the single most important factor in game 5.
The ability to control the faceoffs has been a big part of Boston's success as well. Last night they won 62 percent of them and 2 of those wins lead to goals. Above this, if Boston wants to win a road game, they need to score first. That first 20 minutes is going to decide everything and it is going to be players like Marchand and Kesler (who is obviously injured) who dictate that force. Marchand has been huge for Boston, and Krejci too. When I look into the Boston line-up, I see more faces who might rise to the challenge, but I see more talent when I look at Vancouver. What is that saying? Hustle will beat talent, when talent doesn't hustle, or something like that.
But, on the last note, I leave you with words from Vegas. This is his comment after last night's game and I think it sums up the future pretty well.
Both teams seem challenged to come back from even one goal deficits. If I'm Boston, I'm thinking that for game seven it's got to be man to man coverage and you've got to keep hitting. Vancouver seems to be able to score only one of two ways and both are variations of catching Thomas not being able to move left to right quick enough. They have found a flaw and they have found a play that works (point bankshot behind the net to come out the other side). But, when Boston keeps track of where guys are they shut it down. It's been said by much better hockey minds then mine, Boston has got to score first. Whichever team scores first is going to get that boost of confidence and probably win.