Kukla's Korner Hockey
by pcoffey on 06/14/11 at 11:48 AM ET
Well, it’s down to a best-of-one, So, what have we learned through the first six games of the Stanley Cup Final.
Pretty much that home ice rules.
After Game 2, which seems to have been played a month ago, I wrote that everything is going according to plan in a series until someone loses a home game. Here we are after six games and we can say the exact same thing.
So, does the home-ice trend mean Vancouver will be North America’s party capital of the world come Wednesday night?
Not so fast green guy! As I also wrote earlier in the series, if I knew the outcome of this kinda stuff, I would be in Las Vegas betting my lungs. But I remain at Coffey World Headquarters in New Jersey, so that tells you something.
Still, an inability to predict the outcome doesn’t mean we can’t talk some trending topics heading into Game 7.
Goaltending—Aside from the mean-spirited nature of this series, the masked men have taken the spotlight in 2011, where two marquee goalies are the lynchpins to success. That’s quite the contrast to 2010 when Chicago’s Antti Niemi and the Flyers’ Michael Leighton were sparking conversation that teams didn’t really need a big-ticket goalie to succeed. In 2011, the big ticket is once again front and center.
Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas are light years apart in style, which prompted a tempest in a tea pot after Game 5, when Luongo’s analysis of Thomas’ style of play got the media all hot and bothered.
Thomas has been brilliant in the series and is the leading candidate to win the Conn Smythe Trophy should the Bruins win or lose the series. Thomas, the unsung goalie from the University of Vermont and a Vezina Trophy finalist, often looks like he is playing street hockey. He comes out of the net—a lot—and often times is waaaaaaay out of the net. But that style obviously works quite spectacularly based on his results.
Luongo certainly is the more conventional of the two, playing low in the blue paint while leaving the roaming to his teammates. He is a central figure to the Canucks, so dismiss any rumors you might hear that Luongo won’t be in goal for Game 7.
What else have we discovered about the goalies? Thomas isn’t the least bit reluctant to hack and whack a visiting forward, which certainly fits into the tenor of the series.
And Luongo? We know he will not be vacationing in Boston this summer—or ever.
Scoring—Always been a great believer in not scoring more goals, runs or points than you need. Bank ‘em for the next game. The Canucks won close games at home so far and the Bruins have sent Luongo packing in the three games in Boston. If you’re looking at trends for Game 7, this does favor the Canucks, who are obviously at home playing tight games at home.
Obviously the heat will be on Luongo to make the Stanley Cup a reality for Vancouver. But he has looked very, very comfortable at Rogers Centre and there is no reason to believe that is going to change now.
But the margin of victory in Vancouver has been razor thin, so despite the Canucks’ success, Game 7 may well come down to a lucky bounce.
Will—Stanley will be in the building. Champagne will be on ice. One set of championship hats and t-shirts will be ready for distribution, the other poised to be rushed out of the building. It’s definitely the last game of the season, so you may as well win it.
It sounds trite to say that the team that wants it most will win, but that is going to be a factor. Everyone is banged up. Everyone is exhausted. Now, it’s one game for the prize you have coveted since scoring goals in your driveway as a kid. The players who decide they can take it for one more night will be the ones who make a difference.
You can see Mark Recchi making that effort. Ditto Kevin Bieksa. Ditto Milan Luccic. Ditto Ryan Kesler.
Come Game 7, your best players must be your best players. Having an underdog step up makes for a great movie, but it’s not a blueprint for success. You can bet Alain Vigneault and Claude Julien will be far more comfortable turning to a proven quantity like Recchi and Henrik Sedin than Daniel Paille or Tanner Glass.
Destiny—For the Canucks, a win means the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. For the Bruins, the last Cup came in 1972. So, you can make compelling case that either one can be embraced by destiny. The atmosphere inside and out of the arena will be insane and I have been at games when the crowd was such an intimidating factor that you could have swore there were extra skaters on the ice. That would seem to favor the Canucks, but I also remember the Colorado Avalanche pulling out a win in New Jersey back in 2001 when the deck seemed so stacked against them that no one gave them a fighting chance.
So, both teams can plead their cases quite convincingly to the hockey gods, who often are a fickle lot.
Sanity—Yes, the building will be insane. The expectations enormous. The pressure can be overwhelming. Everything can take on a surreal hue.
It is for games like this that teams practiced on early October mornings. It is for games like this that coaches pound home the merits of their systems time and again, making it comfortable and familiar. It is for games like this that cliches like “we don’t want to get too high or too low,” were invented.
It is for games like this that hockey players hunger.
It’s one game for the Stanley Cup and nothing will keep me from watching it.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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