After a 4-0 win in Game 4, the Bruins are back in Vancouver with a clean slate, tied 2-2 in what is now a best-of-3 series. If they can win Game 5, they will head back to Boston with a chance to clinch their first Stanley Cup since 1972 in Game 6. To do so, they will need to follow these three keys to success:
1. Keep the pressure on Luongo and Canucks defense. After mustering only three goals against Vezina Trophy candidate Roberto Luongo in Games 1 and 2, the Bruins have unloaded 12 goals in the last two games and possibly rattled the goalie -- who has had previous playoff meltdowns. The Bruins have been a nuisance to the embattled goaltender from Montreal, making him feel like Carey Price did at times in the classic seven-game series between the longtime rivals. Unlike in the first two games, Boston has been able to create traffic and get shots through the lanes to the suddenly shaken Luongo.
But all the blame shouldn’t lie on Luongo, as my colleague Pierre LeBrun pointed out here:
And with the referenced Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis shutdown pairing no longer, the Canucks have had major problems holding off the physical onslaught and forecheck by the Bruins. The Bruins need to continue to pressure the Vancouver defense and Luongo, and not allow them any sense of relief or momentum that can stem the tide.
“I thought everyone was skating and when we’re skating we are usually pretty good on the forecheck and getting in on them,” said forward Rich Peverley, who scored two goals on Luongo in Game 4. “I thought we did a good job in that way.”
Winger Brad Marchand termed the 12 goals a result of “lucky bounces.”
“We just seem to be getting a lot of lucky bounces right now,” said Marchand after Game 4. “That [Rich] Peverley goal tonight, most of the time those don’t go in, and a couple goals in that first game, those were lucky goals. So we’re just trying to play hard and hope for the best.”
But it is playing hard and going to the net, not luck, that has helped them rack up 12 goals on Luongo in the last two games and that is what needs to happen in Game 5. Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault said Thursday that he will still go with Luongo in Game 5.
2. Protect Thomas and clog up the crease. Tim Thomas got into it with Alexandre Burrows toward the end of Game 4, and in Game 3 he checked Canucks captain Henrik Sedin in the third period of that 8-1 rout. Throughout the series, the Canucks have been complaining about Thomas coming out of the crease and now also his physical play in recent games. They feel like he is able to take liberties being a goalie even when he is out of the crease.
While Bruins fans may not agree, the complaints are correct for the most part, and if the Canucks wanted to, they could start to take liberties with Thomas. Of course, that’s exactly what they have done -- discreetly -- by knocking his stick loose or slashing him after the whistle.
But if they wanted to, the Canucks could easily take a run at Thomas the next time he plays the puck out of the crease and send a message to the goalie.
To prevent this from happening, the Bruins defense must continue to fight in front of the net, clearing out the forwards and pouncing on loose pucks. If it means a penalty or two, then so be it. For if the Canucks are able to get some solid licks in on Thomas and rattle -- or injure -- him, the Bruins could be in trouble.
3. Keep the game-by-game mantra. We’ve listed it here as a key many times, but the reality is that for this Bruins team, it has truly been a key. Throughout the playoffs and most recently, the Bruins were able to keep the game-by-game mantra true to form. Coming off the 8-1 rout in Game 3, the Bruins could’ve easily looked past Game 4, and in the first period they did seem as if they assumed it would be easier. But they quickly realized that Game 4 wasn’t Game 3 and they would need to adapt while maintaining their game.
The Bruins clearly have momentum right now, but as we have seen so many times in the playoffs, momentum can not only change game to game but even period to period.
Vancouver knows that dropping Game 5 on home ice could spell doom for them in the series so the Bruins must expect their ‘A’ game regardless of the past two games.
“You just don’t want to think about it at all, that’s when the nerves start to creep in and you know, two games is a very long way away, especially when we’re playing a team like Vancouver,” said rookie Brad Marchand. “So, you just want to take it one day at a time, one game at a time and hope for the best.”