Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun discuss the moments they have loved and those they have hated in the Stanley Cup finals.
Burnside: Well my friend, we are back in Boston readying ourselves for the potential series-clincher Monday night. It's been a wacky series, though, and if it ends Monday with the Vancouver Canucks raising the big trophy for the first time in franchise history, there will be lots of memories, good and bad, from this final series.
Let me begin with the one image that will stay with me: Nathan Horton lying on the ice, his arm stretched up in grisly fashion after being laid out by Vancouver defenseman Aaron Rome early in Game 3. The hit may yet prove to be a seminal moment in this series as the Bruins went on to win both home games by a cumulative 12-1 count. More importantly from my perspective was the swift judgment by acting NHL disciplinarian Mike Murphy in suspending Rome for four games, the stiffest suspension in Stanley Cup finals history. Hard medicine for a dangerous play.
What about you, my friend, what has amazed or mystified you about this series thus far?
LeBrun: I won't soon forget seeing Bobby Orr raise a Bruins flag with Horton's number on it before Game 4, the TD Garden crowd going bananas. Similarly, it was beyond cool when B.C. native and NBA star Steve Nash got the crowd going Friday night at Rogers Arena. Manny Malhotra's brother-in-law was into it to say the least.
But to me the moment of this series at this point, and I think we're in store for a few more, is Roberto Luongo stepping up on the eve of Game 5 and showing the kind of leadership teams need to become champions. With the hockey world once again questioning his own play, as well as the confidence of the Canucks as a team, Luongo put the team on his shoulders and assured all assembled that he would be fine and the team would be fine. Then he backed it up with one of the most important victories of his career. I don't think I'll forget that one for a long time.
Burnside: Yes, I must admit that even though I've been critical of Luongo at times, that was an impressive lead-in to Game 5 followed by a stellar performance by the big Vancouver netminder. Still hard to get your head around this set. The Canucks are a game away from winning the big prize and have scored six times in the series. The Bruins have scored 14 goals and chased Luongo in Game 4 after pouring eight by him in Game 3, yet are down in the series.
"It's a pretty bizarre stat, but it is what it is," Boston head coach Claude Julien Saturday. But credit the Canucks for finding a way when it looked like all the momentum had seeped out of their game after twin losses in Boston. But what might be even wackier is all the histrionics that have gone on outside the whistles.
I must admit, I wrestle with it.
On the one hand, it's juicy and titillating. But on the other hand, it's like a guilty pleasure because it takes away from some of the great on-ice stories.
LeBrun: You're right, it's been quite the series for gamesmanship and extracurricular activities. Julien summed it up Saturday by saying he felt it was unfortunate those things were garnering attention but realized we in the media loved it.
It started, of course, with Alex Burrows biting Patrice Bergeron in a battle of fellow Quebecers in Game 1. Maxim Lapierre then showed his fingers to Bergeron in a mocking gesture in Game 2. Julien made his own headlines the morning of Game 3 by suggesting Lapierre was making a mockery of the game by doing that, only to see his own players, Mark Recchi and Milan Lucic, give the finger wag another turn later that night. Mercy. Just for good measure, Burrows and Tim Thomas dropped the gloves momentarily at the end of Game 4, while super-pest Brad Marchand skated in front of the Canucks' bench and rubbed his hands together in a mocking gesture. Marchand later said he regretted doing that. And finally, we had Luongo suggest he would have stopped the only goal scored in Game 5, because he doesn't wander out of his net like his counterpart. Anyone having fun yet? Frankly it's not for me.
Burnside: Well, in the end, this series could turn on whether one of these teams can force the other out of its comfort zone at home. The Canucks have allowed just two Boston goals in three games at home. That's shutdown hockey. But Luongo has been off on the road, and they've allowed 12 in two games in Boston. Can they do what Boston has failed to do and bring a "home" mentality to the road and carry the Cup home on Monday night or will we be asking these same questions as we head back to Vancouver for a seventh and deciding Game 7 on Wednesday?
LeBrun: I asked Zdeno Chara on Saturday what his reaction would have been had someone told him before the Cup finals that through five games the Bruins would have limited the Sedin twins to two measly points and the mighty Canucks' power play to one goal, yet trailed in the series 3-2. He looked at me and said, "I don't know, I really don't know."
Um, I think I know exactly what he would have said if he was being more open. "Are you bleeping kidding me?" You can look at that bizarre set of circumstances two ways: either the Bruins are playing with fire and both the Sedins and their power play will finally explode Monday night, or it's the Canucks that are playing with fire because they've scored only six goals in the series, yet are still up. In other words, it's smoke and mirrors.
So to answer your question about Monday night? I think we will be Vancouver-bound on Tuesday morning.