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Bruins must capitalize on home ice advantages

Monday, 06.06.2011 / 2:35 PM / 2011 Stanley Cup Final - Canucks v Bruins

By Shawn P. Roarke - NHL.com Senior Managing Editor

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Bruins must capitalize on home ice advantages
After the Canucks retained home-ice advantage by sweeping the first two games in Vancouver, now Boston must look to capitalize on having the last change and the crowd behind it for Games 3 and 4 at TD Garden.
BOSTON -- The site of the Stanley Cup Final switches to TD Garden on Monday for Game 3.
For Boston, the change of scenery needs to change the team's fortunes after the Bruins dropped two one-goal decisions to the Canucks in Vancouver's home rink, Rogers Arena.

Can home-ice advantage make that big a difference for the Bruins?

Well, Boston is a healthy 7-3 this postseason in the friendly confines of TD Garden and took at least one point from 28 of its 41 home games in the regular season, so they have reason to be confident when the puck drops Monday night (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS) to start Game 3.

Plus, the Bruins will have several tangible advantages as the home team. Here are the three biggest advantages and how Boston can use them as positives:

Faceoffs

This may well be the biggest advantage for Boston, which has won the faceoff battle in each of the first two games of this Final.

In Game 1, Boston won 36 of the 64 faceoffs contested. The next game, the Bruins were a little less dominant, taking 24 of 45 draws. Now that domination should, in theory, grow, as Boston's centermen are handed the home-ice luxury of setting up for the draw last.

As a result, the home centerman on a draw can read the intentions of the opposing player because of the position of his dominant hand. If the player plans to pull the draw back, the position of the bottom hand will usually be the giveaway and the home center can adjust accordingly.

Plus, setting last usually allows the home center to get a jump on the actual drop of the puck by the linesman.

"Everyone can tell you that there is no cheating; that's garbage," says Bill Jaffe, an analyst with NHL Network. "If you can get a little momentum on what they call the swing, bringing the stick in to the ice -- with an extra millisecond or so, it makes a big advantage. You get that little bit of extra momentum."

Plus, Boston can now dictate faceoff matchups, using the last-change luxury to get its favored center out for any draw it wants. This is especially important in the defensive zone, where Boston will often send out two centers -- including Patrice Bergeron, its best draw man -- to have the best opportunity to deny Vancouver possession of the puck in the attacking zone.

And that brings us to the second advantage.

Last change of personnel

As the home team coach, Claude Julien is able to deploy his players after the opposing team makes its changes at a stoppage in play. Usually, this helps the home team get the matchups it wants at each stoppage.

"It's great, because, in theory, you can get the matchups you want," Jaffe said. "But in this case, and Claude Julien will tell you, you have to be careful not to overmatch because then you take people out of their rhythm on your bench and Vancouver hasn't been afraid to use even their third and fourth line. If you start to overmatch, that could be detrimental."

It is unlikely that Julien and the Bruins will overmatch when it comes to forward lines. He trusts his top three lines to be responsible and doesn't mind using either his second or third lines in a defensive posture against Vancouver's top lines. He may, however, be more proactive about getting advantageous matches for his top line.

Where it will help Boston, however, is in matching defenseman against Vancouver's top offensive threats. He no longer has to guess who Vigneault will put on the ice and can instead react to the players after they have been deployed. That means he can get the top pairing of Dennis Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara out against the Sedin twins -- Henrik and Daniel -- anytime he wants.

In OT of Game 2, Julien started the period with Andrew Ference and Chara as a pair because he did not know who Vancouver would deploy at forward. The plan was to change D on the fly when the Bruins got the puck deep, but that never happened and Alexandre Burrows scored the winner just 11 seconds into the period.

"It helps with defense pairings," Jaffe said. "If you want to get Chara out there against the Sedins, it will be easier. It will be interesting to see how hard a matchup they do.

"It's going to be predicated on what is happening in the game. This is the Finals. (Julien)'s got to get his best players out there as much as possible, but it should be easy to spot certain players.

"What will be interesting is to see what Vigneault does. Does he just open the door and let his lines flow and force Julien to really try to make the change and take players out of their rhythm? Rhythm is an important thing for a player. If you play too hard a matchup game, it can take players out of their rhythm."

Home crowd

TD Garden will be rocking Monday night as the Stanley Cup visits the building for the first time and the city for the first time in 21 years.

Boston is a sports-mad city and the local populace has embraced the Bruins' run with loud and enthusiastic support.  In the last game here, the crowd was a huge factor throughout the Game 7 showdown against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals, a game Boston won, 1-0, on a late goal by Nathan Horton.

"The crowd here is really loud, stomping around and we can feel it and hear it in the dressing room," backup goalie Tuukka Rask told NHL.com in his exclusive player blog. "It's a good booster for us knowing that they are behind us and they really want us to do good. It has been like that throughout the season and that is a good thing."
 
But this advantage -- more than any other – can be a double-edged sword, says Jaffe.

"Home crowds can be absolutely electrifying  and make you feel 10 feet tall, but on the other hand, say if the Bruins' power play is not successful, the boos are going to rain down early on and that can be a negative too," Jaffe said.

Monday night, we'll find out just how sweet home is for these Boston Bruins.
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