Six questions to prepare for Game 6
BOSTON -- The Stanley Cup will be in the building and the Vancouver Canucks are hoping to end Monday night with a party in enemy territory.
There have already been 1,317 games played in the 2010-11 NHL season, including 87 in the playoffs. Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final could very well be the final game of the season.
It's up to the Bruins to keep up the home cooking in this series by forcing the need for Wednesday's Game 7 at Rogers Arena. The Canucks clearly want to end it in Boston.
It's one game, 60 minutes or longer, but so much is at stake and so much is still yet to be determined. What will make the difference? Who has to play well? There are many questions that need to be answered, including these six:
1. Is the Bruins' offense still at TD Garden where they left it?
Boston shredded the Vancouver defense and goalie Roberto Luongo for 12 goals in the two games at TD Garden in this series. That's twice as many as the Canucks have in all five games combined, but the Bruins have been unable to replicate their success at Rogers Arena.
The Bruins must rebound from being shut out 1-0 for the second time in this series. Last time they were coming off a shutout they lost 3-2 in overtime in Game 2. Luongo made 31 saves in Game 5, but Boston players felt they made it a pretty easy night for him.
All of the hockey adages apply here -- the Bruins need to put more shots toward the net, they need more traffic in front of the goalie and they need to be more precise on the power play.
"Obviously [Luongo] is a great goalie and if he sees it, 99 percent of the time he's going to stop it," Milan Lucic said. "For us, when we're willing to battle in front of the net and fight for loose pucks and get in his face ... we've got results and we need more of that."
2. Will the Bruins regain control of the physical play?
Vancouver was committed to winning the physical battle in Game 5. Canucks players were hitting everything in sight, and were willing to take four minor penalties in the first 25 minutes as they established their physical dominance.
It paid off in the end, because the Bruins were unable to muster much of a push after Vancouver scored the lone goal -- that was at least in part because of the physical punishment doled out earlier in the game by the Canucks.
Several of the Boston players spent the past two days talking about how they were outworked and outhit, and how that didn't sit well with them. Expect the Bruins to start Game 6 with plenty of emotion, buoyed by a feverish crowd and a desire to establish the physical tone early.
"I wish I had the answer, I really do," Shawn Thornton said of his team's absence of emotion in Game 5. "If I had the answer, I'd probably be making a lot more money than I am making. There is no excuse for how we play. Everyone has to be better. I'm still [upset] about it and I hope everyone else is, too."
3. Will the Bruins force a Game 7?
After losing the first two home games of the first round to Montreal, the Bruins have won nine of their past 10 games at TD Garden. The home team has won every game in this series and each of the past 10 postseason games Boston has been a part of.
The Bruins also have faced elimination twice before in this postseason, only to prevail and advance. Vancouver has lost four times in this postseason when the Canucks have had a chance to finish off an opponent, though they have won the last two games in that situation.
Boston will need another strong performance from goaltender Tim Thomas, and the Bruins will lean heavily on emotions like desperation and determination as they try to give themselves one more chance to beat the Canucks at Rogers Arena in a Game 7.
"We've had the experience throughout the postseason," Thornton said. "The experience helps in this situation, but it doesn't mean that because we've been through it before we're getting through it again. We're going to have to make it happen. It is going to take everybody -- there can't be any passengers or guys taking a half of a shift off. Everyone has to come to play."
4. Does Roberto Luongo practice what he preaches?
The Canucks' goalie has said time and again that he, like the rest of his teammates, are good at putting the past behind them and focusing on the present. He has to be able to do that to win the Stanley Cup on Monday.
Luongo's recent past at TD Garden is littered with poison. He allowed 12 goals during two games as Boston came back to tie the series at two games apiece.
Now, let's be sure to note that the good Luongo silenced all the critics and fans attacking him by winning Game 5 with a 31-save shutout, his second of the Final and fourth of the playoffs. The Canucks can't have the bad Luongo show up in Boston again or there will be a Game 7 back in Vancouver on Wednesday.
Luongo's numbers on the road in these playoffs are not good (5-5, 3.49 GAA and .885 save percentage), but one solid, winning performance will erase everything that has plagued him in the postseason, especially in this Final.
5. Will the power play produce a goal?
The Canucks believe their power play in Game 5 was better than it had been at any point in the previous four games of the series. It went 0-for-3.
Results, not a good feeling, are what matter. Yes, it's nice if you think the power play is better than it has been and it's obviously important if you feel you gain momentum from it, but at some point you actually want to score a power-play goal because, well, you may just need it to win a game.
Vancouver has one power-play goal on 25 chances in this series. That's a 4 percent success rate.
But yes, the Canucks do believe their power play was better in Game 5, so it's up to them to take some of what they felt they did better and bring it into Game 6. A power-play goal can be the difference between raising the Cup on Monday and playing a Game 7 at home on Wednesday.
6. Can the Canucks win the Stanley Cup without a point from their captain?
As Chris Higgins said, "We wouldn't like that to be the case, but we'll certainly take it."
Of course they would, but the question still stands. That the answer may actually be yes is probably not what anyone could have predicted before the series started.
Henrik Sedin is working hard and helping to generate scoring chances, but, to date in this Stanley Cup Final, he does not have a point -- and he doesn't seem to care.
Nor should he.
Vancouver has three wins and Boston has only two, so there's reason to believe that even if Henrik Sedin goes without a point in Game 6 that he'll still accept the Stanley Cup from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman after the game.
Granted, his chances of raising the chalice and passing it off -- likely to twin brother Daniel -- go up significantly if he chips in on the stat sheet.