By Gordon P. Quinn
After playing 106 games, the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins will have one contest to determine which team will hoist Lord Stanley's Cup. Every shift will be magnified and every goal will be crucial. On Wednesday, the teams will settle the score in Game 7 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
Both clubs held serve on home ice this series, although in distinctly different manners. The Canucks won a trio of one-goal games, while the Bruins enjoyed three blowout victories. Presidents' Trophy-winning Vancouver will vie for its first Stanley Cup in franchise history, while Boston will attempt to win its first title since 1972.
Although it is an Original Six franchise, Boston will play in its very first Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday. Since winning their last Stanley Cup, the Bruins have lost in their last five trips to the Finals. Rookie Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic, defenseman Andrew Ference and Michael Ryder scored in the first period of Game 6 as Boston netted four in a span of 4:14 to set a Stanley Cup Finals record.
The Bruins' four-goal outburst eclipsed the mark of 5:29 set by the Montreal Canadiens against the Detroit Red Wings on March 31, 1956. For his part, Marchand opened the scoring 5:31 into the game for his franchise rookie-record ninth goal of the postseason. David Krejci added a 5-on-3 power-play goal and veteran Mark Recchi notched three assists.
Vancouver has previously played in a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Mark Messier's New York Rangers unceremoniously eliminated the Canucks in 1994. Vezina Trophy finalist Roberto Luongo has been dominant at home in this series - permitting two goals on 95 shots for a sparkling .979 save percentage in three games. On the road, well, it's been a nightmare. He yielded 15 goals on 66 shots for a brutal .773 save percentage in Boston.
Coach Alain Vigneault confirmed that Luongo will be in net for Game 7. Captain Henrik Sedin secured his first goal - and point - of the series when he scored 22 seconds into the third period in Game 6. Daniel Sedin notched two assists and has four points in the series. Defenseman Kevin Bieksa registered a career-high eight shots on Monday, but his ill-advised line change led to Lucic's goal in the first period. Second-line left wing Mason Raymond suffered an undisclosed injury after a hit by defenseman Johnny Boychuk during the first shift in Game 6. He was taken to a Boston-area hospital on a stretcher.
Leading Conn Smythe Trophy candidate Tim Thomas turned aside 36 shots to force Game 7. He has yielded just eight goals in six contests in his series and is tied with Vancouver's Kirk McLean (1994) with 761 saves in a single postseason. Thomas has surrendered just five goals en route to improving to 3-0 in elimination games in the 2011 playoffs. Maxim Lapierre netted his second goal in as many contests on Monday. He had one goal in his previous 22 playoff games. NHL scoring champion Daniel Sedin, who had a pair of assists on Monday, has four points in the series.
Boston went 1-for-5 in Game 6 to improve to 5-for-26 for the series and 7-for-83 in the playoffs. For its part, Vancouver continued to struggle with the man advantage in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Canucks went 1-for-6 in Game 6 to improve to 2-for-31 on the power play.
Wednesday's Game 7 is the 16th all-time in NHL history - and sixth since 2000. The home team has won 12 of the previous 15. Indeed, only three times in history has a road team won Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. The Pittsburgh Penguins did so in 2009, so it's not some old record Boston is looking to break.
In Vancouver's three wins in the finals, two of them were 1-0 tallies and the other was a heroic effort on the part of Alex Burrows in overtime. Otherwise, Boston has kept the Canucks in check for most of the series so it is safe to assume that whichever team scores first has a pretty good chance at winning the cup.
The Pick: Vancouver Canucks.
alain vigneault - alex burrows - andrew ference - boston bruins - brad marchand - daniel sedin - david krejci - henrik sedin - johnny boychuk - kevin bieksa