BOSTON – This year’s Stanley Cup final has been hugely entertaining, chock full of wild momentum swings, jaw-dropping hits and a frenetic pace. It has also been as nasty as we’ve seen in a long time and, in some ways, has been hijacked by a level of off-ice silliness that has reached unparalleled heights.
That’s why it was such a breath of fresh air to hear the measure and wise words of Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference prior to Game 6. Sometimes it takes a simple message to remind people that players play all their lives to win the most beautiful trophy in sports. The opportunity to have their name etched on the Stanley Cup is all the motivation these guys need.
Here’s a newsflash. They don’t get any extra motivation knowing the Cup is in the building. The Bruins are not drawing extra inner strength from the knowledge that Vancouver is apparently planning its Stanley Cup parade. (So is Boston and anyone who thinks a city whose team is in the final doesn’t prepare beforehand is delusional.) And they’re certainly not fired up by the comments that seem to be going back and forth ad nauseam.
If anyone in either dressing room needs that kind of peripheral stuff to get jacked up, he has no business playing in the final to start with.
“The motivation doesn’t come from wanting to beat the guys on the other team,” Ference said. “It’s about wanting your team to succeed and to see your players achieve something they’ve wanted. That’s the motivation. It doesn’t really go much further than that. There are different opponents that you face and different story lines, but at the base of it, it’s about yourself.”
So it is going into Game 6. For the Bruins, it’s about establishing a physical presence and getting to the net much better than they did in the games in Vancouver. For the Canucks, it’s all about re-establishing the identity they forged during the regular season when they were the best and most intimidating offensive team in the league.
“I think it’s important that we go out and play with a lot of swagger,” said Canucks captain Henrik Sedin. “We know we have a great team in here, we know we can match up against anyone. We have to go out there and feel we’re the best team. We can’t go out there and think they’re going to come out and outplay us. When we play at our best, like we showed at home, it shouldn’t matter if we play here or in Vancouver.”
He’s right about that, but the Canucks most certainly have not shown their best game when the series has moved east. From their goaltender out, the Canucks have generally been atrocious. Their lack of offense has been shocking really, with just six goals in five games. That kind of output certainly doesn’t match with the Canucks’ personality.
“Our mentality never really is to hang on or just try to hang around,” Manny Malhotra said. “We want to be the aggressors tonight. We want to take the forecheck to them, we want to establish our game as early as possible. That mentality of hoping and trying to hang around and seeing what happens at the end is far from our mindset right now.”
In the other dressing room, the Bruins were talking a lot about being more aggressive physically and getting far more traffic in front of Roberto Luongo than they did in the games in Vancouver, essentially meaning they’ll want to duplicate their efforts and results, from Games 3 and 4.
“(Luongo) is a great goaltender and if he sees it, 99 percent of the time he’s going to stop it,” said Bruins left winger Milan Lucic, who has been conspicuously quiet for long stretches during this series. “When we’re willing to battle in front of the net and you know, fight for loose pucks and get in his face…we’ve got results and we need more of that.”
Added Ference, who once again stated the obvious: “We have to force a Game 7. It’s pretty black and white.”
Or black and blue, depending upon your perspective.
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