In Game 6, Roberto Luongo was yanked for what should have been the third time (it was only the second, as they inexplicably left him in for all eight goals in Game 3). The Boston Bruins cruised to an easy victory on home ice once again.
"Lu" has been a completely different human in the safety of Rogers Arena, giving up two total goals in three games en route to compiling a perfect 3-0 record. The easy sentiment, then, has been that Lu can't play in Boston, he's scared, the Bruins are in his head, it's self-doubt, and so on.
What's been largely overlooked, is that Vancouver's vaunted nine-man defense corps has been badly outplayed by Boston's on the road, and it's killing their team. This was where the Canucks were supposed to have the big edge.
While they've certainly had to deal with a few losses - Dan Hamhuis is a huge one and missing Aaron Rome's minutes isn't awesome either — using that excuse is taking the easy way out. That's been the point with their group all year — whether it's injuries, suspensions, whatever, they're supposed to be able to plug the next guy in who can take over like nothing's changed.
It's not like they've been asked to shut down Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane or Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. We're talking Milan Lucic and David Krejci — valuable players, but not impossible to contain offensively.
Luongo still deserves his share of the heat for his (miserable) failings in Boston — great goaltenders are supposed to steal you games when you need help and he's done anything but that. But the game in front of him has been different, and not just because there aren't Canucks fans in the stands.
While in Vancouver, Boston tallied 97 shots over three games. The numbers were fairly comparable when they went back home — they racked up an additional 10 there - but the quality of those shots were nothing like easily handled pucks the Bruins fired while on the road. Vancouver has been unable to clear the net front for him at TD Garden and worse, they were less adept at forcing the shots to come from the perimeter.
That d-corps was supposed to make this series look easy for Luongo — without Marc Savard, Boston had no pure offensive threat, and with Nathan Horton out, they were running out of offensive cogs. Their top point-getter tallied 62 points this season, yet in Boston, they hung 17 goals on Vancouver in three games.
And we only want to string up the goalie?
The Boston defenders are a group worthy of respect, but they were supposed to have their hands far too full - before the series, the facts didn't look pretty from where I was sitting. Vancouver had the more dangerous top-end scorers and Boston had what was supposed to be the lesser group of defensemen, so this could only go one way.
Well, the six man unit in black and gold has answered the bell.
Tim Thomas has helped the B's defense look better at times, but offensive madmen like the Sedins are supposed to be able to create enough chances to break through that wall. Contrary to what the twins keep insisting in the media, those chances have been few and far between. They've been smothered, and it's a huge part of the reason Boston has managed to take this thing to seven games. That group deserves more credit for their team's success.
When the Canucks get back to Vancouver, things may shift back to normal. Their d-corps may feels more comfortable as they were in games one, two and five — if they do, we'll see it once again in their crisp breakout passes, box outs, and physical play. If they don't find it in Game 7, well ... they're going to need Roberto Luongo to avoid going all Mr. Hyde on them like he's done in Beantown.
The Canucks can still win this thing at home, there's no doubt about that. They're money there. But if they don't, it's not just Bobby Lu and the Sedins who deserve the bulk of the blame.
You need the best parts of your team to play like the best parts in the biggest games, and for Vancouver, that hasn't been the case. Every time they go into Boston, it appears the defense rests.