It's a truism in any playoff series, from baseball to hockey. You aren't in trouble until you lose a game at home.
After two embarrassing showings in Boston, a lot of people thought Vancouver was in serious jeopardy. It's easy to see why. The Bruins throttled the Canucks 12-1 in the two games, taking a massive helping of momentum with them back to the West Coast.
But something funny happened when they returned home -- the Canucks remembered how to play defense. They were stingy, didn't give too many scoring chances to the Bruins and were as physical as they have been at any point in this series.
|Canucks-Bruins: Game 5|
| A.J. Perez
The Bruins get plenty of chances on the power play early and waste them all. Read >>
This is nothing unusual; it's why you fight all season long for home-ice advantage. Since 2009, home teams are nearly invincible in the Stanley Cup Finals, going 16-2 with Friday's 1-0 Canucks win in Game 5 the latest example.
It's hard to pinpoint the exact reason home teams are doing so well in the final round. Before the Finals, the home/road numbers were close to even, with host teams going just 46-40, a .535 winning percentage. But in the Finals ...
Maybe Vancouver's Maxim Lapierre has an explanation.
"First of all, we were playing with more confidence," Lapierre said.
After those games in Boston? Yea, about the only reason for confidence I can find is playing in their arena. If it helps the players get more right between the ears, then so be it.
The crowd certainly helps. From the opening faceoff -- no surprise -- the Canucks nuts were in full throat, roaring to each and every Canucks hit, takeaway, shot and save. I'm not one much into intangibles, but it is hard to deny the role a juiced up crowd can play. Sometimes it just helps the adrenaline flow a little freer. Whatever works.
"The two teams that are here are good team and they don't give home-ice advantage away that easily," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "I think we've been a decent road team for most of the season, and right now, what we have to do is go back home and create a Game 7 so we get another shot at 'em here."
So while home ice cured the defensive woes and Roberto Luongo -- who saved all 31 shots he faced -- it's still no fix for the offense. Vancouver, and the Sedin twins in particular, are still being stymied by Boston and Tim Thomas. The twins and the Canucks had more opportunities -- some turned away by Thomas, others flat out missed -- but they need to find a way to get more biscuits into the basket. Again, it was improved, but there's still work to be done.
Lapierre scored the only goal of the game midway through the third period. It was a pass -- or shot? -- from Kevin Bieksa that sailed way right of Thomas in the cage and ricocheted right to Lapierre sitting on the other side of the net unmanned. From there he skipped the puck off Thomas from a sharp angle and we had the game's lone score. Lapierre admitted to the good fortune on the play.
"We got lucky, good bounce. It was challenging there for us, right spot at the right time."
When your defense is playing so well and Luongo is back on his game after being pulled in Game 4, Vancouver will take that. Luongo was great once anew, pitching a 1-0 shutout for the second time in this series.
"Everybody in our dressing room and around our organization knows Roberto's character and his competitiveness and how he prepares himself," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "He went out tonight and he played a great game for us. The games in Boston, a lot of attention was put on Luongo but it was the whole team."
Nothing like home to get it right.
Now Vancouver is one win from hoisting that Stanley Cup. And they have one more game at home, if needed. Considering how things have been going, I'm sure they'll need it.
-- Brian Stubits