BOSTON (AP) – The Boston Bruins know their hopes of getting back to Vancouver and a chance to win the Stanley Cup ride largely on how they play in front of the Canucks’ net.
Get traffic in front of goalie Roberto Luongo and start launching pucks his way. It’s a simple formula that helped the Bruins go 2-0 at home in the Stanley Cup Final, but hasn’t translated north of the border.
“Our net-front presence definitely caused problems for them in our two games here,” Boston center Gregory Campbell said. “Even before that, it’s worked for us in the last three rounds, too. If he can’t see the puck, he can’t stop it, so we want to keep doing it.”
Luongo has been a stalwart at home but suspect on the road in the series, which Vancouver leads 3-2 entering Game 6 Monday night in Boston. Two of his three wins in the finals have been shutouts, but he allowed a dozen goals in games 3 and 4 in Boston last week.
One of them was on the power play when Michael Ryder scored on Luongo with Campbell providing a great screen in front during Boston’s 8-1 rout that cut Vancouver’s series lead to 2-1.
“Obviously he’s proved that he’s a great goalie his whole career and he’s going to stop the puck if he sees it,” Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron said. “I think traffic in front is something that needs to be a lot better.”
The Bruins spent part of Sunday’s practice digging pucks out of the corner and jostling in front of the net, preparing for Monday night as they try to avoid seeing the season end at home with the visitors skating off with the puck.
No matter how well Boston goalie Tim Thomas has been playing, he needs at least a little offensive support. The margin of each of Vancouver’s wins in the series has been just one goal.
“We need to get to the front of the net and win battles,” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “If you’re going to score goals, you have to win those battles and you have to put the pucks in the net and be there.”
That’s not exactly a new strategy in hockey. Teams — especially ones such as Boston that struggled early in the playoffs on the power play — often speak of getting more shots on net and having people in front while trying to generate offense. It was a focus for all three games in Vancouver, too, and the Bruins scored just twice in three games there.
Vancouver’s 1-0 shutout in Game 5 put Boston on the brink of elimination instead of just one win from claiming its first Stanley Cup since 1972. Just one goal could have changed the outcome, but the Bruins could get nothing past Luongo.
“We did some good things, but we need to get back to creating traffic and creating problems for them in front,” forward Rich Peverly said.
Bruins fans will be ready to deride Luongo once again Monday. He was pulled after the final goal of Boston’s 4-0 shutout to tie the series after allowing eight in the previous game.
Luongo wasn’t sure what caused him to miss so many saves in those games, but said he knows he will see plenty of black sweaters trying to block his view and rattle his psyche however they can.
“That’s the way you score in this league. You’ve got to get gritty. You’ve got to the hard areas, whack away at rebounds, tips, screens, all that kind of stuff,” Luongo said. “Especially when a team plays good defensively. You’ve got to get your noses dirty to get some goals. So for me, nothing changes.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)