BOSTON — The hockey sticks were loaded on the plane. The goalie pads were placed in the baggage compartment. The skates were stowed on board.
What about the aggressive playing style that brought three dominant victories at home?
The Boston Bruins hoped that also made the 2,500-mile journey to Vancouver in search of hockey’s biggest prize in a stirring Stanley Cup finals.
“We have to play the same way as we do at home,” center David Krejci said after the Bruins forced Game 7 with a win on Monday night and before they left on their coast-to-coast flight Tuesday.
But the road team has lost all six games. The Canucks’ victories have been by a single goal — 1-0, 3-2 and 1-0. The Bruins’ wins have been blowouts — 8-1, 4-0 and 5-2. The totals: Boston 19, Vancouver 8.
Somehow, the Bruins must unpack the energy and physical play that were missing from the Game 5 shutout loss in time for Wednesday night’s finale. In other words, play like a packed house is screaming for them and against the Canucks.
“Our guys have responded well and now we have to make sure we don’t get comfortable with our game,” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “We’re willing to bring it to Vancouver with us, because that’s what it’s going to take to win.”
The fans will be their enemies, rooting for the first Stanley Cup in the Canucks’ 40-year history and against the Bruins’ quest for their first in 39 years.
“It’s kind of the same thing as here,” said Krejci, the NHL playoff leader with 12 goals and 23 points. “Every hit they do, or every shot, the crowd’s pretty loud there. So, like I said, try to get the first goal and go from there.”
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, so assured on the ice, can’t figure out why the road team hasn’t won.
“I can’t really explain it,” he said. “It just seems we play better at home. On the road, we have some lapses, do some things wrong and do some things right. You have to pay attention for 60 minutes.”
Another oddity: during the regular season the Bruins had a better record in opposing arenas than in their own building.
There has been one constant as the finals have shifted from one side of North America to the other several times.
Bruins goalie Tim Thomas has been outstanding in every game — roaming from the crease to cut down angles, diving forward to pounce on pucks, even whacking Alexander Burrows on the leg with his stick when he thought the Canucks forward had hit that stick one too many times.
Thomas is the front-runner for the Conn Smythe Trophy given to the player most valuable to his team throughout the playoffs. He has allowed just eight goals in the finals. The Bruins scored that many in just two periods of Game 3.
“He’s been in the zone for the whole playoffs and you can barely count on one hand how many bad goals he’s given up,” Julien said. “That speaks volumes for him. He’s come in and decided just to focus on his play and nothing else. He’s been outstanding for us and we all know the teams that normally win the Stanley Cup usually have unbelievable goaltending. We feel like we’ve got that.”
The Canucks’ goaltending has been unpredictable. The same goalie who has two shutouts at home was pulled from two games in Boston and allowed eight goals in the one he finished.
So which Roberto Luongo will show up Wednesday night?
“He’s able to shake games off like it’s nothing,” said Brad Marchand, who started Boston’s onslaught of four goals in 10 minutes Monday night. “You know he’s bounced back so many times and he’s so tough to play against in Vancouver.”
In the first three rounds before the finals, both teams were 5-3 on the road and 7-3 at home. The Bruins clinched their three series at home. The Canucks wrapped up two of theirs at home and one in Nashville.
And the Bruins will be playing a seventh game in the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in their history.
The Canucks have played one potential elimination game in the playoffs, an overtime win over Chicago in the first round. The Bruins have had three — seventh games against Montreal and Tampa Bay and Monday’s game against Vancouver. They won both Game 7s by one goal each.
They’d gladly take that again.
“We’ve created ourselves another opportunity and it’s up to us to take advantage of it,” Julien said, “but we’ve got to be hungrier than we have been the last three times in Vancouver.”
If they succeed, they can set aside a seat for an extra passenger on the trip back home.
The Stanley Cup.
“It’s the last game of the season. This is what you play for,” defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. “Obviously, it’s a little kid’s dream to win the Stanley Cup. And to do it on the road, it doesn’t matter where as long as you win it.”