This domination at home for the Boston Bruins is a funny thing.
In the latest example, a 5-2 laugher that forced a seventh and deciding game of the Stanley Cup final in Vancouver against the Canucks on Wednesday night, the Bruins cannot offer any brilliant strategic reasons for their success. They can't say they ruthlessly exploited the home-ice advantage of last change to get the player matchups they wanted against the Canucks. Nor can they say they got the strong start they say they needed, spurred on by the electric atmosphere created by 17,565 screaming fans at the TD Garden.
In the first couple of minutes, it was the Canucks who took the play to the Bruins, who fired the puck deep into their zone and then pounded the defencemen who fielded it. The Canucks were the ones playing the physical game the Bruins said they needed to get back to on their home ice.
A couple of breaks here and there and it would have been the Bruins who were gulping hard three minutes into the game.
During those frantic opening minutes, Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa fired a shot that hit the end boards and bounced right to Henrik Sedin. He had Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas out of position and an open net. But the puck bounced over his stick and out of danger.
The Bruins were let off the hook by Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo. It was his utter collapse that sucked the confidence out of his own team and, in his own words that are surely mocking him in hundreds of newspapers, web sites and broadcast airwaves, pumped the tires of the Bruins.
Luongo was caught going down too early five minutes into the game by Bruins forward Brad Marchand. His 25-foot rocket hit the top corner with Luongo on his knees.
The second goal was even uglier. Milan Lucic took a nifty behind-the-back pass from Rich Peverley and fired a routine shot at Luongo. He let it go between his legs and with it went the Canucks' resolve.
By 9:45 of the first period, the Bruins were completely in charge of things. They were only too happy to knock the stuffing out of anyone in a white sweater while the Canucks numbly considered the fact they just surrendered the fastest four goals by one team in the history of the Stanley Cup final, in four minutes, 14 seconds.
The Bruins, though, were not about to admit Luongo was the reason for their good fortune. Oh no, they said, all of those goals were good ones.
Someone, oh, maybe head coach Claude Julien, obviously put the word out no one was to run his mouth. However, it probably wasn't necessary given the stark evidence of Luongo's analysis of Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas's troubles in Game 5.
"He's a great goalie. The goals we scored were good goals," defenceman Johnny Boychuk said. "We did a good job. It was a huge goal, that first one. It got the crowd into it."
Marchand did not hesitate when those around him wondered if the Bruins will even see Luongo in the seventh game. "He is able to shake off games like this," he said.
And if you're talking inspiration, Marchand said, how about that video shot after the fourth goal of Nathan Horton, knocked out of the series by a vicious hit by Canucks defenceman Aaron Rome, standing in a Garden corridor waving a Bruins towel?
"We didn't know he'd be up there," Marchand said. "For him to give us a boost was huge."
Luongo's ignominious exit after the third goal also decided the Conn Smythe Trophy, barring any Canucks-style road implosion by the Bruins in Game 7. Even if the Bruins lose the deciding game on Wednesday, Thomas is a sure bet to be elected the most-valuable player of the playoffs, assuming the Bruins manage to keep the game close, as they have in all three losses so far in Vancouver.
Thomas was lucky early but later showed why he has allowed just one goal at home in this series. The unflappable Thomas, whose disposition is as calm as his goaltending style is frantic, carried on through a few close calls in the last 40 minutes.
Still, you had to wonder how things would have turned out had Sedin buried that first chance and had Luongo managed to make a couple of saves in this building.