June 10, 2011

Blue-collar Bruins look to keep wearing down Canucks

Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara shoves Canucks forward Ryan Kesler. (Getty)

Coming into the Stanley Cup Finals, both the Bruins and their fans had to hear about the superior skill-level of the Vancouver Canucks ad nauseum. They were told to fear the Sedins. They were warned about Ryan Kesler, hailed as one of the most versatile, multi-dimensional forwards in the game. They were told to forget about cracking Roberto Luongo.

But the hard-working Bruins, whether they soaked that all in or tuned it all out, have made many a predictor look foolish through the first four games of this series. The B's were supposed to be cooked by this point, either wallowing in self-pity over a sweep or heading back to British Columbia facing elimination. So much for that idea.

After two games that could've gone either way in Vancouver, the Black and Gold dominated the Canucks on home turf, silencing the Sedins, frustrating Kesler and torching Luongo for 12 goals in back-to-back wins. They have turned the tide against a club that was supposed to be leaps and bounds better than them with grit, effort and a clear collection of talent they obviously were not given credit for.

"Well, because you say you're blue-collar doesn't mean you don’t have any skill or talent as well," coach Claude Julien said. "It's a group that comes in and works hard every day, really grinds it out. Our team is pretty happy with that if that's what we're labeled as."

The blue-collar mantra has always been one that the region has endeared itself to, dating back to the days of the Big Bad Bruins and Don Cherry's lunch-pail gang in the '70s.

"I think the fans in Boston like that kind of a team," Julien said. "They've had those kinds of teams in the past that have had success. That's what Boston is all about. I think it seems to please everybody in that area, including ourselves. We like the way we have to go out there and play every night and we take pride in it."

While it didn't reap any rewards in the first two games, Boston's style has started to pay dividends. The banged-up Canucks are beginning to get worn down by the Bruins, all while growing more and more frustrated as the series rolls on.

"I think it's important for us to play the same type of game that we played the last two games," goalie Tim Thomas said. "That's what led us to the success that we had in those two games. The challenge is doing it."

"It's easy to say, 'this is what we have to do,' but it takes an extreme amount of effort and people laying their bodies on the line and that's what we're going to need as a group and as a team to come out out of (Game 5) victorious."

Employing that same level of physicality they displayed at TD Garden over the last two games will be a must for Boston.

"I think our point is to finish our checks," said Julien. "I think it's part of what we want to do in this series, slow down a team that's extremely skilled. I think we have to bring the physical element there. They're a highly skilled team. They need to play with that level. We're probably more of a physical team that has to bring that game. We're built a little differently.

"It's about bringing your game to the table. I think our guys have done a great job in the last couple of games especially, making sure they finish their checks, then they stay involved in the play. We've done a good job of that."

Carrying over the level of intensity they unleashed on the Canucks in Games 3 and 4 will be equally as important for the Bruins, as it's been part of their recipe for success all season.

"I don't know whether it's character or not that's going to decide the series," Julien said. "I just know that we have to play with a certain level of emotion, a certain level of intensity for us to be successful. That's what our team's been all about this year."

Don't count on that changing on Friday night at Rogers Arena.