Published November 20, 2014
VANCOUVER - There isn't a lot fancy about the Boston Bruins, and that's just how they like it.
Boston's work ethic was evident as early as the series opener, when the Bruins lost 1-0 in the last minute of regulation play and continued through an overtime defeat in Game 2.
But when the series shifted to Boston, the Bruins turned it up a notch, and frustrated the Canucks en route to 8-1 and 4-0 routs.
"We don't have the most skilled team in the world," agitator Brad Marchand said Thursday as the teams returned to Vancouver tied 2-2 in the best-of-seven final.
"We know that so we just want to keep it simple and work hard."
Marchand clinched the wins in Boston by scoring the third goal of each game, both on backhand shots after Canuck turnovers.
"We're from a blue-collar town and we've got a lot of blue-collar players on our team," Marchand said. "We just like to work hard."
This is a group that passes around a vintage team jacket — something a beer league hockey player might wear all week to his construction job — to the club’s MVP after games.
"It seems to please everybody in that area, including ourselves, the way we have to go out there and play every night," coach Claude Julien said of the blue-collar label.
"We take pride in it."
Centre Patrice Bergeron, who has assists in the last three games among his 18 playoff points, said the Bruins have also shown skill this post-season but relish a grinding game.
"That's us, that’s the way we play," Bergeron said.
"But that doesn't mean we don't have talent, because we're here. We have to make sure we rely on both things but we need to work so we can win some games."
They're tied 2-2 against a team that had the best regular-season record in the NHL, led the league in scoring, preventing goals, had the top power play and was third on the penalty kill.
This after losing the first two games on the road, something only two of 34 teams have been able to overcome in a Stanley Cup final.
Horton is gone for the series after suffering a concussion in a Game 3 hit delivered by Canuck defenceman Aaron Rome, who received a four-game suspension.
All this could be demoralizing but the Bruins rolled up their sleeves and went to work, laying on jackhammer hits in a series that has even seen goalie Tim Thomas thump a Canuck or two.
Rich Peverley, obtained in a trade from Atlanta, was slotted into the top line and scored twice on Wednesday. Horton awarded him the coveted jacket.
"I don’t think it gets much more blue-collar than me," said veteran Shawn Thornton, a Cup winner with Anaheim in 2007, who brought energy to the fourth line when the series shifted to Boston. "I worked in factories and stuff growing up.
"I take pride in that (blue-collar) statement. It’s a compliment as far as I’m concerned.
"There’s a combination of things that had to happen for us to even it back up. Work ethic’s probably one of them. (Vancouver) worked hard and played well too. It’s just us getting some goals and they didn't."
While the Bruins got contributions from role players, Vancouver’s stars have struggled.
Daniel Sedin, the league scoring champion and Hart trophy candidate, has only a goal and an assist. Twin brother Henrik didn’t get his first shot on net until Game 4.
Ryan Kesler, tabbed as a Conn Smythe playoff MVP candidate after leading the Canucks past Nashville in the second round, has no points against Boston, while netminder Roberto Luongo's goals-against average ballooned in the lopsided losses.
One of the reasons the Canucks haven’t been scoring is Thomas, a goalie who toiled for years in three minor leagues and in Europe but has worked to become a Vezina trophy finalist.
His so-called "battlefly" aggressive style has earned him frequent mentions in Conn Smythe conversations.
Thomas made 38 saves for his shutout and 40 in Monday’s rout. He has stopped all but five of 146 shots this series and seems to thrive on the workload.
"I don’t think it matters," Thomas, who turns 38 on Wednesday’s scheduled Game 7, said when asked if he plays better when facing more rubber.
"I don’t approach any game hoping for more shots than other games. I just try to take the game as it develops."
Bergeron said the Bruins have to forget the first four games of the series when the puck drops on Friday.
“You can’t get too high, you can’t get too low,” Bergeron said. “We’ve done a good job of that, especially now in the final it’s even more important.
“We’re feeling confident but not too confident. We need to worry about the next game. The first four are over.
“We’re at Square One pretty much.”
NOTES: Thomas has compiled a goals-against average of 1.26 in the first four games of the series ... his 4-0 shutout on Wednesday tied a club record for a single post-season ... the Bruins are 10-1 in the playoffs when scoring the first goal.