- Associated Press - Saturday, June 11, 2011

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA (AP) - The good news for the Bruins is they are headed back to Boston, where they waxed the Canucks by a 12-1 score the last to games, to save their season in Game 6.

The bad news is they would still have to come back to Vancouver for Game 7.

The hosts have won the first five games of this Stanley Cup finals after the Canucks’ 1-0 victory on Friday night. That won’t be an easy trend to interrupt, even if Vancouver won all three of its games on goals scored after the second intermission.

“I don’t know how to explain it, especially in a series where you don’t have home-ice advantage,” Bruins forward Milan Lucic said. “You’ve got to find a way to win at least one game on the road if you want to come out on top, and for some reason we haven’t been able to.”

It’s hardly a new trend. The host has now won the first five games of the last three Cup finals.

The Canucks are hoping to repeat what Chicago did last season, clinching the Cup by winning Game 6 on the road in Philadelphia. Boston is hoping to follow the path of Pittsburgh, which won Game 6 at home and Game 7 in Detroit back in 2009.

“It seems like so far the home crowds have helped the teams,” Boston goalie Tim Thomas said. “It’s not always the case, but going home for Game 6, we hope it’s the case one more time. We’ll worry about the road crowd after that.”

In the 20 years prior, the home team only won the first four games once _ in 2003 between Anaheim and New Jersey _ but the hosts are 16-2 over the last three years. Rarely have the wins been as dominant as Boston’s first two victories by a combined 12-1 _ a trend the Canucks hope to reverse.

Since the Stanley Cup finals became a best-of-seven series in 1939, the home team has only won all seven games three times: in 1955, 1965 and 2003.

“We’re going to take (Saturday) to travel to Boston, relax tomorrow, have a good practice the next day,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “And then we’re going to focus on the process, focus on what we need to do to put our best game on the ice.”


TANEV’S TURN: Canucks defenseman Chris Tanev is barely old enough to smoke, so he won’t be taking Kevin Bieksa up on a postgame dare after an impressive Stanley Cup finals debut.

Two years after Tanev was playing tier-2 junior for the Markham Waxers in his native Ontario, the 21-year-old rookie not only played in the Stanley Cup finals, but looked totally unfazed by the spotlight.

“He could have played with a cigarette in his mouth,” Bieksa said of Tanev, who was calm and collected in 12:15 of ice time. “Everyone saw the way he played _ very cool, very consistent with the puck.”

Tanev made his finals debut in Game 5 against the Boston Bruins on Friday night, replacing Keith Ballard after the $4.2 million veteran struggled in his own Cup finals debut in Game 4.

“Definitely the best moment in my hockey career,” Tanev said. “I still can’t really figure out some words to say, just tried to enjoy it.”

It’s hard to picture Tanev at a loss for anything after handling a Bruins forecheck that dominated the prior two games while beating the Canucks 12-1 in Games 3 and 4. But in addition to moving the puck smoothly out of his own end without any giveaways, Tanev also made a brilliant fake to set up Tanner Glass for what should have been a goal on an unguarded net in the second period, only to watch Glass fan on the 15-foot shot.

It didn’t matter after Maxim Lapierre scored the game’s only goal 4:35 into the third, adding a positive ending to the high point of Tanev’s winding career path. Most notably, he quit competitive minor hockey five years ago because he was too small.

“People see a little 5-foot kid out there and they cross him off the list, they’re not going to take him seriously,” said Tanev, who at 16 was cut from seven midget teams around Toronto before turning to inline hockey. “In hockey, size makes a big difference, but then I grew and started to get stronger.”

Tanev grew a foot in one year, earning a spot on a lower-level junior team and a college scholarship at the Rochester Institute of Technology last year. After one season _ and 10 goals and 28 points in 41 games _ there was an NHL bidding war for the undrafted free agent. He signed with the Canucks in late May 2010, was called up amid a run of injuries last January and played 29 games.

Tanev made his NHL playoff debut in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals against San Jose after injuries to Christian Ehrhoff and Aaron Rome, playing almost 21 minutes in a double-overtime series-clinching Game 5 win over the Sharks.

Now 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, Tanev is in the finals after an injury to Dan Hamhuis in Game 1, a season-ending suspension to Rome for a late hit that knocked out Nathan Horton in Game 2, and Ballard’s struggles in Game 4.

For Tanev, who grew up playing with young stars Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning and P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens before his lack of size caught up with him, it’s his biggest stage since the NCAA Frozen Four.

“A very big deal in college,” he said. “But this is 10 times bigger.”


SEEING STANLEY: In an era when athletes rarely step out of in-the-moment, one-game-at-a-time cliches, it was refreshing to hear Boston goalie Tim Thomas admit he envisions himself hoisting the Stanley Cup, however briefly.

“I think it’s important to visualize winning the Cup, that’s what helps you to get there,” Thomas said before Game 5, adding it’s something he’s always done. “It’s important to keep the same sort of visualization but not to take it any further, because things can change quick. The Stanley Cup is the big picture, but you’ve got to break it down and look at the little pictures all the time.”

Thomas is Boston’s frontrunner for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP with a .936 save percentage while allowing just five goals in the first four games of the finals. He thinks being 37 years old helps him stay focused.

“Just because of all the experience I’ve accumulated in my career,” Thomas said. “I’m actually young enough to feel good physically, but mentally I’m more mature.”


INSTANT ANIMOSITY: For two teams that faced each other less than once a season coming into this series, it didn’t take long for the hatred to build.

It started with Alex Burrows biting Patrice Bergeron’s finger in Game 1, continued with several scraps in Game 2, and got worse after Aaron Rome knocked top-line Bruins winger Nathan Horton cold with a late hit in Game 3, leading to penalty-plagued finishes to both games in Boston.

Asked what he thought about the Boston media labeling certain Canucks as villains and the Vancouver press responding in kind, Bruins forward Daniel Paille said it was just a natural extension of the intensity and animosity on the ice.

“From watching years in the past, I don’t know if there has been so much hatred on either side,” Paille said a few hours before Game 5. “It’s been that type of series where everyone is sort of getting away with things, and it’s been kind of interesting to watch.”


NOTES: Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said D Dan Hamhius, out since sustaining an undisclosed injury in Game 1 while throwing a low hit on Milan Lucic, would travel to Boston for Game 6 on Monday. But Vigneault would only say Hamhuis is day to day. … Boston is 10-1 in the playoffs when scoring first, while the Canucks are 10-2. The first four games of the Cup finals went to the team that found the back of the net first. Both teams are 8-1 when leading after 40 minutes. … Thomas entered Game 5 just 60 saves behind Kirk McLean for the NHL’s single-season playoff record of 761, set in 1994 while leading the Canucks to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals before losing to the New York Rangers.

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