BOSTON -- Ask the Bruins about a successful night and you often get some version of the same answer: "We played our game."
Theirs is a bruising, efficient style. But in the last two games of the Stanley Cup Finals, it's been just as important to take Vancouver out of its own game. And they have.
The Canucks will limp home Friday, the series tied 2-2, after rolling out of the gate with two decisive wins.
How? How has Boston dismantled such an explosive Vancouver offense to create a 12-1 goal differential?
Simple. They've played their game with punishing physicality.
"That was our plan: take time and space away," said Dennis Seidenberg. "That's all it takes for guys to turn the puck over, to not be able to create plays. We tried to keep a tight gap on those guys, play them tough and not let them look for passes or plays. It's a whole team game. We did a good job with it."
That might be an understatement.
Boston set the tone from the start. Vancouver's Ryan Kesler tripped Patrice Bergeron on the opening faceoff. Reset. On the second drop, Kesler tried a cross-check, but Bergeron didn't bite and won the draw back to Tim Thomas. Even the subsequent attempt to train Bergeron at the blueline backfired, as Kesler was the one who hit the ice.
Kesler's failings are huge for the Bruins.
The Canucks center had four assists and a plus-two rating in the first round. In the second, he registered five goals (all on the power play, two game-winners) and six assists (one shorthanded). Three more points were tallied in the third round.
He's since been caged.
Kesler's frustration with one point in four games boiled over Wednesday night. Though struggling with some degree of a groin injury, his ineffectiveness was catalyzed by the Bruins and he snapped.
With over nine minutes left in the period, Boston up 4-0, Kesler slashed Adam McQuaid well after a whistle. It was a pointless act; there was nothing to be gained except a penalty. Kesler went to the box, perspective reduced to spite.
The Bruins, on the other hand, seem to be seeing clearly.
"Kesler might be hurting but I think adrenaline will take over for him," said Daniel Paille. "He's obviously going to respond after these last two games, not just him but their whole team. It's definitely something to focus on, not just Kesler but try to maintain a physical presence on everyone."
Like the Sedin twins.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin were billed as one of Boston's biggest threats. It was no joke. Henrik won the Hart Trophy in 2010 and followed the honor up with 94 points this year. Daniel is a Hart finalist this season with a league-leading 104 points. In the 18 playoff games before meeting the Bruins, Daniel registered 16 points; Henrik, 21.
Things have quieted some.
Henrik's Game 4 shot on goal was his first of the series. Daniel? Zero points in the last two contests. The Bruins have rendered the pair impotent both on their prized power play (Vancouver is 1-for-18 in the finals) and even strength.
During the first period, Henrik tried to bother Thomas by dropping into the blue paint. Zdeno Chara shoved and rolled Sedin violently out of the crease -- twice.
Later, Brad Marchand came off the bench and bumped Henrik before lining up against him for a face-off. Marchand quickly drilled Sedin on the leg. He lost the draw but made his point: Wherever you go, I'll be there. And you're not going to like it.
The Canucks were pestered, taunted and bullied off the puck all night -- exactly as Boston planned.
"Every game we've played so far, one team has been a lot more physical than the other and it just seems those teams come out on top," Marchand said. "They seemed to try to run us out of the rink the first couple games and they did a great job at that, they seemed to build off that emotion. When we're in our home building we feed off our fans and it makes it a little easier to play."
Even Thomas got in on the action.
In the final minutes, Boston's netminder slashed Alex Burrows on the leg. The move sparked a brief scrum and Thomas' helmet flew off in the fray. But it was retribution. The Canucks had been knocking the butt-end of Thomas' stick all the night so when Burrows chopped him for the third time that play, well, enough was enough.
"I thought I'd give him a little love tap and let him know, I know what you're doing, but I'm not going to let you do it forever," Thomas said.
Take away Vancouver's game and they win. Take away time and space and the Canucks will pay physically and on the scoreboard.
That's Boston's game. And when they play that way? They win.