June 05 2011 11:57AM
Burrows outfoxes both Tim Thomas and Zdeno Chara to score the second fastest OT winner in NHL playoff history.
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
It's hard to imagine a Stanley Cup Finals game with more plot lines than Saturday's game two between the Bruins and the Canucks. Between Manny's return to action, the Bruins PP finally finding the twine, and Alex Burrows' epic heel turn, there was also a wildly entertaining game of hockey played. History, and the fans of both teams, will only remember how the game ended - but that obscures the fact that through 45 minutes of play - the Boston Bruins were taking it to the Canucks, and comfortably carrying the play.
The Krejci line looked very good through two periods (before wilting in the third), Bergeron's line played up to their usual form, and essentially smothered the Sedins through forty minutes. When the game turned, however, Boston seemed to be totally unable to clear their own zone and that eventually cost them on Daniel Sedin's tying goal.
In a series that – through two games – has a low aggregate score of 4-2, the big difference between the two teams has been the third line. In game one, Claude Julien counted on Kelly's line to play some difficult minutes – and the Bruins third-line had 5 defensive-zone starts at even-strength. They got totally creamed. In this game Julien adjusted and gave Kelly's line only a single defensive-zone start, but the Bruins third-liners performed even worse.
The Canucks third-line on the other hand, has been spectacular. Through 45 minutes they were the only line winning their match-up, and they weren't just winning it slightly – they were decisively creaming Kelly and his line-mates. Moore and co. victimized the Kelly line in similar fashion, so I'm not sure what Julien can do to stem the bleeding (short of further sheltering their already protected minutes). I'll be curious to see what he tries in game three.
A quick note on Julien - I know Boston sports radio callers are asking for his head today, but he's done a great job. The Bruins game-plan on the PK stands out especially, it has been the most creative the Canucks have faced so far this post-season; and they've gone up against Coach Q, Trotz and Mclellan - all head-coaches who I think are pretty damn good at what they do. Though the results haven't been there for the Bruins, I'd blame that more on their overall lack of offensive talent and their lack of defensive-speed, not on the coach. Julien's coaching job has been inscrutable for the most part.
Tim Thomas was his usual spectacular self though he looked comically terrible on Burrows OT game-winner. Joe Yerdon of Pro-Hockey-talk in his “five thoughts” post, points out that, “One thing the Canucks did right last night was get under Tim Thomas' skin.” Yerdon points to Thomas' complaining about Henrik Sedin bumping him, but I personally threw a twitter fit when Thomas cross-checked Mason Raymond late in the third period. My issue was that Raymond – obviously – wasn't even crashing the crease, he was skating through the slot when he took a Thomas two hand on the wrist... Anyways, I can understand Thomas' frustration, the Canucks are making a game-plan of running the guy, and as Yerdon points out, if Thomas starts, “looking to get his own shots in on opponents to avenge previous misgivings” then the Canucks game-plan has been successful. Last night it was.
Three Big Stats:
1. 24:53 – Edler's team-leading TOI. Alex Edler returned to form in a big way last night, which was hugely important. With Dan Hamhuis out of the lineup, Edler stepped up in a big way. He also led the team in short-handed ice-time, skated to a +2, had two assists, 3 shots on goal and blocked 3 shots as well. His +10 Fenwick number was the highest on the team, and he was doing a great job getting his shots past the first defender from the point. When Alex Edler plays like he did last night, he's a top-10 NHL defenseman, and that makes the Canucks a very difficult team to beat.
2. 4 Defensive-zone starts, 0 offensive-zone starts - Manny Malhotra's EV zone starts last night. Manny's return provided the Canucks with more than just an emotional boost, he was immediately a strategic asset. He started defensive zone shifts with both Kesler and Lapierre, providing some extra “face-off” insurance, he played 7 minutes, he also blocked a shot and recorded a takeaway. He allowed Henrik to start zero shifts in the defensive-zone at EV strenght. It was a gutsy performance from a guy who almost lost his eye only 15 weeks ago.
3. .969 – Luongo's save percentage through two games in the Stanley Cup Finals. I'm really glad these last two games weren't “big games,” because we all know Luongo can't win “big-games.”
Three Big Moments:
1. Obviously Burrows' OT winner was the games biggest moment, it was also the games second most hilarious moment.
Let's describe what happened: an errant Ference pass got picked off by Edler, fell to Sedin who neatly fed Burrows. Burrows had a step on Chara, faked a shot on Thomas drawing the keeper out into no-mans land. From there the biter went for the wrap-around, banking a pass to himself off the end-boards and tucking it oh so gently into the abandoned Boston net. Burrows deserves credit for moving his feet, and staying persistent, but this goal was a comedy of errors for the Bruins. Ference, Marchand, Chara and Tim Thomas are going to hate seeing the tape of this goal. Ference had the ill-advised pass, Marchand stopped back-checking entirely, Thomas got embarrassed, and Chara should've creamed Burrows and taken the minor penalty. It was a lethargic, unaware play by the big Slovakian stalwart. If we consider the identity of the puck-carrier – no one would've begrudged Chara a filthy hook or even a pile-driver to prevent an easy goal – but Chara allowed himself to be beaten cleanly. The Bruins have now lost both games this series in extremely frustrating fashion, so I almost feel guilty about my glee. Almost. But not quite.
2. Lets go with Daniel Sedin's tying marker for the games second big moment.
Burrows starts the play with a check on “elite power-forward” Milan Lucic, separating the big left-winger from the puck. He then gets in position in the high-slot while Henrik feeds Edler. Edler gets a shot past the first defender (something he was very effective at doing all evening) but it's blocked, and falls to Burrows who smartly dishes the puck to Daniel for what was basically an empty-net goal. Tim Thomas had over-committed to the Edler shot, and was in no position to make the save.
3. Lapierre with the taunt of the year on Patrice Bergeron.
Game 3 goes Monday night in Boston. I eagerly anticipate the chorus of boos that will rain down on Burrows head.