"Hey, Juice! I just scored the tying goal with less than 14 seconds to go!"
"Pssht. Whatevs. I’m gonna send us to the Stanley Cup Final in about 30 minutes."
(Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
Game Day Recon: Stanley Cup Final Game 1 – Bruins @ Canucks
It is June 1st. And it’s a Vancouver Canucks game day.
That is effin’ spectacular.
The Canucks and the Bruins square off tonight for the opening game of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. The city of Vancouver, the province of BC and fans around the world are already on the edge of their collective seat.
Game Time: 5:00 PM PT
The Vancouver Canucks begin their third quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup tonight, and the city, province and army of Canucks fans certainly are hoping and thinking that the third time will be the charm.
But it will not be easy.
The Bruins are a well coached, structured team that roll 4 effective lines, with a Norris candidate on defensive and a Vezina nominee in net. The Bruins are the Nashville Predators but better. Because they can score. Sure, they have benefitted from playing against the Tampa defense and the Philly goaltending, but really good teams take advantage of those opportunties. And the Canucks could certainly learn that lesson from their opponent. While the Canucks haven’t necessarily had problems scoring during these playoffs, they will certainly need the extra tips to score against a goalie of Tim Thomas’s calibre. But the thing about Tim Thomas is… he isn’t exactly consistent. In order, here is the goal count that Thomas gave up against Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Final series: 5, 5, 0, 5, 1, 5, 1. 22 GA in 4W and 3L. Wow. In the Bruins 3 losses in that series, Thomas allowed 15 total goals. In the final three wins, he allowed only 2 goals. Just to compare that to Luongo, here is the goal count that Luongo gave up in his last 7 games: 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 2, 2. 18 GA in 5W and 2L. Yes, when Luongo let in 4 goals, the Canucks lost both games, but his play has been far more consistent. And it also shows that the Canucks CAN win when Luongo lets in a couple of goals. Whereas with Boston, if Thomas lets in a couple of goals, the Bruins might be in trouble.
So how do the Canucks get their offense rolling against Thomas? There is no doubt that the Sedins will go up against Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg as often as possible. So tonight’s game and possibly the series could fall on Kesler’s shoulders. If the Bruins are like the Predators (like I posited earlier) can Kesler do to the Bruins what he did to the Preds? With his 11 points in 6 games, the Canucks really hope he can. While I think that the Sedins will have some opportunities out there, the secondary scoring becomes critical for the Canucks. Higgins, Burrows, Raymond and the third line need to all chip in offensively to take the focus off the Sedins.
The Bruins have not had a problem with secondary scoring this post-season. That said, the Bruins have not faced a defense that’s even remotely as deep as the Canucks, nor have they faced a goalie playing at the top of his game with some consistency. I would argue that the Bruins scoring touch through their top lines has not necessaily been because they are simply THAT good. I believe it has more to do with the fact that the Bruins defensive opposition hasn’t been that great and the opposing goaltending has been inconsistent at best, but leaning towards positively dreadful. All that being said, the Canucks defense faces four rolling lines who have proven that they can contribute. The biggest challenge for the Canucks blueline will obviously be the top line of Krejci, Horton and Lucic. The Canucks need to focus on Krejci, who is arguably the most purely talented forward the Bruins have and has been the catalyst to much of the Bruins offense this post season. Plus, he is definitely the most level-headed member of that top line, with only 8 PIMs while Lucic and Horton have combined for 78 PIMs. The Canucks D MUST play the Bruins forwards physically, if for no other reason than to goad them into taking penalties.
One thing that will have to wait for at least one more game is the miraculous comeback of Manny Malhotra. Malhotra did not skate yesterday as he was getting checked by doctors, nor did he skate today. So Manny won’t suit up for Game 1, despite chomping at the bit to do so. So the fourth line for the Canucks looks to be Bolduc centering Tambellini and Oreskovich, which gives you a quick line that hits… just what the Canucks need. Although, as I’m sure everyone feels, having Manny in the lineup would sure be a MASSIVE boost. But they’ve won 12 games without Manny and they can surely win again.
The Three Keys
Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:
1. Skate, skate, skate. Cycle, cycle, cycle. The Canucks have to use their speed against a slower Bruins team, especially against the Bruins bottom 3 defensemen. If the Canucks can get their cycle working and the Bruins start chasing, the Canucks will draw penalties.
2. Get Thomas moving around. Sure, he seems to pull ridiculous saves out of thin air. That’s his manic style. The Canucks need to have Thomas looking side-to-side, because of his style, Thomas can get himself out of position quickly. This should not be hard to do, but the Canucks HAVE to bury those chances when Timmy gets caught out.
3. Get it going early. The Canucks came out flying in Game 1’s against Chicago, Nashville and San Jose. And it worked to their advantage. The Canucks have to have the mentality tonight of "They won’t know what hit them!". The Canucks need to come out hitting, forechecking and getting the defense pinching to press the offense as much as possible.
Here are your top 5 links for today’s game:
1. Tale of the Tape: Bruins @ Canucks (Canucks.com)
2. Aw-shucks Sedins had one another through it all (The Province)
3. Canucks a Manny down after Malhotra ‘setback’ (Vancouver Sun)
4. Stanley Cup Final: 4 Burning Questions (CBC Sports)
5. NHL Stanley Cup Finals Preview: Bruins vs. Canucks (Stanley Cup Of Chowder) << SEE WHAT THE ENEMY HAS TO SAY