Game Review: SCF Gm 1

Raffi. I know you’re excited and all that cuz you scored the game winning goal.
But you gotta let yer boy Jannik BREATH a little. Lessen your bear hug death grip, yo.
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Game Day Recon: Stanley Cup Final Game 1 – Bruins @ Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks certainly like dramatics. And apparently so does Raffi Torres.

With the final ticks of the play clock inching the game ever closer to overtime, Torres finally slipped one past the goalie. And that honestly isn’t meant as any sort of euphamism.

Game 1 was definitely an eventful game, despite the miniscule score line. There were injuries, there were indiscretions, there were big saves, and there were plenty of power plays. Despite the late game heroics of Torres, most folks (especially media) are focused on Alex Burrows’ chomp on Patrice Bergeron during a tete-a-tete after the end of the first period. I don’t feel like dwelling on it, since there was a hockey game that was played, and the Canucks won and stuff like that and y’know, whatever, so I’ll leave it with this. Burrows should probably be suspended 1 game for biting Bergeron’s finger, but he probably won’t be.


Unfortunately for the Canucks, with the good comes the bad. Dan Hamhuis hobbled off the ice and didn’t return to the game after delivering a spectacular hip check to Milan Lucic. This forced the Canucks to play the remainder of the game with only 5 defensemen, which they did with aplomb. Hamhuis only played 11 shifts so the Canucks D was taxed for the majority of the game. And no one did more with the extra ice time that Christian Ehrhoff. Ehrhoff was dominant offensively and defensively, all the more surprising when you consider that he missed the last two games of the series against the Sharks.

The real story of the night for the Canucks last night was the play of the third line. Hansen, Lapierre and Torres once again had a terrific night. Torres scored the winning goal on a beauty pass from Hansen, but the three also combined for 10 hits, 10 shots, and 0 giveaways. As the game went on, the Canucks started to control the play. While the first periods were fairly even, the third period was tilted in the Canucks’ favour and the third line had much to do with that. If not for Tim Thomas’ heroics, the score could have been a lot more one-sided.

That’s not to say that the Bruins didn’t have their chances. They definitely did, especially on the power play. The Bruins went 0-6 with the man advantage, including a lengthy 5-on-3. And stopping them all was Roberto Luongo, full value for his money as he collected his third shutout of the 2011 playoffs, all happening in Game 1’s. Luongo and Thomas were both dynamite, combining for 69 saves on 70 shots. The only shot that went in just happened to be the last shot taken in regulation with only 19 seconds remaining.

Much of the talk coming into this game and this series was on the dominance that the Bruins have shown at even strength, seeing as how the Bruins were winning, yet their special teams were god awful. Last night though, both teams’ power plays were fairly anemic and the penalty killing was terrific. So it did come down to being a battle at even strength, and the Canucks won that battle handily. They had the lion’s share of the chances at even strength and, as mentioned earlier, that allowed them to control the game as it wore on. The Canucks are much like a boa constrictor, slowly starting its coil  and tightening its grip, until the grip gets too tight and you can’t escape. That is their play – they slowly start to control play, forechecking relentlessly and methodically and before you know it, it’s the third period and the Canucks are in full control. If this is their game plan, they sure executed it well last night.

My last comment is for the CBC. To whoever created the intro to yesterday’s game, you deserve a substantial raise. It was genius, it was beautiful, it was mesmorizing, it was emotional. LOVED IT. You can watch it here.

Three Big Stats

Here are my top 3 stats from last night’s game:

1. The balanced CORSI numbers for the Canucks third line. Lapierre +7.2, Torres +6.2, Hansen +8.6. They had a terrific night and the stats show that they were on ice for more offense than defense and, as Martha Stewart would say, that’s a good thing.

2. 18-4. Even strength scoring chances in favour of the Canucks. Yeah, it was pretty lopsided. For all of the talk coming into this series about how dominant the Bruins have been at even strength, this is an extremely encouraging stat, if you’re a Canucks fan.

3. 26:26 TOI. Christian Ehrhoff led the Canucks in ice team, defensive zone starts and finished +13 in balanced CORSI. Ehrhoff played big minutes in the absence of Dan Hamhuis and did ever do the job well! He was the best non-goalie on the ice last night.

Three Big Moments

Here are my top 3 moments from last night’s game:

1. Raffi Torres’ game winning goal with 19 seconds remaining. A huge play by Kesler to stay onside while taking the puck over the blueline, then a laser pass to Jannik Hansen who set up Torres for the tap-in winner past Thomas.

2. The Burrows’ bite on Bergeron’s finger. It was a big moment because everyone is talking about it. And because it was a childish, stupid thing to do.

3. Hamhuis’ hip check on Milan Lucic. First, it was glorious. But second, it knocked Hamhuis out of the game. If Hamhuis is indeed injured long-term, this could be hugely detrimental to the Canucks.