"Aww RAFFI! Come here and get a hug, ya big teddy bear, you!"
"Zdeno, you go to the corner for a timeout."
(Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
Game Day Recon: Stanley Cup Final Game 2 – Bruins @ Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks left it to dying seconds of Game 1 before potting the game-winning goal. The only goal, in fact. In Game 2, I’m sure both the Canucks and Bruins will be doing every thing they can to get more than 1 goal to win the game.
And it all starts with both teams’ dreadful power play.
Game Time: 5:00 PM PT
The Canucks and the Bruins were both pretty dismal on their power play. Sure, they both got some shots through (Boston has 12 shots, Canucks with 7), but at no time did either team look menacing during their respective man-advantages. Granted, the Canucks power play HAS been great, so they had an off night. It happens. But the Bruins power play looks comical right now and has ever since they acquired Kaberle (supposedly a powerplay specialist). Putting Zdeno Chara (he of the 105 mph slapshot) in front of Luongo to act as a Byfuglien-esque screen was a quirky little experiment, but has proved to be a failure. Chara just doesn’t have the skillset to know what to do properly in front of the net. And, the Stanley Cup Final is really NOT the time to start experimenting.
So while the Bruins try to figure out their struggling power play, the Canucks will look to carry the play at even strength. Coming into Game 1, the big question about the Canucks was "Can they contain the Bruins at 5-on-5, the league’s best team at even strength?". Well the Canucks answered that loud and clear on Wednesday. The Canucks had more shots at ES (26-22) and WAY more scoring chances (18-4). The only thing that kept the game from being one-sided on the scoreboard was the stellar play of Tim Thomas, who absolutely stood on his head. Now the issue for the Bruins is how will Thomas play in Game 2. Thomas has been erratic throughout the playoffs. Only once in these playoffs has Thomas played three games in a row with a GAA under 3.00, and that was against the woeful Flyers who just disintegrated in the second round. So does Thomas play lights-out again? Or does he get stinky again? At this point, it’s really a coin-flip. But if the Canucks can get to Thomas early, this will bode well. In the 5 games this post-season where Thomas has let in 4 goals or more, he’s let in a goal before the 12-minute mark of the first period. In fact, in two of those games, he let in a goal within the first 36 seconds.
Now, on to the interesting notes about the lineup. Dan Hamhuis did not skate today at Canucks practice at UBC. Based on the way that he limped and hobbled off the ice in Game 1, it’s safe to assume that he’s out for Game 2. But there’s no word yet on if he’ll be out longer. As for the defensive pairings at practice Friday, it was Edler-Salo, Rome-Bieksa, Ehrhoff-Alberts, and Ballard-Tanev. So based on that, you would have to think that Alberts would draw in to the lineup in Hamhuis’ place, while Ballard and Tanev remain the black aces. I would have personally gone with Ballard over Alberts, in order to give the Canucks more speed and another offensive threat, but it looks like Alberts will see his first ice time of the Stanley Cup Final. It’s not the worst decision. Bruins forwards are hugely quick and they have a lot of guys that like to muck it up. Alberts can take that abuse better than Ballard and can certainly dish it up when in tight corners. Plus, Alberts used to play for Boston so he may be fired up to get out there and play against his former team. And now… with all that being said… Vigneault stated after practice Friday that folks "should read too much into those defensive pairings.". Well okay then. At this point, if Vigneault slots in Jyrki Lumme or Lars Lindgren on the blueline, instead of Ballard, I would fully expect that.
Then there’s the Manny saga. Malhotra did not skate the last three days, and it looked like he had suffered a setback in his recovery. The Canucks said he had another procedure, which was planned for Thursday. So it looked like the possibility of Malhotra coming back and playing in the Final was all but gone. But lo and behold, Malhotra was in full gear Friday, taking full rushes on the fourth line with Oreskovich and Tambellini. So colour me thoroughly confused. While I assumed that Manny was done, and that his eye just wasn’t going to allow him to play, there he is skating Friday with his supposed line mates on the 4th line. If you were to see my face right now, it would look as I had just watched an episode of Twin Peaks with the little dude in the red suit and the funny legs dancing around.
The Three Keys
Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:
1. Get more traffic in front of Thomas. While the Canucks were great at even-strength, the Canucks need to create more choas and havoc in front of Thomas, especially since he INSISTS on playing so far out of his net. Get more pucks traveling across the crease, in close. Move everything in 10-15 feet.
2. Stop coddling the puck at the point. The Canucks D are getting shots… but they’re getting blocked. Why? Because they are taking WAY to long to shoot the puck. There were NO one-time shots on the power play, or at all for that matter. The Canucks blueliners, especially Salo, have to have a MUCh quicker trigger. Get it and shoot. Quit trying to set it up on a platter.
3. Start Game 2 the same way you start Game 1. The Canucks came out flying in Game 1, setting the tone early until the parade to the penalty box started. So if the Canucks can just keep their sticks down and off Bruins’ faces, and come out skating, forechecking and hitting, they’ll again set the tone in their favour early.
Here are your top 5 links for today’s game:
1. Tale of the Tape: Bruins @ Canucks (Canucks.com)
2. Alberts ‘gets shivers’ at prospect of playing Game 2 (The Province)
3. Alex Burrows Canucks’ fearless foil to Sedins, for opponents (Vancouver Sun)
4. Canucks, Bruins try to continue strong 2-way play (CBC Sports)
5. No fine or suspension for Alex Burrows for biting Patrice Bergeron (Stanley Cup of Chowder) << SEE WHAT THE ENEMYA HAS TO SAY!