Written by: Larry “The Nucks IceMan” Johnson
As HNIC’s Don Cherry said, it was a poorly played game and as he went on to say, poorly officiated also. His last comment that he wished the refs would just let them play, probably echoed the sentiment of the millions of hockey fans watching game one of the Stanley Cup finals.
Eight minutes of penalties to the Canucks in the first 11 minutes of the game started a total of six penalty kills for each team. At least the referees evened it out by the end of the second period, when they realized that it was a scoreless game and they put the whistles away. Last thing the NHL needs is the referees deciding the outcome of a game.
As for the hockey itself, it’s pretty hard to instill any flow into the game, roll all the lines, get everyone involved, with 12 penalties being called. That’s why the third period was the best of the lot. Even with the Bruins playing a similar style of game as Nashville, the Canucks had more jump and came at Boston in rushes, only to be turned back by Tim Thomas.
Thomas was only 19 seconds away from heading into over-time when Raffi Torres, on some fine passing from Ryan Kesler to Jannik Hansen, tipped in the winning goal. The third line combination of Torres, Hansen and Maxim Lapierre led the charge all night, and finished with 10 Hits, 10 Shots and each of them was a -/plus one.
I must admit I was wrong about Hansen, because I never thought he would be effective enough in the grit department to stay with the team. He bounced around all the lines and for a long time was a marginal fourth line player. Not gifted with good hands also seemed to make him dispensable, but in these play-offs he has not had a finer night than maybe game one against Chicago.
His speed down the right side had the Bruins back-tracking, when they weren’t gasping for air as Hansen blew by them. Only Thomas’ great five-hole save kept Hansen from registering the possible winning goal.
Lapierre was a real force and led the line with six shots but struggled in the face-off circle at 36%. Who cares? This line has six goals, eight assists and is a plus 14 in the play-offs. That’s pretty good for a third line that has it covered in all areas of the game.
They bring speed, grit, are defensively responsible, and generate scoring chances — pretty much what Canucks management would have wished for in the play-offs.
Roberto Luongo: noticed I haven’t had to rant on about him in these play-offs? That’s because he’s playing a steady game and already has recorded three shut-outs in these play-offs, along with a .927 Sv% and a 2.17 GAA. He’s on a roll with his thirteenth win last night, and just needs three more to be hoisting the Stanley Cup. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
He was a rock last night in the first period as the Canucks ran into early penalty trouble. With 17 shots on goal, that usually will get Luongo into the game quickly. He looked really calm and played effortlessly with his sound positioning.
With Thomas at one end and Luongo at the other, it could be a low scoring series unless the Canucks power-play gets turned around, going O-for last night. Not to worry. With the Canucks 25.8% against Boston’s 7.5% on the power-play, the Canucks would have to stop scoring for the rest of the series and the Bruins start, for those stats to change much.
No official word on Dan Hamhuis and his lower body injury from flipping Milan Lucic over with a hip check. He’s listed as day-to-day, which could mean anything in the play-offs. Even with all the depth on the defense, to me Hamhuis has been the Canucks best D-man and would be missed a lot by Kevin Bieksa.
This really throws a wrench into the pairings as who knows which D-man will play on the left side with Bieksa. If Hamhuis cannot play on Saturday, I would think Keith Ballard would suit up, but with whom?
Does Coach Vigneault break all the pairings up to find someone to play with Bieksa? Last night he had Aaron Rome with Bieksa but he could also use Alex Edler, Christian Ehrhoff or even Keith Ballard.
Would he consider moving Sami Salo and Edler up as the number one shut-down pair, with Bieksa/Rome and Ehrhoff/Ballard joining up? At least Vigneault has some choices, unlike years gone by.
I think he still regards Bieksa as a number one shut-down D-man, and then after that it’s who he feels will complement him the best.
Not very often in the past have the Canucks won play-off games when the Sedins have not been scoring, so with them being shut out last night, it just speaks to the depth the Canucks have.
Footnote: Last night we went downtown after the game and the sights and sounds were just like being back in the Olympics. The masses were jammed body to body for over eight blocks on Granville Street. Talk about salmon swimming upstream.
There were groups of musicians playing, people playing road hockey, dancing, and high-fiving their way through the crowd and, as I overheard someone speaking to the police, were very well behaved.
No suspension was announced today for the finger bite from Alex Burrows on Patrice Bergeron. What’s Bergeron’s finger doing in Burrow’s mouth anyways!
Photo Credits – AP, Getty Images and Yahoo Sports!
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Filed under: Vancouver Canucks