|05.28.11 at 6:00 pm ET|
Canucks center Manny Malhotra, who has been out since March 16 with a serious eye injury, has been cleared to play, coach Alain Vigneault said Saturday. Vigneault said Malhotra is “basically on a day-to-day basis” and wouldn’t confirm his status for Game 1 Wednesday night.
Malhotra, who served as the Canucks’ third-line center and had 30 points in 72 games this season, has undergone several surgeries since being hit in the left eye with a deflected pass in a game against the Avalanche. There were concerns about his vision and on March 21, the Canucks announced that he was done for the season. His recovery has gone better than expected, though. He started skating with the team on May 12 and he was cleared for contact on Friday.
“It’s a very exciting prospect for me at this point,” Malhotra said Saturday. “Coming from where I was two months ago, making the statement the season was over, to potentially having a possibility to play in the NHL Stanley Cup final is incredibility exciting for me.”
Beyond giving the Canucks some offensive depth, Malhotra’s return would also give them their best faceoff man. He ranked second in the NHL this season with a 61.7-percent success rate on draws.
|05.28.11 at 5:35 pm ET|
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli did a pretty honest job Saturday in breaking down how he feels his team matches up with the semi-heavy-favorite Canucks in the Stanley Cup finals, which are set to begin Wednesday in Vancouver.
Chiarelli liked the way the Bruins stuck to their game plan for 60 minutes against the Lightning in Game 7, using disciplined defensive play and a strong forecheck to chip away at the Lightning in what became a 1-0 win after Nathan Horton beat the Tampa defense to tap in a pass from David Krejci with 7:33 remaining. It’s the type of game that the B’s brought Friday that makes him like his team’s chances with Vancouver.
“I think we match up size-wise, like you saw in the game last night,” Chiarelli said. “As the game went on — and I could feel this too — as the game went on, you got the sense that you were going to wear them down and something good was going to happen if you just kept kind of them same process, the same system, the same approach. Pucks deep, get behind the D. And I think the same can apply to these guys. Without giving away completely our game plan, that’s how I see us matching up.”
There is no shortage of star power on the Canucks, as Vancouver’s roster boasts the likes of Henrik Sedin, who leads all playoff skaters with 21 points and 19 assists, and identical twin brother Daniel Sedin, whose 104 regular season points led the NHL. Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler each had 41 goals in the regular season, whereas the Bruins’ only 30-goal scorer was Milan Lucic.
“Obviously they’ve got the Sedins,” Chiarelli said. “And they’ve played a lot below the goal line, and I think we match up well in that sense because we’re strong defensively. We’ve got some big bodies on defense. And we cover well below the goal line. Now they’re magical sometimes those guys so they’re always dangerous.”
“Their D is strong, I don’t know who they’re getting back. I know [Christian] Ehrhoff has been hurt. And the last pair was, I think it was [Christopher] Tanev and [Keith] Ballard, their five-six pair. But historically throughout the year, their D has been the strength of their team. From the puck-moving perspective, you’ve got the [Alexander] Edlers, the [Kevin] Bieksas, the [Sami] Salos. They can all move the puck and shoot a puck. And of course Ryan Kesler has had a terrific playoffs. He is a similar player to Patrice [Bergeron]. So there’s a lot of similarities. Obviously you’ve got the goalies. There’s a lot of similarities.”
One area in which Chiarelli feels Vancouver has an edge (duh) is special teams. The Bruins have just five power play goals this postseason, while the Canucks were able to knock that out over Games 2 and 3 vs. the Sharks. Vancouver has 16 power play goals this postseason.
“Obviously their special teams are better,” Chiarelli said. “Their power play is better and they throw it around pretty good.
Wednesday’s Game 1 will not be the first meeting between the two teams this season, as the B’s defeated the Canucks, 3-1, on Feb. 26 in Vancouver. For the Bruins, it was the team’s fourth victory in a seven-game win streak, while the Canucks had taken turns winning and losing their eight previous games (4-4-0) entering the contest.
“That game was one of the best games I’ve seen, the game that we played against them, one of the best games that we’ve played throughout the year,” Chiarelli said. “For them, I think they were in a bit of a funk. I had seen them the game before up there and it’s all relative. Their funk is a top twenty-five percent team, top quartile team.”
|05.28.11 at 4:57 pm ET|
The start of the Stanley Cup finals is still four days away, but it’s never too early to start studying up on the Bruins’ opponent. The Canucks finished the regular season with the best record in the NHL (54-19-9), the best offense (3.15 goals per game), the best defense (2.20 goals against per game) and the best power play (24.4 percent).
They nearly blew a 3-0 series lead to the Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs, but they bounced back to win Game 7 in overtime to avoid suffering the same disastrous fate that befell the Bruins last year. From there, the Canucks won a tight-checking series against the Predators in six games, only one of which was decided by more than a goal.
They then punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup finals by knocking off the Sharks in five games. The Canucks were badly outshot in each of the last two games — 35-13 in Game 4 and 56-34 in Game 5 — but they managed to come away with a pair of wins thanks to some great goaltending, an opportunistic offense and a lucky bounce in double overtime of the final game.
Here are five more things you should know about the Canucks, along with what the Bruins can do to counter them. Read the rest of this entry »
|05.28.11 at 4:11 pm ET|
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli addressed the media Saturday at TD Garden, reflecting on his team’s Eastern Conference finals victory and discussing the upcoming Stanley Cup finals vs. the Canucks.
On the subject of Nathan Horton, who scored the game-winning goal in the team’s 1-0 Game 7 victory, Chiarelli noted that Horton was disciplined by the league for squirting Tampa fans and then throwing a water bottle into the crowd following Game 6.
“You know that’s an unfortunate incident. I didn’t really focus on it and I didn’t talk to Nathan about it,” Chiarelli said. “He has been fined, so that issue has been resolved.”
While Chiarelli did not reveal how much Horton had to fork over, a source told WEEI.com Saturday that the fine was for $2500, which is the same amount defenseman Andrew Ference paid after giving the middle finger to Montreal fans in Game 4 of the quarterfinals. There was no hearing with the league prior to the disciplinary action, suggesting the winger was not in any danger of being suspended, as Rangers coach John Tortorella was for hitting a fan with a bottle in 2009.
|05.28.11 at 12:42 pm ET|
Boston Pizza is a popular pizza chain in Canada, but for the duration of the Stanley Cup finals, the 62 restaurants in the province of British Columbia will change its name to Vancouver Pizza to support the Canucks. As part of the name change, the restaurants will use new logos that include a slash through the name Boston with Vancouver written underneath and the phrase “Proud fans.” (You can see the change on the chain’s web site.)
Back in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, Boston Pizzas in Montreal also changed their logos to say “Montreal Pizza.”
EDIT: The original post said there are no Boston Pizzas in the United States. There are, in fact, several locations, including one in Manchester, Conn. but all are under the name “Boston’s” instead.
|05.28.11 at 2:38 am ET|
Much was made of Lightning coach Guy Boucher‘s mind games, as they seemed, in the Eastern Conference finals. The Tampa coach, who does have a degree in psychology, displayed various tactics to seemingly mess with the Bruins’ heads, from discussing imaginary Tim Thomas quotes to saying before each of the first two games that Patrice Bergeron would play, to overemphasizing Tyler Seguin‘s impact, to cleverly calling out a referee without using his name. During the series, Bruins coach Claude Julien would have subtle and not-so-subtle responses to Boucher’s methods, noting that Boucher was hyping the Bruins more than he was his own team, and after Game 6, Julien said he feared the pre-game referee talk could have influenced the game.
With the series in the books, Boucher had one last press conference, and it turns out that if he used a trick at all, it was a case of killing Julien with kindness. When asked how he felt the Bruins might fare against the Canucks in the Stanley Cup finals, Boucher was sincere with his answer and made a point of it to express his respect for Julien.
“Both teams that make it there, to me, they are on even grounds, but one thing for sure, [the Bruins] are very well coached,” Boucher said. “You know Claude, I coached against him in Juniors, he’s always done a very good job. I was always very happy for his success in the past, obviously not tonight, but as he moves on, if there’s somebody that is going to beat us, that’s one guy I hope gets success.”
|05.28.11 at 2:34 am ET|
Because he’s still only 25, it can be easy to overlook the fact that Patrice Bergeron is the longest-tenured Bruin. Bergeron, who was just 18 in his rookie season of 2003-04, is in his seventh season with the club — eighth if you count the lockout year he spent with the Providence Bruins.
As a result, Bergeron knows the ups and downs that the Bruins and their fans have gone through — starting with blowing a 3-1 series lead to the Canadiens in 2004 — better than anyone else on the team. After earning a berth in the Stanley Cup finals Friday night, Bergeron said it felt great to finally be able to reward those fans like this.
“It’s unbelievable. It’s a great feeling, just to have the chance to share that with the city,” Bergeron said. “I call Boston my second home now. I love it here. That’s why I got my extension [before this season]. The feeling is amazing. I’ve been here for the highs and lows. Just to have a chance to do that here and share that, we could feel that the whole city was behind us all along.”
Bergeron had his own highs and lows to deal with in the Eastern Conference finals, as he missed the first two games with a mild concussion suffered in Game 4 of the second round. He had perhaps his best game of this series in Game 4, as he registered a pair of goals in a losing effort. Then in Game 5, he assisted on Brad Marchand‘s goal that proved to be the game-winner. And of course, he was his usual stellar self on faceoffs, winning 58.1 percent of his draws in the series.
Marchand called Bergeron’s return to the lineup the “turning point” of the series, but Bergeron was quick to deflect any and all credit to his teammates.
“I don’t know. I just want to go out there and play my game,” Bergeron said when asked about Marchand’s comments. “Obviously I’m not gonna be the one standing here and saying yes. As soon as I got back on the ice, I felt good. I was just trying to help the team as much as I could night in, night out. We got the job done as a team. It’s not about one person. That’s why we’re here. It’s about everyone.”