|Canucks preparing for a series’ worth of Zdeno Chara||05.31.11 at 12:44 am ET|
VANCOUVER — The Bruins know that they have plenty of guys who can create problems for other teams. Tim Thomas can be unbeatable, while David Krejci made things very hard for both the Flyers and Lightning in the last two rounds of the playoffs. Very high on (and perhaps at the top) of the list of players the Canucks might worry about is Zdeno Chara.
With the captain and Dennis Seidenberg providing Boston with an outstanding top pairing this postseason, Vancouver’s first line of the brothers Sedin and Alex Burrows.
As has been well-documented, the Sedins have not played to their usual point (or more) a game pace when facing the Bruins. Daniel Sedin has five points in 10 career games vs. Boston, while Henrik Sedin has four points in 11 games against the B’s. Not all of those have come against Chara, and ultimately the biggest thing Henrik feels he lacks going into the Stanley Cup matchup is experience against the 6-foot-9 defenseman.
“He was in Ottawa and we played him a couple times there,” Henrik said, “and Boston maybe once or twice [note: the Bruins have played the Canucks four times since signing Chara in 2006]. We played the Slovaks in the Olympics a couple of times, but that’s it.’
The Sedins faced Chara three times when he played for the Senators. Each brother had one goal over those three games.
“I haven’t really seen him play in game action like for a lot of time,’ Henrik admitted. ‘It’s tough for me to [pick up] what his tendencies are. Like if you want to get close to him or if you want to try to move around him. I don’t know. We’ll see.”
The Sedins (and all of Vancouver’s forwards, for that matter) are not the only ones who have to worry about Boston’s captain. In an attempt to help a historically bad power play, Claude Julien finally moved Chara up front on the man advantage to create chaos for the goaltender. Roberto Luongo has taken notice, and said Monday that when the Bruins are on the power play, he hopes that Chara’s the only one in front.
“I think the key is not to get into battles in front of the net with him as far as our D men are concerned and things like that,” Luongo, a Vezina finalist, said. “For myself, I prefer to just leave him there by himself and it will be easier for me to pick up the puck than having one of our D men try to move him out of the way. I mean, I don’t know if we have anybody strong enough back there. Maybe [Aaron Rome], but apart from that, that’s it.”
Whether or not Chara has company in front, Luongo’s coach has faith that his netminder can deal with him.
‘Roberto has seen big bodies in front of him before,’ Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. ‘He’s adapted his style to that this year. He’s staying in the blue paint to play his game. He’s been excellent all year, so it’s just another big body for him.’
Chara is a finalist for the Norris Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the league’s top defenseman. He won it back in 2009 with the B’s, and has been a frequent finalist.
This postseason, he leads all skaters with a plus-11 rating. He missed Game 2 of the first round due to illness, but his 28:17 average time on ice is second only to Seidenberg for the most among remaining players.
‘He’s one of the best defensemen in the league,’ Vigneault said. ‘He’s strong 1-on-1, and without a doubt, he uses his size to his advantage. Obviously it’s a challenge for us offensively to try and generate when he’s on the ice.’
The players might not be used to Chara, but they’ll have to get used to him in a hurry. With Seidenberg turning in a stellar postseason that was brought into the spotlight with his eight-block performance in Game 7 vs. the Lightning, they should be prepared for a difficult time. On the other hand, Henrik Sedin hopes the unfamiliarity is a two-way street.
“I’m hoping it’s going to help us that they haven’t seen us that much,” Henrik said. “But we’ll see. They’ve got to watch their video, we’ve got to watch ours, so it shouldn’t be a big difference.”
|Roberto Luongo is no Tim Thomas, and he knows it||05.30.11 at 7:38 pm ET|
VANCOUVER — Call Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas polar opposites, but the truth is there was a time when the Canucks’ Vezina finalist seriously considered playing Thomas’ signature risk/reward, flopping style.
“I did when I was five and playing street hockey,” Luongo said with a laugh after Monday’s practice at Rogers Arena.
All kidding aside, Luongo made it pretty clear that he has a great amount of respect for Boston’s 37-year-old netminder. In the end, Luongo, along with Nashville’s Pekka Rinne, will fall short of Thomas when the Vezina is awarded this summer, so as unorthodox as Thomas plays, Luongo can appreciate what he’s doing.
“You’ve got to give him credit for the type of value that he has on the ice,” Luongo said. “When you play like that, you have to have tremendous reads and anticipation and things like that.”
Though their styles differ, both Thomas and Luongo share a 2.29 goals against average and have 12-6 records thus far in the postseason. Luongo was pulled twice and was even benched for a game in the first round against the Blackhawks, but since Game 7 of the quarterfinals has been sharp as a tack.
You won’t catch Luongo lunging to make save after save or using his stick to bat down game-tying goals, but just because he’s more of a conventional goalie does not mean he is fooled by Thomas’ tendency to be all over the place.
“I mean, he likes to make saves looking at the net. I like to look the other way,” Luongo said. “He’s a great goalie. He had a great year and he’s a guy that we can’t take for granted that just because maybe you think he’s out of position that we’re going to get a goal. We have to make sure that we bear down and bury it, because he’ll find a way to stop it.”
|Former Boston College and Bruins defenseman Andrew Alberts eager to return to Boston for Stanley Cup finals||05.30.11 at 6:00 pm ET|
VANCOUVER — Andrew Alberts may be a healthy scratch with the Canucks, but he has plenty of reason to stay motivated during the Stanley Cup finals. His team is going up against his first NHL team in the city in which he played his college puck. The former BC and Bruins defenseman noted that the Bruins are “not the same team” that he played for from 2005-2008, but that he still remembers his time in Boston fondly and looks forward to returning.
“Playing with Brian Leetch my first year was great, playing with Hal Gill,” Alberts said Monday after the Canucks practiced. “Playing college in Boston and getting to know the city and playing there for three years was great. I love the city. It’s fun to go back, and it’s a great organization.”
Alberts was traded early in the 2008 season after finding himself stuck as a healthy scratch. Though there’s been significant roster turnover over the years in Boston, the likes of Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Shawn Thornton, Andrew Ference, David Krejci, Tim Thomas and Michael Ryder are among those who are still on the team. Though some faces remain, the biggest chance since Alberts last played for the Bruins is clear: They are winning,.
“It was a little bit different when I was there,” Alberts recalled. “We were kind of rebuilding and what not. We didn’t have a real great team, so it’s going to be excited to see the Fleet Center, the — what is it — the TD Bank North Garden or whatever now? To see it rocking. The city will be behind them for sure. It’s going to be an tough environment to play in.”
The 29-year-old native of Minneapolis said he doesn’t keep in contact with his former teammates though he will greet them if he sees them on the ice. Should he find his way into Vancouver’s lineup for the finals, he’ll refrain from that this time around.
Said Alberts: “It’s a different circumstance now.”
|Manny Malhotra: Monday the ‘most game-like that I’ve felt’||05.30.11 at 5:31 pm ET|
VANCOUVER — Canucks center Manny Malhotra participated in both the team’s scrimmage and special teams work in Monday’s practice at Rogers Arena. Malhotra, who has been out since March with an eye injury but was recently cleared for contact, said that Monday was “the most game-like” he was felt since his injury. His coach saw the same.
“I thought today was a good day. We scrimmaged, and we did a little bit of power play and penalty killing. I thought he looked alright,” Alain Vigneault said. “He’s still day-to-day, and we’ll see how he practices tomorrow.”
Malhotra, who had 11 goals and 19 assist for 30 points in 72 regular-season games, doesn’t know whether he’s good to go for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals vs. the Bruins, but is happy just to be on the ice.
“A lot of my status is going to be based on how I feel post these two scrimmages. It was good to get back in, mix it up a little bit,feel the pressure in the corners, get into some intense face-offs and get some PK work in. We’ll see on a daily basis how the progression goes.”
Once Malhotra makes his return to the lineup, it’s hard to tell whether he will return to centering the third line with regular minutes or whether he might be brought along slowly.
“It’s kind out of my hands at that point,” he said. “Everybody in this room has it the same way. If you’re ready to play and you’re in there, you’re either ready to play two minutes or 20 minutes. It doesn’t matter. You’re going to be used however coach sees fit.”
|Alain Vigneault not concerned about Tim Thomas’ dominance vs. Canucks||05.30.11 at 4:49 pm ET|
VANCOUVER — If some in Vancouver are concerned about the stats regarding the series’ top players favoring the Bruins, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault is not among them. The coach noted after Monday’s practice that the teams meet far too rarely to read into any head-to-head history.
In three career games vs. Vancouver, Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas has allowed just one goal while picking up a pair of shutouts. The Sedin twins haven’t fared too well against Boston in their playing days, as Daniel Sedin has five points in 10 career games vs. the B’s, while his brother, Henrik Sedin, has totaled four points vs. the B’s in 11 games.
“This is a team that we only play once a year, that we don’t see very often, so that one game in the season is probably not reflective of how both teams play on a regular basis,” Vigneault said. “It can be, but since we don’t see one another very often, I don’t think you can put too much emphasis on the stats from that game when you play once a year against a team.”
|Canucks scrimmage, work on special teams in lengthy practice||05.30.11 at 4:40 pm ET|
VANCOUVER — The Canucks haven’t seem game action since eliminating the Sharks in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals. In an attempt to stay sharp during their eight-day layoff before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Bruins, the team scrimmaged before working on special teams in a practice that featured two sessions and lasted an hour and 15 minutes.
Coach Alain Vigneault noted that it was the second time since the conference finals concluded that he has had his team scrimmage.
“We scrimmaged today just to make sure that our guys are physically and mentally sharp on the ice,” Vigneault, who won the Jack Adams award with the Canadiens in 2007, said after the practice. “Instead of doing drills, we figured that this was the proper way to get them ready.”
|Welcome to Vancouver||05.29.11 at 9:29 pm ET|
VANCOUVER — Welcome to Vancouver, where the Bruins will arrive Monday in anticipation of Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup finals. We’ll have both the Bruins and Canucks covered Monday, as Mike Petraglia and Scott McLaughlin will hold down the fort in Boston for Bruins’ availability, while I’ll handle the Canucks. Media day is Tuesday, followed by Game 1 on Wednesday and Game 2 Saturday.
Fans can see the Bruins off by showing up at the front parking lot of TD Garden Monday at 1:15 p.m.
Judging by the common attire, Vancouver seems just as hungry for the Cup as Boston. Lots of people sporting Canucks gear, though there have been no sightings of green men Sully and Force. That should change Wednesday. The million dollar question: given that they’ve used Vince Vaughn (Chicago) and Carrie Underwood (Nashville) as props, who do they use to give their antics a Boston twist?