|Bruins-Canucks preview: Three keys, stats, and players to watch||06.06.11 at 1:54 am ET|
The Bruins have a tall task ahead of them as they look to overcome an 0-2 hole and turn the Stanley Cup finals into an actual series. Both games have been determined by just one goal thus far, and though the Bruins have played poorly from the most part, the first two games have shown the B’s can hang with the Canucks, even if they haven’t totally shown up yet. With the number three in mind, here’s a preview of Monday’s Game 3.
THREE THINGS THE BRUINS NEED TO DO
– Get better looks vs. Roberto Luongo and establish a net-front presence. We’ll say it until it changes, and it didn’t change enough in Game 2. The Canucks have been able to box the Bruins out so far in the series, but look at how the B’s scored their goals in Game 2. Milan Lucic buried a rebound from in front, and Mark Recchi redirected a shot in front of Luongo. When the Bruins were able to set up shop and do things from close range, the puck went in. It seems trying it any other way is an exercise in futility.
– Keep moving Zdeno Chara around on the power play. Recchi’s goal came as a result of Claude Julien moving Chara back to the point, but Julien should keep mixing it up when it comes to the Bruins’ mammoth captain. He still appeared to be a nuisance in front of Luongo in Game 1, so Julien should have enough confidence in Chara’s abilities in both areas to play him in different spots from power play to power play.
– Use the home crowd to their advantage. Whether or not they want to admit it, Rogers Arena was absolutely electric and had to have been a tough place to play. If the Garden can turn down the music and let the fans create an authentic atmosphere, maybe the Canucks can truly feel like they’re at an opponent’s home and not a wrestling match.
– Both the Bruins and Canucks have seen four of their last five games be determined by one goal. The Bruins are 2-3 in that span, while the Canucks are 4-1.
– The four goals Tim Thomas has allowed over the last three games ties this stretch with his best of the postseason. Thomas let in four goals over Games 2 through 4 of the conference semifinals vs. the Flyers, though the difference is that the Bruins won all three of those games and have lost two of the three games in this stretch.
– Brad Marchand has gone four games without scoring. In the other two instances this postseason in which he went four straight without a goal, he scored the following game.
THREE PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON
– Tim Thomas: He plays aggressive ‘ the sky is falling! As bad as the game-wining goal he allowed in overtime Saturday looked, the reaction by some suggest nobody has actually watched Thomas before. He’s all over the place, and he plays farther out of his net than most. It will be interesting to see how be performs in Game 3 given all the heat he’s been under for his style this series.
– Alexandre Burrows: The Bruins have every reason to be furious that Burrows wasn’t suspended for Game 2, though they’re not showing it. At any rate, their No. 1 concern should be finding away to stop the guy who showed Saturday that his offensive ability (2 G, A in Game 2) is just as sharp as his teeth.
– Rich Peverley: Where to play the speedy winger? Peverley has seen time on the second line, third line and fourth line (and the first if you want to count him taking one of Nathan Horton‘s shifts in Game 7 of the conference finals when Horton was banged up) in recent games. Peverley could continue to take some of Mark Recchi‘s shifts on the second line, or he could skate with Chris Kelly and Michael Ryder, as he did from late in the second period Saturday to the end of the contest. If and when Julien makes a move to get Shawn Thornton in the lineup at the expense of Tyler Seguin this series, the line of Kelly centering Peverley and Ryder would make sense.
Also, don’t rule out Peverley having a target on his back in Game 3. His two-handed slash to the back of Kevin Bieksa‘s knee didn’t go over well with Bieksa, his teammates or his coaches. Given the nature of the play, it shouldn’t have. Peverley really got away with one, and had he scored on his shot that followed the non-penalized slash, it would have looked even worse.
|Only one game? Bruins’ first-liners feel slighted||06.03.11 at 7:22 pm ET|
VANCOUVER — The Bruins are three days into the Stanley Cup finals, and they’re already sick of the way it’s being perceived.
After losing Game 1 in a contest that was scoreless for all but 18.5 seconds, a couple of members of the Bruins’ first line made it clear Friday at the University of British Columbia that the press might not be giving them a fair enough shake.
“You know, it’s clear that you guys aren’t giving us much of a chance,” Milan Lucic said. “We’ve just got to do whatever we can to prove people wrong.”
The B’s top line has played against the Canucks’ second line of Ryan Kesler between Mason Raymond and Christopher Higgins. How the Bruins will deal with Kesler, a 41-goal-scorer in the regular season, has been a popular topic in the series. The series may be young, but Krejci is already sick of hearing about Kesler.
“He’s the best player in the world, right? That’s what it looks like,” Krejci said when asked about playing against Kesler. “That’s why everybody’s asking me about him. It’s not about him. Obviously, he’s a great player. He’s a really good player, but my game is to focus on my game and what I have to do, and not about other guys.”
Kesler poked a puck past Johnny Boychuk at the blue line Wednesday and hit Jannik Hansen with a pass, who then set up an easy Raffi Torres goal with Tim Thomas respecting Hansen’s shot. Krejci noted that for all the attention the second line receives, Kesler was playing with third-liners (the team was in the midst of a line change) on the game-winning goal, and that it was a closer game than he feels people are remembering.
“It was a zero-zero game all the way,” Krejci said. “You guys are making such a big deal that we lost. I mean, it could have gone either way. His line, I know he got an apple, but he was with the two other guys from another line.”
Krejci and Nathan Horton each had five shots on goal in Game 1, which tied for tops on the Bruins. Many of those shots came on the power play, but the play of the line in general was a strong point for the B’s on a night in which nobody could beat Roberto Luongo.
“It’s still good,” Krejci said. “We’d like to have over 10 shots every game, but I feel like we can maybe bring a little more to our game, especially create some chances. I don’t think we had that many great scoring chances the last game.”
Due to concerts at Rogers Arena, the home of the Canucks, the teams have had to deal with a two-day gap between Games 1 and 2. Lucic noted that he’s blocked out any chatter in that time and is focused on giving the media something positive to talk about after Saturday’s Game 2.
“Obviously we can’t control what you guys say,” Lucic said. “That’s why we try not to watch or read too much of what you guys say. For us, it’s definitely a big opportunity going into Game 2. We know we have to play better. We need to play better. We need to play the way we did prior coming into this series to give ourselves a chance to win.
“They finished first in the league, in the standings, for a reason,” he said of the Canucks. “They beat the three teams before us to get here for a reason. They’re a really good team. They beat us in Game 1 because they played better than us.”
Whether or not the media has actually been hard on the B’s, it looks like the two days off have the Bruins itching to get back on the ice in Game 2 and show that they can hang with the Canucks. For 49 minutes and just over 17 seconds, they did on Wednesday.
|Dan Hamhuis day-to-day||06.02.11 at 4:32 pm ET|
VANCOUVER — One day after Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis left Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals in the second period due to injury, Vancouver coach said Thursday at the University of British Columbia that the defenseman is “day-to-day.”
Hamhuis hip-checked Bruins left wing Milan Lucic and was cross-checked immediately following the play by B’s center David Krejci. He headed down the tunnel and did not return to the game. The former 12th overall pick has averaged 24:50 of ice time this postseason, which is third on the Canucks.
|Brian Leetch on M&M: Bruins ‘don’t feel an underdog’||06.01.11 at 12:09 pm ET|
Hall of Fame defenseman Brian Leetch joined the Mut & Merloni show Wednesday morning to talk about the Stanley Cup finals, which get under way Wednesday night in Vancouver. To hear the interview, go the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
Leetch, who grew up in Connecticut and played collegiately at Boston College, was asked about the Bruins being underdogs in this series.
“I know they don’t feel an underdog,” he said. “When you have two good teams playing, sometimes it’s just an easier pick to pick the team with more points during the regular season, or they had a couple of better stats. But you look at their stats up and down, these teams ‘ we’ve almost gotten to 100 games now ‘ are almost identical. Right through the playoffs and the regular season, there’s not much that separates them. The goaltending is both excellent, their top players, their depth.”
Asked about the Bruins being physical while avoiding penalties, Leetch said: “I think when we talk about the Bruins playing physical, it kind of gets taken a little out of context, of them going outside of their game or playing some different style. Really, their game is to get the puck in, is to finish their checks. It’s not to physically intimidate a team or to injure or to get a different style of play going.
“It’s their strength. It’s the way they play. And that doesn’t mean taking the extra run, it doesn’t mean going out of your way. It means getting he pucks int eh areas where you can get in on the forecheck, where you can take the body, where you can play physical. And the Bruins know as a team, you’ll hear it come out of each guy’s mouth, that we’re at our best when we play that way. We’re at our best when we finish checks, we’re moving our feet, we’re involved physically. So, I don’t think it does anything to take them out of a comfort zone or to run around. It’s just emphasis on playing the game the right way, which for the Bruins means playing physical.”
|Maxim Lapierre loves that he’s facing hated Bruins||05.31.11 at 11:29 pm ET|
VANCOUVER — It’s a cliche to say that if one can’t get excited to play this time of year, that they had better check their pulse. Maxim Lapierre‘s pulse is probably berserk right about now.
The 26-year-old Quebec native is realizing a lifelong dream of not only playing in the Stanley Cup finals, but doing so against the Bruins. A childhood of rooting for the Canadiens and five years of playing for the Habs made it so Lapierre could never have anything but negative feelings for the Bruins.
“It’s pretty special,” Lapierre said of facing the Bruins. “Being from Montreal, all my life I was kind of raised to hate them, so it’s unreal. I can’t wait to play tomorrow. It’s going to be a great experience for everybody.”
Lapierre was traded from the Canadiens to the Ducks on Dec. 31 of this season. He didn’t stay there long, as he was dealt to the Canucks after playing 21 games for Anaheim.
Now, he finds himself four wins away from the Stanley Cup. His Canucks eliminated the Sharks in five games in the Western Conference finals, so Lapierre and his teammates had plenty of time to watch the Bruins and Lightning series play out. He admits that at least on some level, he hoped it would be the Bruins who would advance.
“A little bit,” Lapierre said. “It would make it special. It’s really special to play against this team. They’re a great team — well-coached, good players, they’re physical, so we’re going to have a real taste of the Stanley Cup finals.”
Lapierre has had more of a taste of facing the Bruins in the postseason. He was on the 2007-08 Habs team that eliminated the B’s in the first round in seven games, and he was with Montreal when the Bruins swept them the following year.
Though he’s scored some goals and racked up some penalty minutes in his 35 career games against the Bruins (including the playoffs), when it comes to the B’s, Lapierre may be best known for being the recipient of a cross-check to the head from Milan Lucic in Game 2 of the 2009 quarterfinals. Lucic received a match penalty and was suspended for Game 3 of the series.
“Tomorrow is a new day. It’s the playoffs. Everybody wants to play their role,” Lapierre said about facing Lucic in the postseason again. “We know Milan is a great player. He’s strong, he’s physical. He’s going to be in our face and he’s going to be ready to play, and so are we.
“That’s part of the game, and I understand that. He’s playing a great role for this team. He’s a good player, and he’s going to be there tomorrow like a warrior and the same thing for our guys. Everybody’s going to be ready. It’s the Stanley Cup finals.”
While Lapierre no longer dons a Canadiens jersey when he goes to work, his Montreal ties remain as strong as ever as he and the Canucks try to take down the Bruins. Lapierre knew he’d be getting support from his loved ones anyways, but when the Bruins are the opponent, it makes it even sweeter.
“A lot of people from Montreal are behind us now, but it won’t be easy at all,” Lapierre said. “This team is unreal. We’re going to have to be ready from the first shift to the last one.”
|Canucks’ Cory Schneider on M&M: Bruins ‘a tough matchup’ in Stanley Cup finals||05.30.11 at 1:00 pm ET|
Former Boston College standout and current Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider joined the Mut & Merloni show Monday morning to talk about the upcoming Stanley Cup finals. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
Schneider said that although the Canucks didn’t learn all that much about the Bruins from their 3-1 loss in February, what he’s noticed most from watching the playoffs is Boston’s depth.
‘They have three deep lines, and offensively even their fourth line is effective in what they do,’ Schneider said. ‘On any given night for them a different guy can step up and be the difference.’
Schneider also said the Canucks would need to keep track of Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron in particular. He called Lucic a ‘big guy who can disrupt a lot of plays and go to the net and create problems.’ He compared Bergeron with Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler: a multi-talented player who contributes on offense, defense, faceoffs and special teams.
‘He [Bergeron] can really burn you if you’re not paying attention,’ Schneider said.
Schneider also complimented Zdeno Chara‘s defense, calling him a ‘No. 1 guy’.
‘He’s got such a long reach that it doesn’t matter who you put out against him, he’s going to try and find a way to shut them down,’ Schneider said. He added that the Canucks’ Swedish twins, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, might be able to beat Chara.
‘You probably haven’t seen anything like them when they’re playing down low,’ Schneider said. ‘They’re cycling the puck and they make these soft passes to each other, you have no idea how they made it. It’s pretty incredible to watch. That will be a great matchup.’
|For Milan Lucic, Stanley Cup finals will be ‘extra special’||05.28.11 at 1:55 am ET|
“I mean, that makes it extra special,” Lucic said. “A lot of good things have happened to me in Vancouver.”
They sure have. Lucic, who was born and raised in Vancouver, got the chance to play junior hockey there for three seasons with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League. He helped lead the Giants to a Memorial Cup title in 2007, and when the Bruins visited Vancouver earlier this season, the Giants held a “Milan Lucic Night” and inducted him into the club’s Ring of Honour. That trip was made even more memorable when Lucic scored what proved to be the game-winner in a 3-1 Bruins win.
Lucic said it will be great to play in front of friends and family in the finals, but that he might have some work to do when it comes to convincing them to root for his team.
“I know I am going to have to convert a lot of my, well my family is already converted, but a lot of my friends into Bruins fans,” Lucic said. “So that is going to be a little tough to do.”