|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.
|Bruins looking for more physical, less penalized play in Game 2||06.04.11 at 5:48 pm ET|
VANCOUVER — The Bruins found themselves shorthanded six times in the first two periods of Wednesday’s Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals against Vancouver, and despite shutting down the Canucks’ power play, they don’t want to push their luck.
“We don’t want to take too many penalties,” Nathan Horton said Saturday in anticipation of Game 2. “We know they’ve got a great power play, and we want to stay out of the box as much as possible, but we want to play as hard as we can and not cross that line. When we’re playing the way we can, we’re not taking penalties. We’re moving our feet, and that’s what we want to do.”
The Bruins’ primary focus for Game 2 will be to get better looks against Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo, who had a relatively easy 36-save shutout on Wednesday. One area in which the B’s know they need to be more physical — but cautiously so in an effort to stay out of the box — is in front to set up more close-range opportunities.
“There can always be more [net-front presence], regardless of if you feel you did a good job, or if you did a poor job,” center Chris Kelly said. “Obviously, when you get traffic in front of any goalie, especially a guy of his caliber, it makes things easier on yourself and harder on him.”
As for the 28 penalty minutes between the two teams in the game’s first 40 minutes, Kelly said the officials may have been more inclined to call the game tighter based on the fact that it was the first of such a big series.
“I think obviously the refs wanted to establish that they weren’t going to let anything go. You tend to see that in the first game of the series, lots of calls made,” Kelly said. “We need to know that we need to stay out of the box, because they’ve got a good power play. If we can stay out, the less chances they get. That’s better for us.”
Added Horton: “We don’t know what to expect from [the refs], but we’re just going to get back to the way we can play and leave everything on the ice. It’s an important game for us, and we don’t want to go down, 0-2.”
|Mark Messier on D&C: Game 1 loss ‘might be a confidence-builder for Boston’||06.03.11 at 7:48 am ET|
Hall of Fame center Mark Messier joined the Dennis & Callahan show Friday morning to talk about the Stanley Cup finals, which continue Saturday night in Vancouver. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Messier said the Bruins can build on their performance despite losing, 1-0, in Wednesday’s Game 1.
“It might be a confidence-builder for Boston,” he said, adding, “Any time you can hold Vancouver to one goal, I think that you have to be happy. They’re not happy that they didn’t win the game; they had their opportunities as well. But overall, I don’t think either team was leaving that game deflated with the loss. Obviously, Vancouver’s more than happy that they won it. I think Boston can take some solace that they played an excellent game. With some bounces the other way there, they could have come out on top in Game 1.”
The Bruins were unable to solve Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo Wednesday, but Messier said the B’s shouldn’t be looking to try anything new Saturday.
“It would be my message to don’t change your game plan, do what we’ve always done, and let the goalie make a mistake,” he said.
Touching on the NHL’s decision not to suspend Canucks forward Alex Burrows for his apparent bite on Patrice Bergeron‘s finger, Messier indicated that he supported the league’s ruling. “I think the NHL made the right decision in that regard,” he said. “I think that Boston’s probably a little disappointed, because they would like to see Burrows out of the lineup. But in the end, nobody’s really hurt, nobody’s going to miss any games. Tough decision, but I think the right decision was made.”
|Canucks are blue over Tim Thomas’ positioning, but Bruins aren’t concerned||06.02.11 at 8:02 pm ET|
VANCOUVER — Biting aside, one hot-button issue to emerge from Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals was where Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas set up shop. The Vezina favorite drew a questionable tripping call on Alexandre Burrows in the second period of Wednesday’s game, which caused Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault to question Thomas’ positioning outside of the crease.
Following the game, Vigneault said one big difference between Thomas and Roberto Luongo, both of whom entered the series with nearly identical postseason numbers, is that his guy stays put.
“Our goaltender always plays in the blue, stays in his ice. Their goaltender is always out of the blue and comes into other people’s ice,” Vigneault said after Game 1. “We’re going to need a little bit of clarification there, especially when he’s initiating contact with our team. I’m sure we’ll be able to figure it out.”
If Vigneault needs clarification, he can simply go to Rule 69.4, which applies to contact outside the crease. Here is the part of that rule that would pertain to Wednesday’s play:
“A goalkeeper is not ‘fair game’ just because he is outside the goal crease. The appropriate penalty should be assessed in every case where an attacking player makes unnecessary contact with the goalkeeper. However, incidental contact will be permitted when the goalkeeper is in the act of playing the puck outside his goal crease provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such unnecessary contact.”
Thomas defended his ground Thursday when the subject was brought up during the Bruins’ media availability.
“Basically I have the right to go anywhere there’s open ice,” Thomas said. “If I’m set, I have a right to that ice. If I’m out of the paint and I’m set, I also have the right to get right-of-way to get back to the crease. That’s the way I understand it.”
That’s just what Thomas felt he was doing on the penalty taken by Burrows. As for the notion that the Canucks could need clarification on what he can and can’t do, Thomas pointed to how rare it is that he has drawn such a penalty. If the Canucks are worried about it happening often, they may be reading too far into things.
“I don’t think I’ve drawn that many penalties this playoffs,” Thomas said Thursday at the University of British Columbia. “Yesterday on the one on [Burrows], I went to make the first stop, then the puck was going off to the side. I was retreating back to the center of my net, felt resistance behind my leg, and I was actually just going with it. I was going to basically flip around, flip my body around, to be able to at least have a chance to stop that rebound that went to the side of the net.
“I didn’t know if it was my guy or their guy or who [tripped me]. I was backing up and there was something behind my leg. It sort of put me off balance.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien didn’t see reason for concern either and figured Luongo could do the same thing if he wanted.
“If he gets a chance to challenge, he challenges,” Julien said of Thomas. “The rule is pretty clear. You’re entitled to your ice. If he steps out and he’s got that ice, he’s entitled to it. That’s what he’s done through the whole process.
“Now, we all know that goaltenders are to be protected. If you’re going to say he’s out of his crease, he’s fair game, that should be the same thing behind the net. ‘¦ If he’s entitled to his ice, and he’s got it, then afterwards I don’t think people are entitled to run over those guys. If Luongo comes out of his net, he’s got his ice, it’s his, it belongs to him. The rule to me is pretty clear so I don’t see any issues there.”
Maybe Vigneault and the Bruins will have to agree to disagree, and though Thomas may have gone down a little easily on the play, the ruling seems clear enough.
|Gord Kluzak on D&C: Bruins ‘have surprised me’||05.31.11 at 9:39 am ET|
NESN Bruins analyst Gord Kluzak was a guest on the Dennis & Callahan show Tuesday morning and discussed the Stanley Cup finals that are set to start Wednesday evening. The former B’s defenseman began his talk about the differences between the Bruins and Canucks, with the highlight among those differences regarding of course penalties. With its power-play unit struggling in the postseason, there’s no surprise that Kluzak would think that the B’s would hope that the referees keep the whistles away from their mouths. (To hear the entire interview, head over to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.)
“Well, I think what the Bruins would want it to look like is very physical, sort of played in the corners and in the high traffic areas, certainly a five-on-five series,” Kluzak said. “I think what the Canucks would want it to look like is very end-to-end, very high-tempo, lots of penalties, lot of power plays on each ‘side. I think those are the two ways these teams are built.”
In fact, Kluzak went so far as to say that if the Bruins are going to be successful in the finals, they’ll need to reproduce their effort from the last game they played.
“I think the model for the Bruins and by far the best game they played was Game 7 against Tampa Bay,” he said. “That was as dominant of a 1-0 win as you’ll ever see. They had Tampa Bay completely stalled out. Even if they had chances, it was one and done. They just layered their defense so, so well, and all of that talent Tampa Bay had was totally squandered by the Bruins defensive schemes and intensity.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Canucks preparing for a series’ worth of Zdeno Chara||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.”