June 02, 2011

Pucks On The 'Net: Canucks Win Game One

The entire province of British Columbia was ready for a party. Tim Thomas and the Boston Bruins did their best to snuff that out, but finally, with just 19 seconds left in the game, Raffi Torres, on a great pass from Jannik Hansen, solved Thomas to win the game. Apparently the goal was the latest game winning regulation time goal in modern Stanley Cup history.

The game itself was an ugly one. The referees were calling too many penalties in the first half of the game, killing any rhythm either team rarely established. I think the long layoff hurt both teams - clearly Vancouver. They struggled to find their legs and hands after nine days off. So much for showcasing your product on prime time American TV, hey NHL?

Once the Canucks finally got going in the third period, it was obvious they were the stronger team. They started coming in waves thanks to transition offense and neutral zone turnovers. Tim Thomas was spectacular on a few occasions to keep the game scoreless. In doing so, the Canucks showed us, and more importantly themselves, that they can beat the Boston Bruins.

Here's some more game one thoughts:
  • Boston played very well in this game, especially in the opening 40 minutes. They did a real good job of keeping the slot clear of blue jerseys and making Thomas' job early. Their penalty kill kept top-rated Vancouver's power play at bay. That was supposed to be Vancouver's difference maker. Although they appeared to run out of gas in the third period, Boston was only a bounce away from winning this game. They have positives to focus on for game 2. Winning one of the first two games in Vancouver remains their goal.
  • That being said, Roberto Luongo never gave any hint that he was going to surrender a goal in this game. He was really strong, facing 36 shots. Not necessarily flashy, but strong. He is now 9-1 in game ones in his career. That includes 4-0 in 2011, 3 of which came by shutout.
  • Other teams to get a shutout in game one of the Stanley Cup Final: Detroit in 2008, New Jersey in 2003, Colorado in 2001, Edmonton in 1984 and New York Islanders in 1983. All went on to win the Stanley Cup.
  • This is only the 2nd 1-0 score in game one of Finals history. As the game progressed I was thinking back to Edmonton's 1-0 win in 1984, with Kevin McClelland of all people scoring the only goal. That was the game that Glen Sather always said convinced the Oilers that they were going to beat the Islanders.
  • As I mentioned yesterday, teams that win game one of the Stanley Cup Final go on to win the series 77.5% of the time. When it is the home team that wins game one, that winning percentage number jumps to a convincing 86.3% success rate.
  • Dan Hamhuis' injury could be a concern for the Canucks. Yes, they have the depth to over come the loss, but Hamhuis has quietly been as good as any Canucks defender this playoff. That includes his shutdown pairing linemate Kevin Bieksa, who gets more headlines because he plays with more flair. Hamhuis is the rock of that pairing, and arguably of the whole blue line.
  • Alex Burrows biting Patrice Bergeron will earn him a meeting with new NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan. Shanny is on the hot seat immediately, and I suspect he will feel the need to act. I suspect Burrows will get a one game suspension. Jarkko Ruutu got 2 games for a biting incident in 2009.
  • Who takes Burrow's spot on the Sedins line? Mason Raymond? Jannik Hansen? I'd hate to break up either of the 2nd or 3rd lines, both of which are playing very strongly much of the playoffs. That leaves Jeff Tambellini, who had success with the twins earlier this season, or possibly rookie Cody Hodgson.
  • Vancouver's 4th line barely played in game one - TOI numbers: Tambellini 2:30, Alex Bolduc 1:39 and Viktor Oreskovich 1:54. All the odd-man advantages in the first 2 periods did not help them out.
  • How about Zdeno Chara winning a face-off. He did the same trick against Montreal early this spring.
  • How great was it to see Michael J. Fox at the game. Apparently he will be at all games in both cities. Talk about torn allegiances. He's a Vancouver boy who grew up a Canucks fan, but his close friend is none other than Cam Neely.
Lastly, my apprehension I felt prior to game one turned into an unsatisfactory restlessness by the 2nd intermission. But after seeing how much better the Canucks were than the Bruins in the third period (all of which was played 5 on 5, by the way), I felt a growing though quiet confidence in the Canucks again. Boston will undoubtedly up their game, but I think the Canucks can also play at a much higher level, too.

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