Even before the series started, we’ve seen the temperament of the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins on display. I’m not sure the contrast could have been more stark had it been planned this way.  On ice the two teams have played hard with one team getting a suspension for a blatantly dirty hit, collected embellishment penalties and oh yes bitten the other. The other team has responded with hard checks, some taunting and focus on the game.

Off the ice the gulf has been even wider. When Claude Julien faced the media after two of his players, both leaders, both well known to everyone did something he didn’t care for he stated what it was and said it had been dealt with. When the Bruins lost a game, Julien was candid about what needed to be fixed. His opposite number and one time defensive partner, answered nearly all of last nights questions with a persnickety “it doesn’t matter”, he said it enough times I’m sure some viewers flipping over from Monday Night Raw thought they were being treated to a parody of the song by The Rock and Wyclef.

When Alex Burrows bit Patrice Bergeron, an offense for which other players have been suspended, Vigneault couldn’t seem to see anything wrong. Despite the league dropping the ball, the only comment Juline and company made was “we support the leagues decision”. When Aaron Rome planted Nathan Horton on the blueline, more of the same. Julien and the Bruins saying they needed to move forward, Henrik Sedin, Aaron Rome, and Vigneault saying they didn’t see anything wrong, that it was unfair someone else wasn’t suspended in a different series for a hit they stated was similar.  This of course immediately after the Burrows non-suspension.

The pissy and well rehearsed Sedin ‘rebuttal’ of Mike Milbury has been well covered. Luongo’s adventures in tire pumping too have gotten all the electrons anyone could need.  Is it any wonder that this series has raised the status of the Montreal Canadiens and their fans in the eyes of many Bruins fans?

One way or another after the Stanley Cup is lifted the most painful part of the year for hockey fans is upon us. We have only a few minor teasers to keep the spirit strong until camp ends and the puck drops for real. I’ll be doing a few things over the summer to keep you (and me) from going too stir crazy.

  • NHL Draft coverage, winners, losers and what the experts have to say on the Bruins picks.
  • Prospect camp.
  • Free agency
  • Post season grades for the Bruins.
  • Trade news.
  • Season Previews for all 30 teams (these will come out very close to the start of the season.).
  • The return of the NHL UFA free agency challenge

So don’t wander too far away from the internet.

 

What an frenetic game. The Bruins went out and did exactly what was needed to win. Scoring early and often was the way to set the Canucks on their heels and keep them there. Marchand opened it up with a shot tight to the top glove side that was a result of a lot of hard work in the neutral zone. Lucic returned to the goal scoring column with a five hole. Andrew Ference got the eventual game winner with a highly under rated, and under used blast from the point.

Ryder and Krejci would also light the lamp, the latter for the Boston Bruins second powerplay goal of the night. Ryder’s goal was a super slick redirection on the single hardest shot I’ve seen Kaberle take since arriving in Boston. The special teams battle wasn’t all that close. While the Bruins surrendered a powerplay goal, they also picked up two of their own.

Mason Raymond of the Canucks went down with an injury early in the first period in one of the weirdest collisions with Johnny Boychuck I’ve ever seen. He did leave the ice with the assistance of teammates but later left the building by ambulance to “an area hospital”. Andrew Alberts appeared to be having some discomfort a shift after driving Kaberle into the boards. He did finish the game, but it is something to watch for in the next game. Dennis Seidenberg left the bench at one point but returned a short time later, some speculation is that it was an equipment issue. One other odd note was the number of penalties Patrice Bergeron took in the game. With eight of his 28 penalty minutes in the post season in tonights game you have to wonder if it was his actual behavior or just the scrutiny on the game in general.

The teams totaled for: 78 shots on goal, 81 hits, 31 blocked shots.

The Bruins as a team set a record for the fastest four goals by one team with their first four goals in 4:14.

Brad Marchand set a team record for most goals in a post season by a rookie with nine.

Tim Thomas is now tied for the NHL record with 761 saves in a single post season.

 

Coming into the series much was made of the fact that Daniel and Henrik Sedin are likely to win the Hart Trophy back to back. A truly worthy accomplishment. This accomplishment is no doubt aided by a division that was almost certainly the weakest in the NHL last season, but still requires hard work. As the conference finals ended there was even talk of one or both of them being near the front of the pack for the Conn-SmythTrophy. The title up above is not in jest, it is a serious question. At a total cap hit of $12,200,000.00 they make up a larger concentration of salary than any two Bruins forwards. And yet of all the forwards who have been in the Bruins lineup for all five games this series they combine for as many points as Kelly, Lucic or Paille.

The surprise isn’t that there are so few names on that list, or even who they are just that there is a list. Not only are they not scoring, the other elements of they game they could bring are sorely lacking. At center Henrik has dismaying 40.78 faceoff win percentage to go with his zero points. Daniel Sedin at wing has two points, and four points. In comparison Patrice Bergeron has three points and a 54.04 win percentage in faceoffs. Michael Ryder who’s had to adjust to ever changing linemates has four points, and seven hits.

Unlike Ryan Kesler who is well known to be nursing a lower body injury, there has been no hint of an injury to either Sedin. True, a physical injury could well be something that happened in a practice or even while traveling or at home. I watched much of the San Jose Sharks series, and all of this one and I haven’t seen any sign of physical ailment despite their going up against several physical players and even one of them flying into the boards after charging Brad Marchand. I still have no idea why, other than facing the Bruins defense, the Sedin twins have so lacked in effectiveness in this series. If you eliminate a physical ailment, that leaves a vanishingly small number of possibilities.

With the extra day off since the last game you have to wonder which two teams will be seen on the ice tonight. The last time the Canucks skated the Garden ice they were hardly in position to impose their will on anything. Somewhere between the third period of game four and the start of game five, the Bruins lost their edge.

  • How bad is Kesler’s injury, and will the Bruins go after him early and often with solid body checks?
  • Can the Sedin suppression system keep them smothered?
  • What will the special teams look like tonight?
  • Will the Garden crowd stay with the Bruins all the way through the game?
  • Will there be cameos by Horton and Savard?
  • What insane things will be said by the talking heads tonight?

Do you Believe in Boston?

Like many hockey observers I’ve been puzzled by the Vancouver Canucks for a quite some time. They have a solid amount of talent. They even assembled some pretty impressive depth. What mystified me for most of the last week or two is how they could have assembled so many misfits and insensible boors in one place.

One of the Sedin’s went on a clearly well rehearsed rant the other day about what a talking head said about him and his dear twin. Well, guess what? When you’re an athlete or other entertainer the people who’s job it is to dissect the performance of your branch of entertainment will occasionally do something other than pat you on the head and say “good boy”, especially when you’ve earned a swat in the head. Anyone who can take shots at the maturity of another adult but who together has held up NHL franchises not once but twice by refusing to play without your twin brother has no basis for questioning other peoples maturity. Clearly there’s nothing in the world more offensive than a pop culture reference to describe the play of more than twelve million dollars worth of not very much. Personally I’d have gone with Flora and Fauna Addams, but that’s just me.

Riding shotgun with the Insecurity Twins is a player who actually bit another player during a scrum. He then claims he didn’t bite him or that it wasn’t intentional. Somehow he didn’t get suspended. Ruutu and Avery among others would love to get that leeway.

The Aaron Rome hit speaks for itself, and I’ve covered it in previous posts. In summary at best it was a case of a mental lapse. Most likely it was the arrogance this team has shown from the word go. Functionally it doesn’t matter, except to Nathan Horton who was knocked cold by a disgusting lack of sportsmanship, his family, the Boston Bruins, their fans, and of course the millions of people who have come to loathe this iteration of the Vancouver Canucks.

The latest is of course the waffling of the Canucks goalie on his statements regarding the man likely to beat him for another Vezina trophy.  First he claims to he would have made the save on the one goal Thomas allowed. Which brings you to wonder how he could possibly have allowed 12 goals on less than sixty shots in the previous two games. Anyone who’s had the chance to peruse the stats for the two goalies has to ask themselves if Luongo’s graps of reality would be helped with a little less time spent on his well oiled locks.  Tim Thomas not only has better career regular season numbers than Roberto Luongo but also has better career playoff stats. This is no doubt surprising to anyone who only looked at or heard his comments given that Luongo is claiming to be a better goalie. Not only is the Vezina winner consistently better in both the regular and post season he’s consistently improved upon his regular season numbers in the playoffs, this is not something anyone well informed could say about Luongo’s own post season adventures.

But the on ice arrogance of the Canucks should surprise no one. The front office is clearly culpable in crafting this masterpiece of moral ambiguity. Just before the series started the favorite hatchet man, drinking buddy, and advice guru of General Manager Mike Gillis penned an opus declaiming the evil aligned against Vancouver’s brave warriors. I’m hardly a fan of Colin Campbell (go search his name or ‘wheel of justice’ in the search box) but it was amazingly coincidental that Tony Baloney dropped this article just days after the Canucks made it to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in years? Neither Campbell or the office of discipline have shown themselves to be friends of the Boston Bruins over the past few years. One wonder what he and they would have spun up had another team advanced.

Game five was nearly a replay of game one. Tight checking, sound defense and outstanding goaltending. Luongo managed to turn in a great performance for his team, Thomas was tested less. The slim 18 minutes of penalties in the game is the least in the series so far. Maxim Lapierre had had the lone goal of the game during one of the frequent scrambles in front of the goalies.

Much was made of the powerplays in the game, but none converted. The penalty kills out hustled them, first to last. Perhaps the biggest story of the game was the Versus coverage. Eddie O was appalling. He never failed once failed to express creepy level of appreciation for a young, beardless player. and his effusive appreciation for Canucks players. Millbury may be clearly is over-the-top nearly every time he opens his mouth, but is at least evenhanded in distributing his own brand of insanity. Even Jack Edwards displays less bias when the Bruins play the Canadiens, and he’s a local announcer playing to the home crowd.

The officiating may have actually slipped back into the too permissive as Lapierre and Burrows each deserved at least one unaccompanied diving. The matching penalties to Milan Lucic and Alex Burrows were highly curious. Lucic hadn’t moved stick or skate. Burrows deliberately placed his skate on top of Lucic’s stick and then ‘mysteriously’ falls down. This was clearly deserving of an unaccompanied dive.

The Bruins played sound defensively and Thomas was Thomas. They did not however play in front of Luongo in an effective manner. I don’t think I saw any Bruins player make body contact with Luongo even once. Even strength, powerplay or penalty kill they need to take advantage of the weaker defenders on the Canucks and abuse them to open up lanes to the net.

Brad Marchand is the latest in a string of young men to come into the Bruins training camp and earn a place the hard way. A third round pick in the 2006 draft the Halifax Nova Scotia native has paid his dues. He spent his first pro season putting up 18 goals 41 assists 59 points and a +13 for Providence. His second pro season he made a 20 game cameo in Boston with just one assist he failed to gain the traction he needed to play for Boston in the playoffs.

And then camp broke. For those who had watched him in the past the differences were right there. The first was better balance and the ability to stick to the puck. The second was timing on his shot. They had improved vastly since his last sojourn in the spoked-B. He also had better focus and discipline, which took a little longer to become apparent. In twenty games last season he racked up 20 PIMS, in 77 this season just 51.

So what’s his game? Just about everything. He was one of a handful of rookies to score at least one goal shorthanded, on the powerplay and even strength. For most of the season he was leading the entire NHL in shorthanded goals. Having earned his way from fourth line energy guy to second line producer in all zones. He blocks shots, hits, scores and one more thing. He’s a pest. A really, really effective pest. Steve Ott who is another well known agitator took more than 130 more penalty minutes this season for the stars and racked up less points.

The commentators on NHL Network called Brad Marchand “a wolverine” during their post game breakdown. Fans of the Boston Bruins around the world call hims something a little bit shorter; ours.