Brad Marchand’s got a real Inspector Gadget look to him, doesn’t he? With the long face and nose, I half-expected him to skate on a line with Penny and Brain. He’s a bit of a bumbler, too. Twice last night he activated Go-Go-Gadget-Take-Stupid-Penalty.
People will claim that the Canucks were outmuscled, but that’s not actually true. The Canucks outhit Boston 32 to 22, led by 4 hits by Jannik Hansen, 6 by Tanner Glass, and a whopping seven by Raffi Torres, including this fabulous one on Tomas Kaberle, which might have been Raffi’s best hit of the season. Human bowling ball indeed.
Speaking of Kesler, he took 25 faceoffs last night. The rest of the team, combined, took 29. It was like he and Vigneault were playing a game of Uno, and Vigneault was out to get him. Draw four, Kes. Ha ha, draw four again.
The Canucks’ power play looked disorganized and tentative, and it may have cost the the game. Tentative is good for road trip itineraries; it’s bad for special teams.
Those bullet points from their February 26th meeting with the Bruins represent four of the keys for the Canucks this series. The first is that they will need to draw penalties: the Canucks can’t afford to play this series at even-strength, where the Bruins have been absolutely dominant in the playoffs. The second key is that the Canucks will need to play a physical game, especially on the forecheck. The third line of Hansen, Torres, and Lapierre will set the tone in this regard. The Bruins have size and nastiness, but the Canucks have consistently out-hit their opponents, causing both physical and mental damage. If the Canucks can make even one player shy away from a check or slow down going into the corners, then they will be successful.
The third key will be the battle between Kesler and Bergeron, which will start in the faceoff circle. Bergeron has won an obscene 62.3% of his faceoffs and has been acting like a lesser-Kesler — a Lessler, if you will — for the Bruins. He is easily the Bruins’ best two-way player and, like Kesler, played for his national team during the Olympics. The two players won’t necessarily see much of each other, as they will likely be matched against their opposition’s top lines. Whichever of the two is able to combine their shutdown duties with some secondary scoring will turn the tide in their team’s favor.
The fourth key is tied into the first: once they goad the Bruins into penalties, they have to take advantage of them. In their one game against the Bruins this season, their powerplay went 0-for-3 in a one-goal game. That simply cannot happen in this series.
Here’s Your Opinion
Reasons for Optimism
The Sedins are on an incredible roll and we still have yet to see the best from Daniel. While they won’t get as much room to maneuver as they did against the Sharks, the defensive pressure won’t be anywhere near as stifling as it was against the Predators.
Defensive depth and mobility favor the Canucks. While the Bruins have a decent defensive corps headlined by 2008-09 Norris winner Zdeno Chara and the underrated Dennis Seidenberg, the Canucks can roll through their defensive pairings and feel comfortable with almost any match-up. The ability of the Canucks’ defense to jump up into the rush may decide this series.
Team speed: while the Bruins can send out the odd speedster, the Canucks have speed on every line. The Bruins have a tendency to leave space in the neutral zone: if the Canucks can burn through this space and enter the offensive zone with speed, the Bruins’ defenders will be on their heels.
Manny Malhotra’s return is the x-factor in this series. While he won’t return for Game 1 (unless the team is pulling the wool over our eyes), the second Manny hits the ice will provide a massive emotional boost. More importantly, if he can take (and win) some key defensive zone faceoffs, kill penalties, and play any sort of shutdown role, that will free up Kesler for a more offensive role.
Causes for Concern
Nathan Horton is the bane of my wife’s fantasy hockey team. It was a clutch goal in the final game of the week by Horton for my team, the Emily Carr Echidnas, that knocked her team, The Pain Lions, out of the medal round this year. Horton has continued his clutchiness, with 3 of his 8 postseason goals being gamewinners.
David Krejci is even more clutch than Horton: Krejci has 4 gamewinning goals, leading the NHL. He also leads the Bruins in points and has proven that he is a legitimate number one center. Fortunately, the consensus amongst sports statisticians is that “clutch” doesn’t exist. Still, Bieksa and Hamhuis will have their hands full with Horton, Krejci, and the underperforming Lucic.
Zdeno Chara is a pain-in-the-tuckus to play against. While not the fastest skater, he’s no slouch considering his size. His positioning is superb and his reach is incomparable. Matched with the much more mobile Seidenberg, Chara may be able to contain the Sedins at even-strength, meaning they will need to take advantage of their powerplay opportunities and the few times they find themselves on the ice with a lesser defensive pairing.
Tertiary scoring: while the Canucks and Bruins are getting relatively equivalent contributions from their primary and secondary sources of scoring, the Bruins have been able to get contributions throughout their lineup. While Torres, Lapierre, and Hansen have been excellent roleplayers for the Canucks, they haven’t provided much on the scoresheet and the fourth line would have to actually be on the ice to record any points. If each team’s defense and two-way forwards are effective at neutralizing the top-end offensive talent, the Bruins seem to have the edge in bottom-end scoring.
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