It was what everyone was talking about, the feel good story of the season. A triumphant return to the ice in Game 2 after no one thought it would happen. It was the longest of longshots that he would be available for the Canucks in this game, but Alex Burrows wasn’t suspended for his alleged bite and was brilliant tonight. Oh, and Manny Malhotra came back from injury. I guess that was also a big deal. I watched this game.
Manny Malhotra’s return to the ice was the emotional highlight of this game and the loud “Manny Manny Manny” chants from the Rogers Arena faithful were incredibly moving. He skated a regular shift on the fourth line and came out on the second penalty-killing unit as well, playing a total of 7:26. In that time, he blocked a shot, recorded a takeaway, and won 6-of-7 faceoffs. He was the only Canuck to finish above 50% in the faceoff circle, with 6 of his faceoffs coming in the defensive zone. It was a near ideal return to action.
Amazingly, each of his 7 faceoffs came against a different Bruin. 7 different players for the Bruins took at least one faceoff tonight, and Manny faced each of them in turn. The only one to beat Manny was Rich Peverley. I bet he’s bragging about that on the plane back to Boston.
For those who don’t think Manny’s return to the ice had much of an effect on the game, given that he only played 7-and-a-half minutes, consider that Henrik Sedin didn’t take a single defensive zone faceoff tonight. With Malhotra and Kesler covering that duty, the first line was able to start primarily in the offensive zone and focus their energy on creating offense from the blueline in. And that brief time-on-ice is still more than Cody Hodgson and Alex Bolduc have averaged in these playoffs.
Even if Malhotra had come in to this game and put up 5 points, won 18 faceoffs, and blocked every shot the Bruins took while he was on the ice, he still couldn’t crack the third line, which has been fantastic. Jannik Hansen had yet another superb game and is beginning to develop the vision of a veteran playmaker, making beautiful passes to his linemates and adding 4 shots. Poor guy got robbed by Thomas on one opportunity and just couldn’t find the net on a few other chances. Maxim Lapierre added 4 shots of his own as well as 3 hits, while Raffi Torres was physical and dangerous on the forecheck. They’re the best third line since Like a patient etherized upon a table.
But the true star of the proceedings was Alexandre Burrows, who Boston fans and media will be quick to point out shouldn’t have even been playing. Heck, Mike Milbury is both a fan and media member: guess what he thinks.
With 2 goals and an assist in Game 2, Burrows has inserted himself into the Conn Smythe discussion. He is now tied with Daniel for the team lead in postseason goals with 9, with 2 of them overtime gamewinners. He’s 7th in scoring with 17 points; if he has any shot at winning the Conn Smythe over Henrik, Luongo, Kesler, or one of the Bruins he’ll need to pick up a few more points. Two more overtime game-winners would fit the bill.
A couple things to notice about the opening goal of the game, an unexpected wristshot from a bad angle that sneaks under the arm of Tim Thomas. First, if Luongo lets that goal in, then I know I would not be able to listen to the Team 1040 on the drive home without putting my fist through my dashboard. Second, apparently the best way to beat Thomas is to catch him unawares. Maybe try the old hidden puck trick. Third, how good is the play by Sami Salo to keep the puck in the zone and hit Higgins with the pass? The answer is so good.
At 1:01 of the highlight video, you can see Higgins give up the puck to Burrows, knowing that Burrows has the best opportunity to score, which of course is the best opportunity for Kiss Huggins to get a post-goal hug. Everyone on the team seems to think it’s weird whenever he asks for non-goal-related hugs, so he has been encouraging everyone on the team to set goals for themselves, which he records in his Evolving Achievements Binder. That way he knows whenever someone accomplishes a goal and can swoop in for the post-goal hug. This has not led to anyone thinking he is less weird than before.
Of course, Burrows’ first goal immediately triggered every single sportswriter in North America into making a “bite” pun. Look for a variation on “Burrows Takes a Bite Out of Bruins” in every paper tomorrow.
At one point Daniel Sedin purposely stood on the puck, protected it under his skate, then kicked it back to Burrows. It was an incredible maneuver and I thought I was the only one who saw it. Then Craig Simpson showed it on the replay, which immediately made me feel a little less special. Fortunately, I have my mom on speed-dial so she can reassure me that I am the most special person on earth.
Andrew Alberts had a successful return to the lineup, recording a game-high 6 hits. The leader in hits for the Bruins was Mark Recchi, with 5, but let’s face it: hits from the 5’10″ Recchi are not really equivalent to hits from the 6’5″ Alberts. That’s like Harvey Danger comparing themselves to The Beatles.
Aaron Rome, on the other hand, was frustrating to watch. While he had 4 hits and 4 blocked shots, he also made poor decisions with the puck, including a baffling icing with less than 5 minutes left in the game. He also took two penalties: yes, both of them were incredibly soft calls, but he put himself in a position for the refs to make those calls. On the first, he took one hand off his stick and put it on his opponent. While he didn’t actually hold said opponent, you run the risk of getting called when you take that action. In the second, he appeared to attempt a hipcheck when the puck was nowhere near his opponent. Sure, he didn’t actually make contact so it wasn’t technically interference, but it sure looked like interference. You can’t blame the ref for making what appear to be obvious calls.
At one point, Jim Hughson said Aaron Rome has joined the rush. No. If Rome joins the rush, it is no longer a rush. It is now a dawdle.
Bieksa also appeared to be out of sync without his Hammy. He had a whopping 5 giveaways in this game. He was like Ace without Gary, Garfunkel without Simon, or Snowy without Tintin. Here’s hoping Hamhuis makes a speedy recovery or, at the very least, that Bieksa can be partnered with someone he isn’t reluctant to pass to.
In a best-case scenario for Vancouver hockey fans, Milan Lucic scored his first Stanley Cup Final goal in his hometown and the hometown team won. The goal was not Ehrhoff’s finest moment, as he loses the initial puck battle along the boards against Lucic and then gets caught watching the puck instead of tying up Lucic’s stick on the rebound. Hey Ehrhoff: it’s my job to watch this game, not yours.
At 43, Mark Recchi is the oldest player in NHL history to score in a Stanley Cup Final. Far more impressive is the fact this goal came on a Boston powerplay. I have heard tell of such things, but never thought to see one with my own eyes.
After a terrible second period, the Canucks were down 2-1 going into the third. The Bruins had a 6-0 record in the playoffs when leading after two periods. Had. The Canucks then proceeded to dominate the third, outshooting the Bruins 11-5. Daniel Sedin scored the tying goal into a wide-open net, which seems to be a bit of a theme for the Canucks’ goals against Tim Thomas. The net was wide-open because Thomas overplayed the Alex Edler shot from the point, which Burrows knocks down in front of the net to feed Daniel. Since they don’t award points for tertiary assists, Henrik gets left off the scoresheet, though his super-high saucer-pass to the point is the most impressive part of this play.
Just before the tying goal, Glenn Healy talked about Thomas “making saves at the right time.” That right there would have been the right time to make a save. When the shot came on net. You might even say that it would have been a “key save.” The wrong time for Tim Thomas to make a save is when the Bruins are shooting on Luongo. That would be silly.
I’m used to overtime being a tense, heart-pounding affair. After downing an American Mountain Dew with dinner, I was afraid the combination of caffeine, sugar, and crazed back-and-forth overtime action would cause my heart to explode: instead, Burrows scored the second fastest playoff overtime goal in NHL history. After Henrik lost the faceoff, the Canucks created yet another in a long series of neutral zone turnovers, as Edler intercepted a pass from Ference. With typical speed, the Canucks immediately transitioned into the offensive zone. They have a better transition than a star-wipe.
Burrows first outskates Chara, then outbattles Chara, and then — and most impressively – outreaches Chara. Burrows keeps his legs moving, even as he fakes the shot, while Chara stops skating. The other person who stops skating is Brad Marchand, who coasts in from the blueline instead of skating hard to the front of the net, where he may have been able to stick-check Burrows. I haven’t seen that much coasting since Lupe Fiasco’s “Kick Push” video.
My favorite view of the gamewinning goal is this in-net camera as it shows just how wide open the net was for Burrows. It is absolutely baffling how far Thomas comes out of his net. He has to know that Chara will keep Burrows to the outside, but Thomas challenges like he’s Gorka Pintado — way too aggressively. Then he bites on the fake shot harder than Burrows bit Bergeron. Then, instead of recognizing that Burrows is going behind the net and trusting Chara to prevent him from cutting back in front, he dives at the puck. It’s a series of increasingly poor choices; I honestly have no idea what was going through his head, but if I had to guess, it would be this.
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