I don’t think anybody could have foreseen the 8-1 drubbing the Bruins handed the Canucks yesterday. While some in Vancouver predicted a loss, most predicted a close loss, maybe another one-goal game with some late heroics. Instead, Canuck fans found their team on the wrong end of the second-worst blowout in Stanley Cup Final history. It was hard to take. There were tears of rage. Speaking of The Band, prior to the game, the air was electric, but when the final whistle went, the air was acoustic; it was like Dylan in reverse. Rogers Arena evolved from a viewing party into a Peanuts convention, with hordes of crestfallen fans doing the Charlie Brown all the way home. And as for me? Doctor says I’ve got a “mild mania”, which I think I developed when I watched this game:
Prior to the game, Justin Bourne tweeted that, for the Bruins to have a chance, they had to turn the games ugly. 145 penalty minutes later, that’s exactly what transpired. Clearly, Bourne has a Sports Almanac from the future. He may or may not be Biff Tannen. At the time, I scoffed, thinking that, if Boston attempted anything so silly, the Canucks would make them pay on the powerplay. Instead, the Canuck proceeded to go 0-for-8 with the man advantage, giving up two shorthanded goals. Special teams ineptitude of this sort is the hockey equivalent of putting George McFly’s “kick me” sign on your back. Meanwhile, the Bruins went 2-for-4 on the powerplay. It was a complete reversal of fortune, like when Marty McFly gets hit with the car instead of his Dad.
I know, as a Canuck fan, I’m supposed to be outraged at Mark Recchi taunting Maxim Lapierre by trying to force his fingers into his mouth, but A) turnabout is fair play and B) it was hilarious. I especially loved the way Lapierre pursed his lips and refused to open them as though Papa Recchi was trying to spoonfeed him mashed peas. Recchi was making airplanes sounds the whole time.
That said, I was less impressed with Milan Lucic doing the same to Alex Burrows later. Basic rule of comedy: repeating a joke without changing it isn’t funny. Lucic should take some improv classes.
Speaking of biting, the Bruins bit more lines from the Canucks last night than Jay-Z from Biggie. Consider the opening goal: after losing the faceoff, the Bruins capitalized on an unfortunate turnover by a Canuck defenseman after Alex Edler’s stick broke, then scored 11 seconds into the period. Sound familiar? Heck, even their second goal directly cribbed from the Canucks powerplay, as the Bruins worked it in front to Ryan Kesler for the tip.
It was hard to fault Edler on the opening goal, although he may have exacerbated the broken stick by screening his goalie, but he looked pretty terrible on a few other plays and finished a game-low minus-4. His worst play, by far, came on Mark Recchi’s second of the evening, when Edler pinched, got caught, and let the Bruins break out on a 2-on-1. Then, rather than getting into position, Edler took a half-assed run at Brad Marchand, who centered the puck to the open man in front for the goal.
In truth, that goal was symptomatic of why this game ended 8-1 and not 5-1. The real story of game three is that the once mature Canucks completely lost their composure, perhaps for the first time this year. They quit skating, started looking for vengeance, and the Bruins picked them apart. I’m not entirely sure what Daniel Sedin did to warrant his game misconduct short of putting Andrew Ference in a headlock after Ference elbowed him in the face, but if last year taught us anything, it’s that, when Daniel Sedin is taking misconducts, the rest of the team has gone fully insane. Shots of the bench showed the rest of the Canucks throwing their poop and swinging from chandeliers.
Raffi Torres had some beautiful hits, but his flying elbow late in the game was unwise. Thank God he missed.
It’s unfortunate that the second period unfolded the way it did for the Canucks, because they ended the first strongly. After killing off Aaron Rome’s major penalty (more on that in a minute) with some fabulous defensive work and goaltending, the Canucks seized the momentum and generated a number of powerplays and scoring chances while holding the Bruins shotless for the frame’s final ten minutes. Unfortunately, Tim Thomas held the Canucks scoreless, his best save coming after Mason Raymond deked Dennis Seidenberg out of his shorts. Give credit to Thomas on that one. In one fell swoop, he turned the play of the game into the save of the game. It may have been the turning point of the series.
For others, that point will be Aaron Rome’s hit on Nathan Horton, a scary moment for which, as I write this, Rome awaits discipline. It wasn’t a particularly dirty play; if Horton pops up, it’s just a big hit. Unfortunately, he didn’t pop up, which was terrifying. Horton lay motionless on the ice, with his arm extended, for a chillingly long time. It was immediately clear that he was severely injured. Now, while it wasn’t a dirty hit, it was a dangerous hit, as Rome stood up on Horton at the blue line a beat late. As much as some will say Horton was watching his pass, the hit came long enough after he’d gotten rid of the puck that he had no reason to expect contact. The major penalty for interference was absolutely the right call. Supplemental punishment is debatable (it’s not warranted by current NHL rules), although I’d expect some. Considering the scary scene on the ice, the added attention, and the chippiness that followed, the NHL needs to take a stand on this one. Either way, the decision will be the wrong one, and all disagreement will be valid. The NHL has made it this way. Edit: four games. Wow.
In a brief moment of catharsis, Jannik Hansen ended Tim Thomas’s shutout bid with the Canucks’ only goal of the game. Hansen’s been sniffing for a goal like hog for a truffle, and it was nice to see him finally bury one. Or, I guess, in the case of the truffle hog simile, unbury one. Whatever.
Tweet of the night: Vancouver Sun sports editor Scott Brown, giving an example of how tonight could have been much worse: You know what would really suck? To watch that game in Boston wearing green spandex. That said, rumour has it the Green Men were well-received, which seems like a wasted opportunity. If someone had assaulted them, do you honestly think a positive ID would hold up in court? Now, isn’t it true, Sully, that your vision was obscured by a lime-green mask with no eyeholes?
It’s a little less impressive after an 8-1 loss, but I observed, in the first two games, that the Canucks were going at Chara and putting the puck into his skates, so as to take away the pokechecking option and give them the ability to take the body on him if the opportunity presented itself. We saw a clear-cut example of this in the first period, as Alex Edler chose that option over going wide on the hulking defenseman, and nearly broke past him. It’s not a bad idea. When you’re as high up as Chara, I’d imagine looking for the puck in your feet is as disorienting as the rooftop scene in Vertigo.
Ryan Kesler had his worst game of the playoffs last night, finishing with 17 PIM and a minus-3 rating after being on the ice for the first four Bruins goals. While it’s tough to blame him for the unfortunate tip on the first powerplay goal, one would assume that Kesler is the last person who would let Brad Marchand score a shorthanded goal. I suspect that a healthy Kesler doesn’t get burned like that. Kesler got left behind like he was Kirk Cameron. That goal was a backbreaker, Speaking of backbreakers, seeing Kesler throwing MMA ground punches on Dennis Seidenberg seemed like a step backwards, too.
While I thought Victor Oreskovich had a strong game and the fourth line had some decent shifts, Jeff Tambellini was directly at fault on two goals. I wouldn’t be surprised if he finds himself in the press box for the remainder of this series. His error on Paille’s shorthanded goal was inexcusable, as was his lame attempt to check Brad Marchand on Mark Recchi’s second. Expect to see Tanner Glass on Wednesday if he’s healthy.
In one of the most bizarre plays I’ve ever seen, Tim Thomas prevented a Henrik Sedin goal by taking the Canuck captain down like he was working a defibrillator. I’ve never seen that before in my life. It was infuriating at the time, although, if Luongo had done that to Krejci, say, it would have been pretty badass. CBC showed a graphic of Thomas’s statline: 35 saves and 1 hit. Funny stuff. That said, if there wasn’t already a question about the fairness of Thomas initiating contact, there is now. There doesn’t seem to be much recourse, however, so assume it will continue. In game 4, expect Thomas to shoot Mason Raymond with an Airsoft rifle prevent a breakaway or tase Ryan Kesler to clear a powerplay screen.
Alex Burrows took a measure of revenge by slashing Thomas on the hand after he covered a puck near the side of the net in the back half of the third. This set off a full-scale meltdown. It was like the scene in 28 Weeks Later where the virus gets into the compound. You had to feel for the poor referees, who were so desperate to see the game finish without the players cannibalizing one another that they started whistling penalties for nothing. Ryan Kesler took a boarding call for a clean hit, for instance. Then, the officials just started throwing players out of the game. Seidenberg, Lucic, Thornton, Ference, Bieksa, Kesler, Burrows all hit the showers early. By the game’s end, there were, like, three guys at each bench. It looked like a poorly organized pickup game. One guy was wearing Rollerblades.
An unlikely couple, Mark Wahlberg and Tie Domi were sitting together in the stands. They looked friendly, although things got less friendly when Wahlberg said, “Say hi to your mother for me,” and Domi beat the Hell out of him for talking smack ’bout his mom.
A lot of people talked about the “trade” of Aaron Rome for Nathan Horton, and how it benefited the Canucks. Not so. With Rome gone, and without the calming influence of Dan Hamhuis to settle the remaining five guys, the Canuck blueline fell completely apart. Rick Bowness needs to get that group settled and ensure this never happens again. If Hamhuis can’t play Wednesday, I wouldn’t be surprised if Alberts is taken out of the next game as well, and we see the Ballard/Tanev pairing return for consistency’s sake.
So. Roberto Luongo. I agreed, at the time, with the decision not to pull him after the fifth goal, especially after CBC editorialized (yet again) with a quick cut to Cory Schneider after the fourth. Luongo wasn’t the reason the Canucks were down five, and the next day’s story would have been all about his “collapse” if Vigneault had made any sort of tacit admission that Funny Bob was at fault. Unfortunately, the Canucks quit playing defense after that, and Luongo was peppered for three more quick ones before the final whistle. In retrospect, pulling your goalie after five is better than leaving him in for eight, media idiocy be damned. He should have been pulled. It’s unfortunate that this happened, too, because I felt like the media was finally coming around on Luongo and Thomas was beginning to get the dumb questions. Back to start.
And finally, this really isn’t a cause for panic. As Kevin Bieksa said, “it’s not aggregate scores. It’s not Champions League. It’s the Stanley Cup final.” Truth is, whether it’s 8 goals or 2 goals or 100 goals, it’s just one loss, and the Bruins still need to win three of the remaining four to win the Cup. They likely won’t get another laugher like this one. If the Canucks can regroup and get the split in Boston, they’ll return to Vancouver with a 3-1 series lead. Unflip your pools. It’s June.
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