Saturday, June 04, 2011

Three Wins Away

It took until the final seconds of the third period, but the Vancouver Canucks finally beat Tim Thomas. Raffi Torres scored the winner on a great passing play by Ryan Kesler and Jannik Hansen. The Canucks are now just three wins away from the Stanley Cup!

The Keys to the Stanley Cup

Let's take a look at the four keys to the Stanley Cup...

The X Factor: Officiating
One of the biggest questions heading into game one was how were the officials going to call things? The answer: pretty tight. Both teams had six powerplays during the first two periods including 5 on 3 advantages, but neither team scored. The Bruins PP looked dangerous at times, but failed to really get any great chances. Their performance on a lengthy 5 on 3 was extremely tentative and a key turning point in the game. The Canucks on the other hand failed to show any urgency on their power plays. They hung on to the puck too long, didn't move around much and failed to get shots on goal. Expect the Canucks PP to be better in game two, but will they get many opportunities?
Also expect Vancouver to get away from the scrums after the whistle. The Canucks played into Boston's game plan in game one. Alex Burrows in particular got away from what the Canucks have done all year. The Canucks need to return their focus to the play between the whistles.
Battle of the Vezina Finalists
Both Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo were outstanding in game 1. Thomas came up with some huge saves early and was spectacular throughout. Roberto on the other hand didn't need to be spectacular because he was absolutely air tight - there were no rebounds or second chances. As the game went on it became clear that the Canucks were trying to get Thomas to move side to side as much as possible. Eventually it paid off on the Torres goal. Expect that to be the game plan in game 2 and beyond.
The Canucks Defense
As expected the Canucks defense core was excellent at retrieving pucks in their own end, negating the Bruins forecheck almost entirely. As a result Lucic and Horton were basically non-factors 5 on 5 and it was the speedier Boston forwards like Marchand who were the most dangerous. Without Dan Hamhuis the Canucks are going to have a little more trouble in their own end. The ability of Ehrhoff and Edler to go back, protect the puck, then move it to a supporting player was crucial in game one. Can Ballard or Alberts be as effective in game 2? At times both have struggled in that department this year.
The Battle for the Conn Smythe
Heading into the series it was Henrik vs Kesler. Now a new name has emerged, Roberto Luongo. Luongo's numbers since game 6 of round 1 are absolutely stellar. If he continues to play like he did in game 1 he will add a Conn Smythe & Stanley Cup to his Olympic Gold Medal and no one will ever be able to question his ability to win when it counts.

Game Two goes tonight. The Canucks will almost certainly be without Dan Hamhuis, but it's looking like Manny Malhotra will make his amazing return to the lineup. Malhotra skated today and is a "game time decision". Considering how much the 4th line played in game 1 I would say Malhotra is a go. Just having him sit on the bench all night would be a bigger contribution than Alexander Bolduc's 1:39 from game 1.

3 Wins Baby!