Sunday, June 05, 2011

Two Wins Away

The Vancouver Canucks have been great in third periods all season long and game two of the Stanley Cup finals was no different. After a weak 2nd period the Canucks took over in the third and tied the game on a Daniel Sedin goal. Vancouver fans barely had time to sit down for the overtime as Alex Burrows ended it 11 seconds in on a great individual effort. Just like that Vancouver is just two wins away from the Stanley Cup!

The Keys to the Stanley Cup

The X Factor: Officiating
Unlike game one the zebra's finally let 'em play and called one of the better games we've seen for a while. The only bad call was Kevin Bieksa's delay of game where it was obvious on replay that the puck hit the glass before exiting play. Both teams got away from the post whistle scrums that were so common in game one and both teams were much more disciplined overall. The result of all that was fewer powerplay opportunities for both teams.
When they did get a chance the Canucks' powerplay struggled, but they managed to score late in their first opportunity as Burrows quickly shot the puck on net, fooling Tim Thomas who may have been expecting the puck to come off the backhand of Higgins stick. Boston took over play in the 2nd and looked confident and sharp on their second period opportunity which resulted in a Mark Recchi deflection finding the back of the net.
The prevailing theory heading into the series was that Boston would not be able to win the special teams battle. So far that hasn't been the case and that's a big reason why Boston almost escaped Vancouver with a split.
Battle of the Vezina Finalists
Roberto Luongo was once again razor sharp. He nearly stoned Lucic in the second, but the puck just managed to slide under his pad and he had no chance on the Mark Recchi deflection (although you could argue that he was a little deep in his net). His rebound control was once again stellar and he did an excellent job playing the puck out of his net. Tim Thomas on the other hand was good, but also over aggressive. He was often far outside his crease, getting caught up with players. His over aggressiveness resulted in both the tying goal by Daniel Sedin and the stunning OT winner by Burrows. So far the edge in this series goes to Luongo.
The Canucks Defense
The Bruins failed to get a forecheck going in game one, but they found one in the second period of game two. With Dan Hamhuis out of the lineup the Canucks' defense was much slower and was not nearly as good going back to retrieve pucks in their own end. Aaron Rome was forced to play more minutes than he should and while Andrew Alberts played well, the lack of footspeed really worked in Boston's favour. If I was Boston, I would find away to get more speed up front. David Krejci has been dangerous in both games, but with no speed on his wings his line hasn't been as effective as it could be. With last change in Boston the Bruins should be able to exploit Alberts and Rome a little more.
The Battle for the Conn Smythe
With Ryan Kesler quieting down offensively and Henrik Sedin pointless in the finals, another name may be emerging in the Conn Smythe race - Alex Burrows. Another game winner or two and he has to be considered. That said, Roberto Luongo has to be the front runner right now. His 2.16 GAA and .928 SvPct are absolutely stellar. Heading into the series I said that the Canucks needed just one of Henrik or Kesler to have a great series, turns out they may not need either of them to be great.

The biggest story of game two was of course the miraculous return of Manny Malhotra. Malhotra did exactly what you'd expect. He was outstanding in the faceoff circle, helped out on the PK, gave AV some confidence in the 4th line and inspired the home town crowd. The only negative aspect to his return was that Vigneault may have played the 4th line a little too much in the 2nd period. They got caught out against the Krejci line and as a result of their ice time the Sedins were limited to under 11 minutes through two periods. Henrik had just 6 shifts and 3:36 of ice time in the 2nd - that's simply not enough.

Finally, this is one of the funniest things I've ever seen in a hockey game:

2 Wins Baby!