Game One Brought…

The Stanley Cup Finals have finally started with the Canucks winning in the dying seconds of the third period on a Raffi Torres goal from Jannik Hansen and the heads-up play of Ryan Kesler.  When I was at Rogers Arena last night, I felt an energy in the building that hasn’t been felt in a long, long time. Game one showed me a few things to indicate where this series could go.

Last night, I saw some good things, ,some bad things and certainly some odd things.  Regardless of the strange happenings throughout the arena last night, the hometown team gave their crowds something to cheer about.

Oh, Bite me!

Bergeron and Burrows showing what a French Kiss is all about in hockey- Photo Credit: Globe and Mail


Alex Burrows got into a little scuffle with Patrice Bergeron last night which led into an alleged biting of Bergeron’s finger. Bergeron and Julien complained to the refs, who didn’t see the incident, about Burrows and wanted him tossed out of the series for a game or two. Who knows, perhaps Burrows was in the middle of a sentence in their chirping when Bergeron shoved his finger in Burrows’ mouth? Maybe that’s a way French-Canadians chirp at each other. Who knows, all I know is the NHL didn’t seem to think it was suspension worthy, despite what some members of the media think. Ask yourself Pierre Maguire, if Gord Miller shoved his finger in your mouth during an argument, what would you do?

Confetti

After Game 5 of the Western Conference Final, the braintrust at Rogers Arena thought it would be a good idea to have confetti fall all over the ice surface after the game winning goal.  I wonder if the brainiac who decided it would be an awesome idea ever put on a pair of skates? I don’t think so. It was nearly impossible for the players to skate around to celebrate the victory and it could have resulted in a potential injury to one of the players.  It was a poor choice of celebration fodder.  How poor? So poor that last night, I managed to take a picture of a pile of confetti atop of the cover of the walk-way of the visitors bench. Not only that, an official on the ice had to pick up a stray piece of confetti as it floated down to the surface. I am guessing the brain trust at Rogers Arena and the Canucks front office might want to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Well, at least I hope.

Confetti atop the visitors bench entry way cover. - Photo Credit: Justine Galo


Officiating, yet again

So 12 penalties were called in the first  and second periods, but none in the third. I would say about 1/3 of those penalties called were pretty weak ( going both ways) and they should have just the teams play a little more. It would have made for a bit more of an exciting game and given it a much better flow.  The NHL officials are yet again, consistently inconsistent.

Great Goaltending

Both Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo have shown why they are both up for the Vezina trophy last night. Although I am sure, both would gladly concede the regular season honour to one another to win the Stanley Cup.  Thomas dazzled the crowd with his acrobatic saves and his aggressive style.  For a small man, he certainly covers the net very well, and for some of the Canucks in the early goings of the first period, too well. He set an NHL record for best save percentage in the regular season of .938. He broke a record held for 11 years by Dominik Hasek (Buffalo Sabres) at .936. He also can thank a post and crossbar aiding him and his team last night. Despite the late heroic goal by Raffi Torres he stopped 33 of 34 shots by the Canucks. He also faced better scoring chances than his counter-part, Roberto Luongo.

Even though Luongo didn’t have to be as acrobatic as Thomas, he was perfect and acquiring his third shutout of the post-season, posting a 36 save effort for the night. His rebound control, and his efficient movements had Luongo help his team to this win. For those doubting Luongo in the earlier part of this post season, since Nashville, he has been stellar. Maybe just maybe, his critics might start showing him the respect, that I believe he deserves. Mr. Dangerfield, he is not.

Signage

Saw some really cool signs last night, some good, some dirty and but most creative.  There was a couple of long banners passed around Rogers Arena last night that had “Go Canucks Go”

A banner is being used like "The Wave" passed around Rogers Arena- Photo Credit: Justine Galo


And of course, the Cup Final banner was hung from the rafters at Rogers Arena. I managed to get an excellent picture of it from my seat.

Stanley Cup banner hangs from the rafters in Rogers Arena: Photo: Justine Galo


It was a great way to start the series, and I look forward to the upcoming games. I anticipate  the drama that builds, the signs that come in, and the play between two very good hockey teams.

Justine Galo

Twitter: @Aviewfromabroad

For all the marbles: Canucks and Bruins Stanley Cup Final Preview/Prediction

I’ve been running this site since 1996 so I have yet to have the privilege of covering a Stanley Cup Final. Years of hoping and waiting have finally ended, and here we are with the Canucks in the finals for the 3rd time in their 40 year history. It’s been an exhausting playoffs and it seems like forever since they started. The NHL’s brilliant plan to wait so long to start the final haven’t helped but here we sit on the verge of the biggest playoff series in Canucks history.

So here we have it, our last preview of the playoffs, as we take a look at the Canucks and Bruins, for all the marbles.

Canucks and Boston - Photo Credit: Richard Lam/Getty Images

Canucks and Boston - Photo Credit: Richard Lam/Getty Images



If the NHL wanted two of the best teams in the NHL, they certainly got it. That said the two teams are built very differently. Vancouver built on depth and speed and the flexibility to play multiple styles. The Bruins are built on toughness, hard work and solid defense. The Canucks have proven over the course of the regular season and in the playoffs that they can play any style you want to, and they attempt to dictate what style their opponents play as well. Can the Bruins play multiple styles and adapt to a faster Western Conference? They did in the only meeting between the two clubs this year, leaving Rogers Arena with a 3-1 win.

The keys to the series:

The Canucks are the favourites in the series and with good reason. We all know they ran away with the President’s Trophy and have been picked by many to win it all. To beat Boston, the Canucks are going to have to use their speed to make Boston’s defenders chase them. Puck movement, getting to open spaces quickly and efficiently will be crucial to Vancouver’s success.

The defensive pairing of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg will be assigned to contain the Sedin twins who returned to form against the Sharks. The Bruins have strong penalty killing led by Chara and goaltender Tim Thomas and if the Canucks are to be successful their five on five play has to be better than it was against San Jose where they did most of their damage on the power play. They have to generate more shots at even strength, more quality chances, and get Tim Thomas moving in the net.

If the series becomes a parade to the penalty box the Canucks chances are likely increased, as long as that parade includes both teams. The Bruins power play has been brutal in the playoffs and that’s being kind. The Canucks however have been very effective.

For Boston to win they need to control the Sedin line. The twins struggled to find space against Chicago’s Seabrook and Keith and Nashville’s Weber and Suter. They thrived against the Sharks who don’t have a defensive pairing of the ilk of Chara and Seidenberg. But the Bruins will also need to pay attention to Ryan Kesler, who will have used the lengthy break to get as close to 100% as possible and who almost single handedly led the Canucks against Nashville. Kesler may revert to a defensive role again, concentrating on shutting down the Bruins big line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton. But the Bruins roll four lines consistently, and the Canucks may be forced to do the same if they want to keep fresh legs out there. With Vancouver’s fourth line a revolving door, Alain Vigneault may have to find a trio he can stick with and give them more minutes. That will require relying on some youth, particularly if Manny Malhotra can’t get the green light to play.

Both teams sport pests that will attempt to get under the oppositions skin. The Canucks Torres and Lappiere will counter Boston’s Brad Marchand.

The biggest battle however will be between two Vezina finalists in Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas. In three career starts against Vancouver, Thomas has allowed just one goal. Not a large body of work, but it does indicate what impact Thomas can have in a seven game series. Luongo has been solid after a speed bump against the Hawks and despite some untimely goals at times has played a huge role in the success of his team. His performance in game 5 against San Jose was one of his best ever.

Both teams will attempt to get traffic in front of the net and the Bruins have the bigger bodies to do just that. The Canucks defense will have to be at their best to allow Luongo to see the puck as much as possible. The Bruins will have to contend mostly with Kesler and Burrows who will see a lot of Mr. Chara and will have to pay the price. The Canucks have generated fourteen goals from their defence to Boston’s eight and whatever team can get their back end involved will have a great advantage.

If you’re into stats, here is a nice little package compiled by James Mirtle at the Globe & Mail. By the numbers this could be an incredible final and a very competitive one. It could go down the wire but for some reason I just have a gut feeling the Canucks are a team of destiny. They have been the best team in the league almost from start to finish. They have demonstrated they can play any style they need to and in my opinion they are deeper than the Bruins.

The Bruins will put up a tough fight and the games will be close. But I think the Canucks find a way to win this series in six games and win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history and what an incredible end to an amazing 40th anniversary season that would be.

Dear Vancouver: We’re Cup Bound, Can You Believe It?

Dear Vancouver:

Are you all still in disbelief? Are you all still partying from last night? Do most of you still think it’s just a dream? It isn’t a dream. Our Vancouver Canucks are heading to the Stanley Cup Finals. It has been 17 years since our last finals appearance and only a third time in our 40 year history to get to here.  It hasn’t been an ‘easy’ run, but nothing worth winning is ever easy. I for one, am happy it happened this way.

Round One: The Monkey Off The Back

After going up 3-0 against the Chicago Blackhawks, and seeing that lead slip away, it hurt. And by the time Game 6 came around, I am sure some of us out there lost faith in our boys. In fact, there were even a few out there ( in Twitterverse and the Facebook world) who were going to denounce the Canucks as their team. Sure the Canucks played terribly in games four and five, but there is a reason why they play the games. It had to be done. It was won and was it ever a thriller. There were talks of trading Luongo and running him out of town.  After last night, and 54 saves later, is he still you goat?

Roberto Luongo celebrates a 54 save effort and win with the Green Men: Photo credit David Carigg

Round Two: Grits and Fits

This series was one that many of the Canucks fans, myself included, just wanted toget through’.  It was hard hockey to watch. Not just because the Predators brought a bland brand of hockey to the table, but more because it was frustrating to see many of the Canucks get contained by it. The Sedins were deemed ‘invisible’ by fans and media alike. It also showed what Ryan Kesler was made of.  After an unbelievable year, he tops it off with factoring in the majority of the scoring in this series.  Captain America is definitely a Canuck.

Round Three: No Way Jose

This was a closer series than the 4-1 in games indicated, but the better team won, no question.  The San Jose Sharks were valiant and worthy opponents. Although I don’t agree with Dan Boyle thinking the Sharks deserved to win this series and Vancouver didn’t, it could have gone either way at any point. Vancouver’s goal tending from Roberto Luongo was excellent. The Sedins, especially Henrik showed why they are Art Ross trophy winners. Henrik tied Pavel Bure for most points by a Canuck in a single series with 12, 11 of those were, or course, assists.

Personal Highlights

I have been privileged to watch live games in every round of these playoffs, so far. I even made my way to San Jose for Game 4, but I wasn’t alone. I shared that experience with about 6000 other Canucks fans who made the journey. Although the palm trees were abundant, the weather was warm and it felt like I walked into a western movie in certain parts of town, it felt like a home game with all the Canucks fans there.  Prior to the game, many of us met on San Pedro Street, also named “Sharks Avenue”, to congregate and march to the HP Pavilion together.  At the arena, we took over the lower bowl for the warm-up and were chanting “Go Canucks go!”. We sang “O Canada” like we were north of the 49th and we chanted and sang throughout the game when our boys make it a final of 4-2. I felt like I was in Vancouver…south.

Canucks Nation

Canucks Nation invades San Jose - Photo Credit: Justine Galo

Although I didn’t attend Game 5 in person last night, my daughter took my place. When I met up with her and my significant other, I could tell with the look in her eyes that she believed.  It was much to being the same look I had during the 1994 Western Conference Final. She understood what it was that had me love this team above all others.  She was now ‘in love’ with our Canucks more than ever before.

In conclusion, we all are probably still waking up today with a little bit in a dream-like state.  Did that really happen? Are the Canucks for real? Well, yes. It all happened and the Canucks are very much the real deal but as my twitter friend @PabloPenguin74 said to me @Aviewfromabroad it is the first thing I thought as my eyes opened from slumber. For some, it won’t be real until game 1.” He’s right. It won’t feel real until then. So we have a few days to soak it all in, but Game 1 will come and we, Vancouver, as a city and a Canuck Nation, will be heading to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Get ready and buckle up, stay on the wagon, it’s time for the real work to begin.
GO CANUCKS GO!

Our 40th Anniversary puck iced at Rogers Arena's Best Buy Club- Photo Credit: Justine Galo

 

Justine Galo