Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

The Bruins: Game One

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According to the pundits before the game, Boston had to avoid the special teams game because their power play is poor while the Canucks have the best power play in the league. The Bruins, so went the conventional wisdom, were the best team in the league at five on five so the more the game was played at even strength the better.

It didn’t work out that way. The fact that the first two periods were one power play after another actually favoured Boston, slowing the game to a pace they could handle. The special teams battle was a draw only because the Canuck power play was uncharacteristically inept. The Bruins can’t expect that to continue.

Vancouver dominated the game five on five, particularly in the third period. They used their speed to all but shut down the Bruins while creating chance after chance. Boston may have been slightly better than Vancouver at even strength during the regular season but that doesn’t mean anything because that reflects how the two teams played against the league. What matters now is how they match up five on five against each other, and against each other, Boston has a lot of trouble keeping up.

“The first two periods were pretty even,” said Julien, “And then we sort of ran out of gas in the third.” Funny how often that happens to Canuck opponents. Julien and others have tried to spin this as a moral victory, a positive showing that demonstrated the Bruins could win this series.

I suppose, but Thomas was great, Chara and Seidenberg kept the Sedins off the scoresheet and the game was close so that with a good bounce the Bruins might have won. Everything went right and they still didn’t win. If they don’t win this kind of game, they can’t win the series.

This game was a blowout in disguise.

Other thoughts:

1) While the third line deservedly drew kudos as the Canuck’s best on the night, the other two lines weren’t chopped liver. Kesler was a force all night and made a brilliant play on the winning goal. We’re used to seeing more really good chances from the Sedins, but the Canucks spent a lot of time in the Boston end when they were on the ice. No matter who the Canucks put out there, they pressured the Bruins all night long.

2) While Chara and Seidenberg deserve credit for keeping the Sedins off the scoresheet I didn’t think Chara looked like a Norris Trophy winner. He wasn’t a factor offensively and he looked awful on the winning goal. The best defenseman on the ice was Alex Edler.

3) Luongo made it look easy all night long. Partly that was because Boston had very few really good chances to score and partly because he always makes it look easy when he is on top of his game. The Bruins can’t win with 30 perimeter shots. To score on Luongo, they have to get people and the puck to the crease. Boston couldn’t do that last night even when they had a two man advantage.

4) I don’t know whether Burrows should or will get suspended. I’d guess “no” if the linesman’s testimony matches up with what he apparently said to Bergeron. Still, its a dumb play by Alex.

If he is suspended, the Canucks will manage just like they will manage if Dan Hamhuis can’t play.

Go Canucks.

Update I: Burrows wasn’t suspended.

Update II: One of the themes in the interviews today was the Canuck speed. When Vigneault was asked about it, he seemed almost taken aback because the question came from a local reporter. “You’ve watched the team all year,” Vigneault began.

The Canucks are clearly one of the fastest teams in the league. They’ve tried to use that by trying to push the pace in every game they’ve played. Speed, a defense that can move the puck and a strong work ethic is what have brought this team this far. This might be a surprise to an Eastern reporter, but how can someone who watched the team all year not understand that speed is the central strength of this team?

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Comments

13 Responses to “The Bruins: Game One”
  1. Nicholas says:

    The B’s power play was truly pathetic, wasn’t it? I always figure talented teams get through these rough patches eventually, but it’s been that way all playoffs. It seemed that they had no killer instinct at all even with a five-on-three. The CBC analysts have been saying all throughout the playoffs that the Bs are “overthinking” their power play and it looked that way last night. They seem to be playing as if they are the favourites rather than as hard-charging, scrappy underdogs like Nashville.

    And I still can’t understand the Chara power-play experiment. As Bieksa said, most of him is above the crossbar. And goalies crouch down anyway. If Holmstrom can screen goalies you shouldn’t need someone the size of Chara to do it. And he has a long reach and great shot, two valuable assets on the point. I don’t get it at all and I’m guessing Julien comes to his senses next game.

  2. Tom says:

    I think the power play is structured all wrong too. Chara is wrong for the front of the net for all the reasons that have been mentioned, but I think it is just as wrong to have Kaberle quarterback it. I think you have to run the PP from the half boards not the point.

    The Canuck power play is “Get the puck to Henrik on the halfboards. Get Kesler in front. Everybody else is a shooter. Hank finds the guy who is open.” Sedin can shoot, he can find his brother in the slot, he can send it to the net for the deflection, he can feed either point. It doesn’t always work, but there is clearly a plan.

    What is the Boston plan? Kaberle either plays catch with the Bruin on the side boards or he feeds Seidenberg for a one timer. Everything is standing still when you try to run a power play from the point.

    Plus, the Bruins get no margin for error. Any bobble or loose puck and the Canuck PK is there.

    • Nicholas says:

      Agreed, I think the playing catch only works when you have two decent shooters, which allows either one to take advantage of a seam. Kaberle doesn’t shoot at all, and as you say he really only has Seidenberg to feed. The Canucks D will eat those one-timers all day because they’re predictable. I think they do have a plan, they just don’t have the right personnel for what they’re trying to do, unlike the Canucks PP which is designed around the specific strengths of the players they’re using.

      It’s tough to say what the Bs should do. If I were designing their power play I would keep it based at the point but get Kaberle outta there. Let him gain the zone and then go off on a change. Chara/Seidenberg on the points, Bergeron on the side boards and get some chaos in front of the net, get the puck moving quickly and shoot low and hard, looking for rebounds. It’s tough because Boston is just not a team built for the power play. Maybe they would be better served by spending the two minutes grinding down the opposing team’s D and tiring them out rather than trying to score.

  3. Pat Mc says:

    Boston’s powerplay is static as well, similar to the Oilers. Everyone stands around and they pass it around pass it around etc etc. Very little player movement. Hard to do anything with a PP like that.

    Score was close but game was not. Its just one game but I cannot see the Canucks losing this series.

  4. Rajeev says:

    When was the last time a team won w/o playing their fourth line at all?

    • Kel says:

      Malhotra practiced again after not skating for three or four days. Apparently he had a minor procedure and was seen wearing sunglasses indoor yesterday. Given that he practiced again today on the 4th line, there is a good chance he will dress tomorrow and the 4th line will see more ice time with Malhotra on it.

      • Rajeev says:

        Wow. I was thinking Malhotra would play tomorrow for sure after seeing the lines in practice. But he had a minor procedure and didn’t skate for three or four days? And now one practice and he’s going to play in the Finals? That sounds crazy to me, but Vigneault and Gillis have more than shown know what they’re doing.

        Vancouver’s just such a good team, I don’t think it’ll make much of a difference either way.

        • Kel says:

          Just to clarify, the team didn’t say he will play. The coach said Malhotra is day-to-day, but he looked good out there today. Also, contrary to what the GM said a couple of days ago, today the coach said Manny is now cleared to play.

    • Tom says:

      When was the last time a team won w/o playing their fourth line at all?

      I don’t know but the 4th line probably would have played (a little) more if there wasn’t so much special team play. If Malhotra does dress, we will see more of him, at least.

      Vigneault is playing it pretty cool, but I think he can taste it. He’s spread out the ice time all year, but he’s starting with a short bench these days. He’s going to ride his horses this series.

      • Rajeev says:

        Yea, I think it’s a good move. Those three lines are playing so well, I’d ride them too. I was merely pointing out that the fourth line is getting almost zero minutes, and that’s pretty unusual. There’s no need to take any mins away of the third line right now; they’re dominating and probably don’t need any more rest.

  5. James Mirtle says:

    Boston looked mighty slow. Slower than I’ve seen them all year.

    In the East.

    • Tom says:

      Do you think they can pick up the pace? Or do you think they looked slow because Vancouver was so fast? The talk from the Bruins is that they played well, but had a few adjustments to make. How do the Bruins close that size of a gap in team speed? The Vigneault plan is to push the pace even higher.

  6. snafu says:

    “The best defenseman on the ice was Alex Edler.”

    :(

    @James. Boston was hurting because they don’t really know how to do this ETZ and Pac TZ preparation that Western Conference teams face as a fact of life.

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