This year’s Stanley Cup final has been a tale of two cities, as each team has taken care of business on home ice. Many said the series was over after Vancouver took the opening two games, only to watch Boston dominate, physically and mentally, Games 3 and 4 to even the series.
As the series heads back to Vancouver for tonight’s Game 5, there are many saying that Boston has taken over the series and it is over. I have been around this game long enough to know that momentum is great, but a hot goalie – or a lucky bounce – can change momentum quickly.
In honor of Boston’s offensive output the last two games, here are twelve things for which to watch in tonight’s game:
1. Roberto Luongo’s body language: Luongo looked defeated, literally and figuratively, when he was yanked from Game 4. He made excuses for the goals, and looked like someone had kicked his puppy. IF he cannot get his head on straight, the Canucks are in deep trouble.
2. The Canucks’ forwards vs. Tim Thomas: The Canucks, especially Maxim lapierre and Alexandre Burrows, have tried to get under Thomas’ skin. All they have succeeded in doing is angering him, which usually makes Thomas play better. The constant whining about him decking a Sedin, being out of the crease, and retaliating against Burrows is getting old. The Canucks need to spend more time figuring out how to beat Thomas rather than ways to get in his head. It isn’t going to happen.
3. The play of Milan Lucic: Boston’s power forward was pretty silent through the playoffs until Game 3, when he delivered some big hits, popped Burrows, and riled up the fans with his finger in the face of the biter. He then played a fantastic Game 4, burying Vancouver defensemen and making Kevin Bieksa look like a Squirt with a great move at the blue line to set up Boston’s fourth goal.
4. If Daniel and Henrik show up: They have been called out, called divers, and called Thelma and Louise, among other things. Many, including me, have cracked that Sedin means “little girl” in Swedish (or maybe it means “P.K. Subban). Many have complained it is unfair criticism, but I say it is completely fair. These two have not shown up, have taken dive after dive, have played soft, and have let their team down. They deserve every piece of criticism being hurled at them. How to make it stop? Perform on the biggest stage of their career, rather than piddle down their legs.
5. The state of Vancouver’s defensemen: These guys have been taking a beating from Boston all series, and the wear and tear was evident in Games 3 and 4. They looked tired and beaten. Christian Ehrhoff turtled at the sight of Adam McQuaid, Sami Salo has been invisible, and Keith Ballard threw up on himself under pressure. Even Bieksa, who is a tough, tough customer, looked like he had enough by the midpoint of Game 4.
6. Mike Millbury: Vancouver fans have shown their hypocrisy. They found
Lapierre’s finger in Patrice Bergeron’s face as a joke and funny, but Millbury calling the Sedins “Thelma and Louise” as offensive and disrespectful. You can’t have it both ways. I am sure Millbury will be booed lustily – maybe he will remove a shoe and beat a fan.
7. Vancouver’s power play: Everyone thought the Canucks’ power play would be the difference in this series (and it still might), but so far, Vancouver is 1-for-22 on the power play. Gregory Campbell, Daniel Paille, Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and others have dominated on the PK. Meanwhile, Boston’s power play, while not good, is still better than Vancouver’s, going 3-for-17.
8. The Western Conference is far more dominant than the Eastern Conference: I bought into this for awhile, but the real statement is the Western Conference is more skilled than the Eastern Conference. More skilled does not necessarily translate into better, as hockey is a physical game. The East is far more physical and Boston might be the most physical team in the East. The Canucks have not been able to handle the physical play to this point.
9. Tyler Seguin and Michael Ryder: These two seemed to have formed some kind of bond, and have played really well together. Ryder has also played great at both ends of the ice in Games 3 and 4, and usually plays in spurts. Bruins’ fans should be hoping he has three more games of hot streak left in him.
10. Conn Smythe Candidates: Boston has Thomas and David Krejci, who leads
the playoffs in scoring and has been playing great two-way hockey since the opening series. Vancouver has Ryan Kesler and Luongo, as well as Burrows as candidates. With the series down to a best-of-three, the real MVP may not have shown himself just yet – though Thomas is definitely the odds-on favorite at this point.
11. Vancouver’s start: The Canucks need to change the momentum of this series and get the fans fired up. A big hit or, even better, an early goal, would help with that. Vancouver really should not want to fall behind tonight, as that could be the death knell.
12. Mason Raymond: He has played very well, even in Games 3 and 4, and seems poised for a breakout game, It could be tonight.
Topics: Alexandre Burrows, Boston Bruins, Christian Ehrhoff, Daniel Paille, Daniel Sedin, David Krejci, Gregory Campbell, Henrik Sedin, Kevin Bieska, Mason Raymond, Michael Ryder, Mike Millbury, Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron, Roberto Luongo, Ryan Kesler, Tim Thomas, Tyler Seguin, Vancouver Canucks, Zdeno Chara