Game 4 Thoughts: Boston, Thomas Are In The Heads of Vigneault, Canucks


Depending for which team you were rooting, Wednesday night was either a great night or a massive disappointment. The Boston Bruins evened up the best-of-seven Stanley Cup finals with a dominating 4-0 performance that saw the Bruins physically dominate and intimidate the Vancouver Canucks.

As the dust settles from another emotional night at TD Garden, a few thoughts and lessons from Game 4 of the finals:

  • Michael Ryder is playing like a man possessed (or, as a friend likes to say, doing his J.D. Drew impersonation of floating through the regular season and performing in the playoffs). He has been great at both ends of the ice in Games 3 and 4, scoring a goal and making several key plays on the backcheck. Has he done enough for the Bruins to consider bringing him back next year? My guess would be no, unless he takes a huge pay cut. With a glut of Ryder-type guys like Steve Sullivan, Ville Leino, Jussi Jokinen, Radim Vrbata, and Simon Gagne on the market, it is likely the Bruins can get a better deal.
  • As I have pointed out many times, Tim Thomas likes being challenged, likes being doubted. He has always played his best when people go after him. It still shocks me that Alain Vigneault did not realize this and continually makes a big deal out of Thomas playing out of the crease. All it is has done, as I predicted, was anger Thomas and make him play even better.

The Canucks also need to do less whining, especially about Thomas, and become more concerned with their own play. The Sedins are too busy complaining about Thomas slashing Alexandre Burrows (and looked prepared to fight the most hated man in Boston), with Henrik Sedin saying,  “I’m sure the referees are going to take a look at that and look for it next game. It’s not the first time it happened and it’s not going to be the last time. I think the referees are looking at the same tape that we are. They’re going to do that for sure. They’re going to look at those tapes and they’re going to see what goes on with Chara and Thomas in front, and they’re going to have to call those. It’s not going to continue.”                                                                                                        Sorry Henrik, at this point in the series, you should be more concerned with    your own game and not relying on the league to look at what was a basic slash that was called by the officials.

Just like I said after Vancouver won the first two games at home, this series is far from over. Boston did what it needed to do in winning two games at home, but the Bruins still need to win at least one game in Vancouver and two total. The Canucks did not get to the final by quitting, so expect them to play better in Game 5.

A championship team needs its stars to play well, and Boston’s Thomas,

Zdeno Chara, David Krejci, and Patrice Bergeron have all done that. However, these teams also need its role players to step as well, and last night was Rich Peverley’s turn. Peverley netted a pair of goals, including the huge first goal, and played one of his best overall games of the postseason. I loved the trade for Peverley when it happened, and he has delivered with a solid all-around game for Boston.

Milan Lucic played his best game of the postseason. In addition to throwing his weight around, he made a great move to completely make Kevin Bieksa – an excellent defenseman – look foolish, before dishing it across to Peverley for Boston’s fourth goal. Maxim Lapierre’s finger in the face of Bergeron appears to have snapped Lucic back into what he was most of the season – a very dangerous man on the ice.

Henrik and Daniel Sedin look like they wanted out of Boston as fast as possible. The two have taken a beating, literally and figuratively, on and off the ice. The criticism is deserved, no matter what anyone says, as stars need to shine on the biggest stage and the Sedins, to this point, have not. That still can change, but they are going to need to find a way to battle through the physical play, and I’m not convinced they can do that.

One Vancouver player that has impressed me in this series is Mason Raymond. Though he has not scored yet, Raymond has been hustling and creating opportunities. He seems to get it, playing tough, physical hockey and working hard every shift. If the Sedins played like Raymond, the Canucks may not be in the trouble in which they appear to be.

Talk has Vigneault going to Cory Schneider for Game 5, but I can’t see that happening. Roberto Luongo may have struggled, but he is the horse that got you here, he was brilliant in Games 1 and 2, and has shown the ability to rebound from poor performances in the past – most recently getting the monkey that is Chicago off his back with a great Game 7 effort in the opening round.

If the Bruins continue to beat up Bieksa and company on the Vancouver blue line, I don’t see how the Canucks can survive. The defense looks tired and beaten, and they will need a better effort to rally the Canucks in Game 5 Friday night.

  • As it stands at this moment, Tim Thomas is the Conn Smythe winner. Of course, two games ago, Luongo looked like he was at the top of the list of MVP contenders, so things can certainly still change.