The basic game review is not something that is often seen here at Bleacher Report, but this particular game deserved it. After all, it’s the only time this season that these two Stanley Cup finalists from a year ago will get to renew acquaintances and remind the hockey world just how much they hate each other, unless they meet in the Stanley Cup Finals again.
If there’s one thing we learned from what transpired on the ice compared to what was said before the game, it’s that we should take the pre-game comments from most athletes with a microscopic grain of salt.
How often have you heard a hockey player, particularly a tough guy, talk smack through the media about what he’s going to do to his opponents, only for nothing to actually happen in the game itself.
Well, this game was the exact opposite.
The vast majority of Canucks and Bruins were down playing the rivalry and the importance of this matchup, saying that it was just another game.
However, it was clearly anything but that as both teams engaged in an old-fashioned Donnybrook early in the opening frame and the bad blood continued from there.
The aforementioned brouhaha took place just under four minutes into the game and it started as a result of Shawn Thornton and Alex Burrows exchanging slashes near the players' benches. Thornton took exception to this and it unraveled from there.
The featured bout was between Nathan Horton and Dale Weise, which was one of the best fights of the year. It lasted a full minute and saw both players exchange plenty of punches. We’ll call it a draw.
Somehow the Canucks received a two-minute, two-man advantage from it all. The extra penalty to Milan Lucic for leaving the bench to get involved in an altercation is understandable, along with the game misconduct, but usually the referees find a way to even out the penalties.
Regardless, Ryan Kesler made the Bruins pay by scoring on the two-man advantage to take an early 1-0 lead. This was big for the Canucks because the power play was a huge letdown for them in the Stanley Cup Finals last June.
Vancouver is a team that prides themselves on making other teams pay for their penalties by using their potent power play, but last year in the Finals they were a dismal 2-for-33 against the Bruins.
The Bruins tied the game at one roughly nine minutes later as Brad Marchand capitalized on a gorgeous pass for sophomore sensation Tyler Seguin by sliding the puck past Canucks backup goaltender Cory Schneider, who got the start instead of Roberto Luongo.
Did I not mention that already? Well, it was kind of a big deal in Boston, but it didn’t stop the Bruins fans from serenading Luongo with chants throughout the game.
More rough stuff ensued immediately after the goal as Maxim Lapierre squared off with Gregory Campbell off the restart. This was a solid fight as well, although neither player landed any damaging punches. We’ll give Campbell the narrow decision simply for throwing a few more punches than Lapierre.
The physical first period also saw some bite to the Sedin’s game, as they refused to shy away from the altercations like they did in last years Finals. In particular, Daniel Sedin was very feisty after he was called for a hooking penalty midway through the period. This was surely a pleasant surprise for most Canucks fans.
The ice seemed to be tilted in the Bruins favor to start the second period as they were all over the Canucks early on. A bad turnover by Alex Edler followed by a hook on Daniel Paille led to a penalty shot for the Bruins grinder.
However, Schneider was up to the task in the Canucks net as he made a glove save to keep the score tied.
It didn’t stay that way for long, though, as a mysterious non-call on what should have been icing on the Bruins led to Rich Peverley snapping a shot blocker-side on Schneider.
Not only did this gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead, but it also led to their fans starting a “We want Luongo!” chant.
The Canucks were able to use their power play to even the score at two later in the period as Alex Burrows subtly tipped Cody Hodgson’s shot through the pads of Tim Thomas.
The interesting thing about this goal from a Canucks perspective was that the second unit started the power play and it paid off. This was likely due to the fact that the first unit struggled on a couple of previous power plays, and clearly the decision by Canucks coach Alain Vigneault paid off.
What happened next was clearly the turning point in the game.
Brad Marchand decided to live up to his reputation as a dirty player by delivering a cheap hit on Sami Salo, which earned him a five-minute major penalty for clipping and a game misconduct.
The normally reserved Salo was clearly agitated by this as he angrily tossed his tick against the glass while being examined by the Canucks medical trainer after the hit.
Salo did not return to the game and the misconduct by Marchand will certainly keep him on top of the public enemy list among Canucks fans, just like Alex Burrows is public enemy number one among Bruins fans.
The Marchand ejection also left the Bruins with just 10 forwards, after Lucic was ejected for leaving the bench during the brawl in the first period.
The Canucks certainly made Marchand pay for his clipping major on the power play, though. Henrik Sedin tipped home a beautiful slap pass by Alex Edler in near the end of the period to give the Canucks a 3-2 lead, and the major penalty continued into the final frame.
Even though Salo didn’t return to the game, perhaps he passed on the wisdom behind his booming slap shot because Cody Hodgson hammered a slap shot past Thomas from the right wing just over a minute into the third.
This gave the Canucks a two-goal lead and it marked their second goal on Marchand’s five-minute major.
However, the Canucks seemed to sit back after that goal and the Bruins showed why they’re the defending Stanley Cup champions, as their aggressive forecheck and smart positional play caused problems for the Canucks for much of the third period.
David Krejci scored off a rebound from a Joe Corvo point shot to make it a one goal game, but Cory Schneider made several great saves down the stretch to preserve a 4-3 victory for the Canucks.
Keys to the victory
As much as the fighting and physical altercations was a factor in the game, as it led to two ejections for the Bruins and one significant injury for the Canucks, the biggest key to the Canucks win was their power play.
Their 4-for-11 performance compared to the Bruins 0-for-7 effort was the difference in a game that featured 107 total penalty minutes (55 for Boston and 52 for Vancouver).
So maybe the Canucks were right all along when they maintained their stance that the reason they didn’t win the Stanley Cup was because they couldn’t capitalize on the power play and not because of the Bruins toughness.
At the very least, the power play was the difference in this particular game, as was the play of Cory Schneider.
Contrary to popular belief among Bruins fans and media members, Schneider got the start because the coaching staff wanted to play him in his hometown of Boston. This was the plan all along and it had nothing to do with Luongo’s subpar play during Games 3, 4 and 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals in Boston.
After all, the Canucks have always started Luongo in his hometown of Montreal, so why would they not return the favor to Schneider in Boston?
But regardless of what anyone believes, the decision to start Schenider was the right one and the Canucks were able to exorcise their demons in Boston with a 4-3 win.
As a final note, does this magnificent game not prove that perhaps the anticipation to a big rivalry game is just as important as the game itself? This has been my theory for quite sometime and I wrote another article about it last week after the Winter Classic.
You can read that article by clicking here.
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