NHL: Why the Vancouver Canucks Cannot Ease the Pressure on Boston
Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals is complete, and not to the surprise of many, the Vancouver Canucks lead the series 2-0.
After a Game 1 barn burner, which eventually ended with an uncharacteristic goal by Canucks grinder Raffi Torres, the Stanley Cup favourites of the playoffs and regular season silenced the state of Massachusetts, and likely Bruins backer Don Cherry (if this is possible) again in Game 2, after Alexandre Burrows scored an overtime goal that would have been a regulation winner had the third period been extended by 11 seconds.
This was a beautiful display of athleticism, intelligence and will power by Alexandre Burrows, who has won the game in OT for the Canucks three times in this post season. This being said, the Canucks need to be thanking their lucky stars, which had to be aligned ever so perfectly for the miraculous play to take place as they have likely received their one and only freebie from Tim Thomas.
Thomas, aside from a questionable string of games in the series against the Tampa Bay Lightning (where, in spite of letting in many uncharacteristic goals, he displayed some of the most athletic saves of the playoffs and regular season), has been a brick short of a wall throughout the playoffs.
Let me put it in perspective. After having one of the most impressive regular seasons for a goaltender in history, Thomas has carried his heroics and unorthodox style into the postseason, where he entered the Stanley Cup Finals tied in wins with opponent Roberto Luongo, has faced the most shots with 670 (76 more than Luongo), saved the most shots with 623 (72 more than Luongo), and posted a save percentage of .930 (Luongo's is .928).
This is with no discredit to the performance of Roberto Luongo, who has performed at as high a level as Thomas has, and finally been freed from the label of "choker." The point I am trying to make is that the 2-0 series lead by Vancouver isn't an accurate representation of the two games that have been played between these two teams or of the level of competition they have displayed.
In Game 1 we saw a battle between the pipes as both defenders of the cotton cage were barraged with shots, and both teams were unable to put a point on the board through most of regulation. However, Vancouver would put in the game winner in a similar manner to how they would do it in Game 2, only this time it would be in the dying seconds of the period instead of at the beginning of one.
The winner came off of a smart hockey play by the most hated man in the playoffs (Sorry Ben Eager, you were a close second). Raffi Torres was the only man on the ice that night who could put the puck in the net, and the replay shows that Tim Thomas almost had something to say about it as his trademarked flailing effort nearly made the stop.
The Vancouver Canucks came out with the win, but the Boston Bruins played an equally hard fought game, and would certainly head into Game 2 with a little more motivation.
On Saturday night, we watched a Game 2 that would be the polar opposite of Game 1. The scoring opened up with a strike by the man who would eventually end it, as Alexandre Burrows potted his eighth of the playoffs. Being outscored 2-0 in the series, Boston would finally draw blood after four periods of hockey and score two in the second period off the sticks of talented grinder Milan Lucic and veteran Mark Recchi. Daniel Sedin eventually tied it up halfway through the third frame forcing overtime, where we all saw what happened (unless you blinked, in which case you would have missed it).
Should Alexandre Burrows have received a suspension
I believe that hindsight is 20-20, and I do not generally entertain what-ifs and if-onlys, but since this has been such an exciting series, I am going to play devil's advocate and point out something that many of you will have already damaged your television for. The lack of scoring in Game 1 was compensated for when, in a scuffle, Alexandre Burrows (he has his name all over this series) seemingly bit the hand of Patrice Bergeron (when I say seemingly, I mean obviously).
After review by the NHL, no suspension was given out. Now, we've seen disciplinary action taken against this kind of thing in the past, and regardless of whether or not you believe it to be just, the NHL made what they thought to be the best decision, which Vancouver came out on the right side of for the second time in these playoffs (See: Raffi Torres/Brent Seabrook).
Like I said, hindsight is 20-20, but IF a suspension had been given out, and everything else stayed constant, Boston would have shut out the Canucks in Game 2 (Burrows had a point on all three goals scored by the Canucks), leaving the series at 1-1.
These are not pointless recaps, as they illustrate that, contrary to the 2-0 series score, neither of these teams has had a dominating performance over the other or shown that they deserve the Stanley Cup more than the other. For the skeptics out there, here is some food for thought. Through six periods of hockey, and 11 seconds of overtime, Vancouver has had 67 shots on goal, compared to Boston's 66. Tim Thomas has stopped 63 of the shots taken against him, compared to Roberto Luongo, who has stopped 64. If these teams were playing anymore equal, we'd be several hundred overtimes into Game 1 right now.
After some of the most nail biting, and jaw dropping hockey of the 2011 playoffs has been played, this series has just begun, and with two games completed and only six goals from two of the highest scoring teams in hockey, we can only expect it to get more interesting as we await the emergence of players like Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa, Nathan Horton (Burrows isn't the only clutch goal scorer in this series), and Patrice Bergeron.
Until then, expect the unexpected, and don't be so quick to call off your bets, as this series can swing in Boston's favour as quickly as it did for Vancouver.
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