Two important players in the Stanley Cup Final
Can Boston rebound after giving up a soul-crushing goal late in the 3rd period to lose Game 1? Can Vancouver deal with more injuries to their defensemen? Can Boston score a goal on their powerplay? Can the Sedin twins figure out a way to beat the Boston defense?
These are a few of the questions swirling in my mind as I wait for the second game of the Stanley Cup Finals to begin later today. But only one question has an answer that really matters: Who wins the game? Can the Bruins tie the series at one game apiece, or can the Canucks take a two-game lead as the series heads back to Boston? We will have to wait until about 10:30 Eastern Time to find out.
First, let's try to answer the first set of questions, which I think will be important keys to tonight's game. Can Boston win after losing a game, even one as disheartening as Game 1? I think they do have a chance.
The Bruins are an incredibly resilient team. The only time they lost more than one game in a row was during their series with the Montreal Canadiens. They lost Game 2 of that series after losing Game 1. But since that mini-losing streak, Boston is 4-0 when playing after losing the previous game. That includes an impressive 3-0 in their series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
But there is one caveat with that statistic. In the Bruins' losses, the tempo of the game was dictated to them. Consider the losses against Tampa Bay. Each of those games was an offensive shootout. In all three of those games, Tampa scored five goals. Each time, Boston came out in the next game and dominated.
In Game 2, after a 5-2 Game 1 loss, Boston was able to break out offensively in the second period, including scoring twice on the powerplay, to win 6-5. In Game 5, after a 5-3 Game 4 loss, Boston came out and played their defensive "Bruins' style" hockey and shut down the Lightning, winning 3-1. Then, after losing 5-4 in Game 6, Boston completely dominated the style of Game 7. They played incredible defense and won 1-0.
But Game 1 against the Canucks was different. This was not a game that the Canucks were able to run away with. It wasn't an offensive game that the Bruins generally have trouble with. It was actually a game that the Bruins were able to control during certain stretches. The 1-0 score could just as easily come out in favor of the Bruins.
Because the first game was so close, and that it came down to just one mistake by the Bruins, the mindset for Boston is that if they play that way again, just without those mistakes, they can win. But that means they need to play near perfectly. Maybe the Bruins' can play perfect hockey for a game or two, but not for the whole series.
Next question: How do the Canucks deal with their defensive injuries? The answer is quick and easy: They don't even sweat about it.
The Canucks have faced injuries to their defensemen many times during the regular season and the playoffs. Recently, they went significant time without Christian Ehrhoff against the Sharks. According to NHL.com, Allain Vigneault has had 24 different combinations of defensive pairings during the season. Vancouver is used to juggling defensemen. They won't have many problems doing it in the final.
Who wins Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final?
The Boston powerplay has been a huge question mark for the Bruins all through the playoffs. Right now, they are scoring goals only 7.5 percent of the time that they get a man advantage; that is just terrible. They need to make some changes, including putting Zdeno Chara, the man with the hardest shot in the league, back at the point.
To put it simply, I don't think that the Bruins can make the changes necessary to fix their powerplay. This is a huge disadvantage for them heading into Game 2.
In the Nashville series, Daniel and Henrik Sedin were contained by Pekka Rinne, Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. It looked like the twins would continue struggling in the playoffs when, after two periods against San Jose, they were held scoreless.
Over the next thirteen periods, the Twins combined for three goals and 15 assists. In Game 1 against Boston, the Sedins were held scoreless, largely because they spent much of their time on the ice against the Bruins' top defensive pair of Chara and Dennis Seidenberg.
The Sedins have to be able to get on the ice without having to go against Chara and Seidenberg. If they can get significant ice time against Kaberle, Ference, Boychuck or McQuaid, they should be able to find the space necessary to cycle the puck, create space on the ice, make the beautiful passes that everyone knows they are capable of and score goals.
If Daniel and Henrik are able to do this, if they are able to score, look for Game 2, and the rest of the series, to be dominated by the Canucks. If not, look for more grinding defensive games between Vancouver and Boston.
Ultimately, I think the scoring of the Sedins is a key for Vancouver. When they score, Vancouver is clearly the best team in the NHL. The best example of this was Vancouver's five-game decimation of the Sharks.
When the Twins fail to get on the score sheet, Vancouver has much more trouble controlling the game, scoring goals and winning series. But I do think that the Sedins are going to be able to break out in Game 2. Coach Vigneault will be able to get them on the ice against the lesser defensive players of the Bruins.
This, combined with the continuation of Vancouver's stellar defensive play and Luongo's solid goaltending, give the Canucks the edge in the game and the rest of the series. I predict a 4-2 victory for Vancouver tonight.
What do you think? Will the Sedins start scoring tonight? Will the Bruins' defense continue to contain them? Who wins? Comment below.