2011 Stanley Cup: Can Vancouver Rebound in Game 4 After an Embarrassing Loss?

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2011 Stanley Cup: Can Vancouver Rebound in Game 4 After an Embarrassing Loss?
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Is Roberto Luongo the psychologically fragile goalie of past years?

Regardless of who wins Game 4, if the quality of play is similar to that of the previous game, any hockey fan will not be pleased.

To me, Game 3 was simply a case of one team out-slopping the other. Both teams had turnovers, missed passes and blown assignments. It’s just that Vancouver had what seemed to be infinitely more mistakes than the Bruins. The only positive performance resulting from such a sloppy game was that of Tim Thomas, who stopped 40 of 41 shots.

Obviously, Vancouver played much worse than the Bruins; they were well below their potential and played their worst hockey since the blowouts of the Blackhawks series. For an obvious reason, much of the blame has been placed on Roberto Luongo. He is an easy target for criticism. Statistically, he gave up eight goals. To say it again: Roberto Luongo gave up eight goals.

But how were much of those goals scored? Only one can be seen as entirely his fault or largely his fault, and that was Daniel Paille’s shorthanded tally, which deflected off of Luongo’s equipment and skittered across the line. It was a shot he probably should have stopped.

But the other seven Boston goals were as much the fault of Canuck skaters as Luongo. Deflections, tap-ins, one-timers from the top of the paint all occur because one team’s forwards out-physical the other team and get prime positioning. For example, on his second goal, Mark Recchi was left wide open in front of the net, waiting for a simple pass that he could blast past Luongo.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Thomas has been phenomenal. He needs to.

The genesis of Boston’s dominance in Game 3 can be traced to the start of the second period. The Bruins were determined to play their style of hockey, and from the start they were aggressive and physical. But for that first period Vancouver was able to match their intensity.

It was after the first intermission, the Bruins seemed to have a little extra that may have surprised Vancouver. Suddenly, it was 4-0 in favor of Boston. From then on, the Bruins were in control and, in a fairly embarrassing fashion, Vancouver seemed to ease up a little bit and let Boston dictate play.

The line that might show how the Canucks truly feel about the Game 3 blowout comes from Kevin Bieksa: “It’s not aggregate scores,” he said. “It’s not the Champions League. It’s the Stanley Cup Final.”

Whether the decision was conscious or not, entering the third period Vancouver seemed content to more or less “give” Boston the win. Perhaps they felt that the score was insurmountable, but the result seemed to be that Boston kept playing at a high level, scoring goals and starting fights, while the Canucks were willing to absorb the punishment and conserve energy for future games.

Boston has quite a mountain to climb in this Stanley Cup Final. They are down 2-1 without home ice. And after an illegal hit delivered by Aaron Rome onto Nathan Horton, they are down one of their best, and most clutch, scorers. Because of Rome’s well-deserved suspension Vancouver loses one of its bigger, more physical defenders. But Boston’s losing Horton is definitely a bigger, and more unfortunate, loss.

Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Who will be celebrating on the plane ride back to Vancouver?

Many propose that losing Horton may not be that big of a loss to the goal-scoring potential of the Bruins. They scored eight times without him, after all. But I believe that many of those goals were scored because of the raw emotional intensity that the Bruins displayed and many uncharacteristic errors made by Vancouver. Relying on another team’s errors, especially when facing such a skilled team as the Canucks, is a risky strategy even though Boston may be able to force some mistakes.

But the emotional intensity that the Bruins displayed is hard to duplicate and play with over a five, six or seven game series. In Game 3 Boston’s intensity was partly caused by playing in front of their home fans and partly caused by having their backs against the wall because they were down 2-0 in the series. But much of the emotion that the Bruins had resulted from witnessing the hit on Horton and hearing that their teammate was able to move his extremities in Mass General Hospital after suffering such a dangerous hit.

I do not think that Boston can replicate this intensity in each of the remaining games of this series. Furthermore, Boston may come out flat in the next game, or at least relatively so, after such an intense and emotional victory.

Regardless, hockey fans will be saved from a repeat of Monday night’s horrendous hockey game. Vancouver will return to their usual form and eliminate the terrible mistakes that cost them Game 3. Most importantly, they will be prepared to match the physicality and intensity that Boston may have Wednesday night.

The Bruins do not have another offensive explosion and Tim Thomas does not have another night of standing on his head to stop Canuck pucks. If Boston and its fans think that Game 3 is anything but an aberration, they will be disappointed. It won’t be easy but with an empty net goal, Vancouver wins 3-1.

 

Does Vancouver win? Is it crazy to presume that a team can bounce back from such a horrendous and embarrassing loss? Do the Bruins hold home ice advantage after such a dominating win? Comment below!

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