Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 5: Analysis, Predictions and Questions
Tonight, the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks will go head-to-head to take a 3-2 series lead in the Stanley Cup finals. The team that wins tonight will gain an advantage, earning two chances to close out the series.
Should Vancouver win tonight, the home-ice winning trend will continue and the Canucks will head back to Boston with a chance to close out the series and, should they lose, they will have a second chance to win the Cup at home in front of their fans in Game 7.
If Boston wins, they will continue their winning streak ensuing Nathan Horton's injury and they will put themselves in position to win in six games and hoist the Cup in front of their faithful.
With the seven-game series effectively cut down to a three-game series, it's now crunch time for Vancouver and Boston's warriors.
The series, so far, has featured grueling body checks, a number of highlight reel goals—and some not-so-highlight-reel goals—plenty of scrums and taunting in what is sure to be a great developing cross-conference rivalry and loud and faithful fans willing their home team to win.
Going into the game there are plenty of questions and lots of buzz going around.
Let's take a look at what tonight's affair should look like.
So far, the team playing the more intimidating game has dominated play. Hits have played a big part.
Except for Game 1, in which the hitting was 31-30 in favor of Boston who lost the game 1-0, all of the games in this series so far have seen the team that outhits the other win the game.
The shift in this stat was really seen in Games 3 and 4. Vancouver had dominated physical play in the first two games—their forecheckers were great at getting deep in the offensive zone and finishing checks on Boston's defensive corps.
However, in the last two games, Vancouver's forwards started shying away from physical contact and Boston's forwards significantly stepped up their game and laid plenty of hits on Vancouver's d-men—both Shawn Thornton's insertion into the lineup and the desire to avenging Horton were likely behind this shift.
The results were obvious. Vancouver's defenders look severely gassed at the ends of both Game 3 and Game 4.
Expect Vancouver to come out hitting this game, supported by their home crowd. But also look for Boston to continue their Big Bad Bruins ways.
Also look for plenty of taunting—by players and fans. There has been lots of reaction to Burrows' biting incident by both teams, and it seems to get more intense and emotional every game.
Tim Thomas is not a butterfly goalie. He is not a standup goalie, nor is he a hybrid goalie.
Tim Thomas is a caged animal. His playing style? Keep the puck out of the net by any means uncomfortably and painfully necessary or unnecessary.
Boston's netminder has been stellar thus far. Unfortunately for Vancouver, the Vezina candidate on the other end of the ice has not looked so great. While Luongo looked great in the first two games, he received a lot of help from his D. With a very fatigued corps lacking two of its usual players, he did not get as much help in the last two games and played fairly poor and fatigued himself.
The question is, has Luongo recovered from being shaken up and will Vigneault start Luongo or Schnieder between the pipes tonight.
I think Schneider should get the nod, personally, but expect Luongo to start between the pipes. Luongo is a good goalie and if he and his coach are confident that he's gotten over the 12 goals scored against him, he will start. There's a small chance Scheinder will start, however, seeing as his play in relief of Luongo in Game 4 was superb.
Even so, expect Luongo back in net to start, albeit with a short leash.
Is It Home-Ice Advantage or Has Something Clicked for Boston?
Something clicked for Boston after Rome's unforgivable hit on Horton.
That being so, will their winning ways continue on the road in Game 5 or was it simply the energy of their sixth skater that got them through their victories in Game 3 and Game 4.
I suppose we'll find out tonight.
There was enough of a change in the Bruins' confidence that I expect their elite play to continue tonight. Expect Vancouver's defense to be ready, however. A large number of the 12 goals scored in the last two games were a result of defensive breakdowns in the 'Nucks zone, neutral zone breakdowns, laziness by Vancouver's defensemen, fatigue and poor goaltending. Expect Vancouver to come out refreshed in front of their hometown crowd tonight.
Still, look for them to be hesitant despite the energy given them by their fans. Whether you're a pro athlete or not, getting beaten as badly as the Canucks were the last two games does not slip one's thoughts easily. That said, should Vancouver slip up even once, Boston will go for the jugular and, most likely, chomp down and not let go.
Boston should win tonight, but don't expect it to be the high-scoring spectacle the last two affairs were.
To be brief, Boston's role players and depth guys have really stepped up and done all and more than they are expected to.
Vancouver's players of the same breed did okay enough to help their team to victory in the first two games but had their tails between their legs in the last two.
Considering the absence of any production by the Sedin twins, Kesler and Vancouver's other stars, if the Canucks want any chance of winning tonight, their role players have to step up.
Chara is making himself a good argument for the Conn Smythe and his fellow blueliner have really played a great defensive game. That said, Vancouver's coaching staff really needs to do some good line matching and the role players, when they are out on the ice, need to wear down the B's defense like they did in Games 1 and 2 and produce scoring chances when they aren't out against the Bruins top defensive pairings.
Enjoy the Game
Tonight will be a great affair. Expect all of these things to play a big factor tonight.
Expect no more or less than a few goals on each side in a speedy, physical, heated game tonight. Boston should win this one, but look for Vancouver to take advantage of their fans' energy and show that they are still one of the NHL's elite and can recover from psychological injury.
Be sure to comment with agreements, disagreements, questions or things you think I missed that will play a factor.