Monday, June 13, 2011

Preview of Game 5 in Vancouver

Of Mice and Men
By Thomas Chace Jr.

June 10, 2011

Tonight’s Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals is fast approaching in Vancouver, BC. Their residents and fans, much like their team of late, complained before Game 1 was played. Playing at 5:00 was inconvenient for workers and the masses, who wish to witness the magic that is the Stanley Cup Finals. Canadiens are learning that American sports television will dictate when and what time you will get to watch.

Let’s get to the game. Can the Bruins continue to physically dominate the recently meek Canucks? Scoring first is important for both teams. When the Boston Bruins score the first goal they have a 10-1 record in the post season.

The Bruins have had the lead 32.1% of the time in the Stanley Cup Finals. Vancouver has led for only 9.5% of the series thus far. Looking back at Games 1 and 2, the Bruins lost with .18 seconds left in Game 1, and .11 seconds into overtime of Game 2. Are these two teams separated by a mere .29 seconds? It certainly was not a dominant showing by the favored Vancouver club. In reality, those two games could have gone either way. Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo were both outstanding in net. Vancouver, a very efficient team took advantage of two Boston defensive miscues and made them pay.

Boston is built to win board battles and outmuscle you for possession of the puck. It is Vancouver, however, who is actually out hitting Boston in the series, although it is clear that Boston is dominating the physical play. The Bruins have been much rougher in their treatment of the Canucks, especially to the MVP Sedin twins. Canuck’s Ryan Kesler has not looked right since he got rocked by Bruin co-leader in hits, Johnny Boychuk earlier in the series. The addition of Shawn Thornton to the Boston line-up has made an emotional and physical impact in the series. Games 3 and 4 were physically dominated by the Bruins as they romped over the Canucks 8-1 and 4-0. Boston exerted their will at the TD Garden; will they be able to continue this physical play on the road?

The formerly horrible Bruins power-play is 3 for 17 (17.6%) in this series and outgunning the vaunted power-play of Vancouver. The fantastic penalty-killing of the Bruins has held the Canucks to one power-play goal in the series. They are 1 for 22 (4.5%) in this series on the power-play, which is well under their 24% average earlier in the post-season and during the regular season. Will the law of averages catch up with the Bruins in Game 5?

The Vancouver defense is beat up and are playing guys who were supposed to practice and watch from the press box. They were thrown into the fire and now have played and gained experience after sitting for weeks. Can they step up and limit their mistakes?

Roberto Luongo was pulled mercifully in Game 4 after the Bruins made it 4-0 on Wednesday night. He should have been pulled in Game 3 instead of being asked if he’d like to come out by Head Coach Alain Vigneault. What kind of athlete would volunteer to come out of a game? Luongo should have rested in the third period and perhaps that would have helped his mind focus on the next game instead of the next shot in a game that was long over. Will Luongo bounce back in Rogers Arena? When he was pulled in Game 4, 10,000 fans cheered while watching in disgust on the arena’s large video screen.

The Canucks have been trying to play like the Bruins. That has proved futile. They need to look at Montreal and Tampa Bay video to see how to beat the Bruins with speed and skill. They face a rock in the Bruins net though. Tim Thomas is playing as well as any goalie in Stanley Cup Finals history. Will the Canucks be meek and mild in their home building, I think not. I do believe that Boston can play with them on any level though.

Boston believes they can play their style on the road, and feel they can have the same success they experienced in Boston. Tim Thomas, when asked about being physical said “I think it’s important for us to play the same type of game that we played the last two games. That’s what led to the success that we had in those two games.”

He admits it easy to talk a good game but performing it is something else. “It takes an extreme amount of effort and people laying their bodies on the line and that’s what we’re going to need as a group and as a team to come out of tonight’s game victorious.”

What will happen tonight in Game 5? Who knows? Will Vancouver stand up to the “Big, Bad, Bruins?” That’s what makes sports so special; you have to play the game. Any number of things could happen, but if it’s a battle of wills, I like Boston. It should be a great game and may not look like any of the other contests. I see overtime deciding Game 5.

Drop that puck!

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