By Nick Craddock
Tim Thomas was so close to stealing game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals. For 59 minutes and 41 seconds, the Boston Bruins’ goaltender stood on his head and looked to be leading the charge to an unlikely road victory to open the series.
However, being close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades and heart surgery. No, wait, scratch the latter.
With 18.5 seconds left in the game, Canucks tough guy Raffi Torres broke a 0-0 deadlock on a bing-bang play made possible by nifty passes by Ryan Kesler and Jannik Hansen.
To be fair to Thomas, he had little to no chance to stop Torres’ shot, shot no. 34, and really, he had no business stopping some of the previous 33 shots he faced, including a third-period breakaway shot by Hansen. Even so, given Thomas’ performance, the Bruins will most likely feel as if they were cheated of this game. Or at the very least, a chance for a lucky bounce to go their way in overtime.
Thomas’ counterpart, Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo, was equally capable in the other net turning aside all 36 shots he faced as he continues to shed the reputation of being a goalie that flakes in big-game situations.
Goalies can easily steal a game or two in the NHL playoffs, but don’t count on Thomas to steal four games for the Bruins. He can’t be, as many a Bostonian probably said Wednesday night, “wicked shawp,” for the entire series.
In hindsight, this will probably be a golden opportunity the underdog Bruins regret not seizing. And for Thomas, his stunning performance will be undone by his regrets about the one shot he failed to stop.
Besides restating the obvious (yes, the Torres goal was huge), the Bruins continued futility on the power play didn’t do Thomas any favors. With a two-man advantage near the beginning of the second period, the Bruins were able to
generate some scoring chances, but simply couldn’t score. Especially on the
road, a failed opportunity with the man advantage can be a boon to the home
Boston was 0-for-6 on the power play, total. If the Bruins get that many power play chances in the upcoming games, they need to capitalize.
Three Stars of the game:
1. Luongo-Only way Luongo was getting this honor was if he bested Thomas. He did.
2. Thomas-Such a tough way to lose. The veteran goalie has perfected the art of bounce-back games; let’s see if the trend persists.
3. Torres/Kesler-Torres will be bought a beer or two tonight, but Kesler’s great play at the blue line was ultimately responsible for this goal to eventually occur. Plus, Kesler’s game was better than Torres’ given their entire bodies of work during game.
Black & Decker Tool of the game: Alex Burrows. The Canucks forward was
a downright toolbag after replay showed that he seemingly bit Bruins’ forward
Patrice Bergeron during a scuffle behind the net once the first period buzzer
had sounded. It’s not cool when you bite an opponent in any sport. Ask Mike Tyson about that one. Moreover, Burrows took four chintzy penalties in the game. Such a lack of discipline would surely make any Grand Master of a dojo shudder.
However, the nibble on Bergeron’s finger prompted this classic response from NBC analyst (and former Boston Bruin) Mike Milbury during the intermission: “I know Burrows is hungry for a championship, but you can’t take a bite out of a player’s finger.”
Har-dee-har! Oh, that was classic, Mike!
Other nuts and bolts: Dan Hamhuis left the game in the second period after hip-checking Milan Lucic in front of the Bruins’ bench. After the hipcheck, Hamhuis was cross-checked in the head by David Krejci, of the Bruins. Hamhuis has had a history of concussions, so it’s possible that it could be a head-related injury. If Hamhuis misses a lot of time, the loss will affect the Canucks greatly, as the Smithers, British Columbia, native is one half of the Canucks’ shutdown
defensive pairing (Kevin Bieksa is the other half).
How could any hockey fan (OK, Canadian hockey fan, but really aren’t they one in the same?) not have been moved by the Rogers Arena crowd joining in to sing “O Canada” before the game? Beautiful.
Given the amount of feistiness that took place, it’ll be interesting to see if coaches Claude Julien and Alain Vigneault make changes to their lineups. In game 1, both coaches opted for speed over brawn; the Bruins stuck with Tyler Seguin instead of veteran Shawn Thornton, and the Canucks opted for Alex Bolduc instead of bruiser Tanner Glass. Don’t be surprised to see Thornton and Glass slide into the lineup for game 2, which is slated for Saturday night in Vancouver.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.