By Nick Craddock
We have a series again.
After the Bruins dismantled the Vancouver Canucks 8-1 in game 3, which didn’t even require a blog post (mainly because I was out enjoying the summer weather — I can’t stay Canadian and pale forever, you know?), the Bruins thoroughly outplayed the Canucks en route to a 4-0 victory in game 4. Now, the series becomes a best-of-three for the right to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup.
From the beginning of the game, and actually even prior to the puck drop when Bruins legend Bobby Orr buoyed the crowd to get loud, the Bruins seemed to want the victory while the Canucks seemed lethargic the entire game. No question, the Canucks are the favorite on paper, but working hard, “doing the little things” as many hockey intelligentsia tend to say, can compensate for a lack of natural skill and ability any day in the NHL.
It doesn’t help that Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo has decided to implode either.
The Bruins chased Luongo from the game early in the third period after he allowed his fourth questionable goal of the game and turned aside only 16 shots. It’s hard to tell if Luongo broke a sweat before he was pulled for the third time these playoffs because his hair always looks moist (I think he uses a Paul Mitchell mousse), but he should be sweating because he is costing his team in a manner that his counterpart, Tim Thomas, is not.
Although he got the loss in the first two games, Thomas is a big reason why the Bruins have gotten back in this series and he was a big reason why the Bruins almost stole a game in Vancouver. Luongo may have matched Thomas for the first two games in Vancouver, but he never exceeded the efforts of Thomas, and he has struggled mightily in both games in Beantown, which doesn’t seem to be a fluke.
Look at Luongo’s home-versus-road splits during the playoffs and the difference is stark. At home, he is 9-3 with a 1.84 GAA and a .937 save percentage with three shutouts. On the road, he is 5-4 with a 3.31 GAA and a .892 save percentage with zero shutouts.
Right now, Thomas is playing like a goalie destined for the Conn Smythe Trophy and Luongo looks like a goalie destined to be smacked over the head by a blunt object, like a trophy, if he lets the city of Vancouver down, and his much more talented team down by continuing his best impression of a sieve.
Truth is, Bruins not only wanted this one more, but they needed this one more. And we have a series again.
Turning point: Yes, it wasn’t during game 4, but Aaron Rome’s late hit on Boston’s Nathan Horton in game 3 has turned this series on its head. Instead of Rome giving his team a minor boost by dishing out a big hit, the momentum pendulum swung in favor of the Bruins, who rallied around the loss of Horton and have morphed into a more confident, cohesive team than ever before in these playoffs.
Since Horton left the second period of game 3 on a stretcher the Bruins have outscored the Canucks 12-1. Yikes. Don’t you feel a bit foolish, Aaron Rome?
Three Stars of the game:
- Thomas — Stopped all 38 shots he faced; became first Bruins goalie since Gerry Cheevers (1972) to register a shutout in the Stanley Cup finals.
- Brad Marchand — The rookie scored for the second straight game, but more importantly, he was a nuisance to the Sedin twins offensive game.
- Rich Peverley — An unsung hero who stepped up with two goals filling in for Horton on the top line.
Black & Decker Tool of the game: Alex Burrows (again!). Burrows who is
not only to blame for allegedly biting Patrice Bergeron in game 1, but also for
being a pest in general. Burrows regularly camps out in front of the net during
Vancouver power plays and he has been whacking the butt end of Thomas’ stick in an attempt to throw the stellar Thomas off his game (I promise, there is no
innuendo in that sentence).
Well, Thomas will occasionally let a puck in the net — only five goals surrendered in his last five games — but he will absolutely not tolerate tools patrolling his crease.
After some chatting and chippy behavior at the other end of the ice, Burrows knocked Thomas’ stick out of his hand late in the third period with the Canucks on the power play and Thomas took exception, chopping Burrows in the knee.
“I thought it was a good time to send a message that he’s not going to get away with it forever,” Thomas told the CBC’s Elliotte Friedman outside the locker room.
‘Dem fighting words.
(Note: Thomas didn’t resort to the fetal position when Burrows took a swipe at him after the chop like many a goalie would have. He’s nuckin’ futs!)
Other nuts and bolts:
Whether or not Luongo starts the next game is not as certain a fact as it was four days ago. Backup Cory Schneider relieved Luongo during games 4 and 5 in first-round blowout losses versus the Blackhawks and then started game 6 against Chicago before leaving that game with an injury. Will Luongo be given another opportunity to regain his mojo? Safe bet is yes.
Lastly, this series is now officially grittier than Jeff Bridges in “True Grit.” You know, eye-patch, whiskey and saloon hookers gritty. Don’t be surprised to
see these teams’ emotions spontaneously combust into an on-ice fracas if game 5
gets out of hand on the scoreboard for either team.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze