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Five Thoughts: The tables have turned… For now

Jun 9, 2011, 10:00 AM EST

Vancouver Canucks v Boston Bruins - Game Four Getty Images

After four games of the Stanley Cup finals we’re right back to where we started from. The series is locked up at 2-2 and now it’s a best of three race to the end. While the Bruins have smacked the Canucks around in the last two games, everyone’s done their part to protect home ice. Still, if momentum is a real thing the Bruins have all of it and then some. As for our thoughts after what turned out to be yet another wild game, there’s enough to pick at.

1. As you might expect, Roberto Luongo wasn’t a happy guy after the game. When you give up 12 goals in two games while your team is outscored 12-1, everyone should be pretty upset about things. For Luongo, he could be hammering away at his teammates on defense but he’s held off on tossing them under the bus. While Luongo isn’t the right guy to light a fire under the defense, someone should.

With an injury to Dan Hamhuis and Aaron Rome getting himself booted from the playoffs, the Canucks are working with guys Alain Vigneault would rather not have out there like Keith Ballard. Ballard had a brutal night but he’s not alone. Andrew Alberts has struggled out there and while he’s been paired up with Sami Salo, there seems to be very little in the way of communication out there between those two and some of the same mistakes kept happening in Games 3 and 4. It’s not as if Vancouver hasn’t dealt with changing defensive situations thanks to injury, they should be better prepared for such upheaval.

2. One reason why teams can win on home ice better is because they get to work the matchups the way they want to thanks to getting the last change at home. Vancouver was able to mix things up at home to tweak some of the Boston defense pairings. Remember when Johnny Boychuk was the unofficial team goat in the first two games?

The games played in Boston showed that either Claude Julien is a brilliant coach to get the matchups he’s looking for or Alain Vigneault isn’t properly doing the things he has to to minimize the mismatches that will happen. Julien did his part in Vancouver by constantly tinkering with his defensemen on faceoffs. It might start off awkward, but once the puck is dropped, the usual pairings get reset thanks to a quick change. That simple move helped keep the games in Vancouver close. The Canucks kept trying to force the issue themselves and with their defense already in disarray… Well you saw the scores.

3. Brad Marchand starting to remind everyone of another diminutive forward that mixed it up with anyone and everyone regardless of the situation. There’s a lot of Pat Verbeek in what Marchand does out on the ice and that kind of sandpaper game and skill set is something every team loves to have. Perhaps the best part of what Marchand does is that he’s able to do all of his annoying either with his words (just watch how players react to him after the whistle, I’d love to have him mic’ed up for a game but it’d likely be R-rated) or his little agitation moves.

Verbeek was known as “the little ball of hate” and we’re pretty sure if you asked anyone on Vancouver they’d say some colorful things about Marchand to back up a similar moniker for him. His play in the playoffs has been something special though as his ability to score goals and be a tremendous penalty killer have been inspiring and the Bruins have really needed that badly over time.

4. Vancouver’s got some soul searching to do and a couple of guys that could use some ethereal guidance are Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows. These two showed how great they can be earlier in the playoffs but lately against Boston they’ve gone back to old habits of falling for the petty nonsense and getting mixed up with the ancillary games that lead to nothing but trouble. If they can cut back on that stuff and go back to playing with that right mix of jerky play and high-end hockey skill the Canucks will be better off for it.

5. Ready for a fun coincidence? Before Game 3 the Bruins had Cam Neely start things off as the honorary captain to get the fans all worked up into a lather before the game started. The Bruins did right by #8 by scoring eight goals on Vancouver. Before Game 4 it was all about #4 Bobby Orr as he was the honorary captain of the night. The Bruins then shut down Vancouver by scoring four goals in beating the Canucks. Eight goals for #8 and four goals for #4.

I wonder if the Bruins want to test fate and get Raymond Bourque to do the honors before Game 6. Scoring seven or 77 goals (both numbers worn by Bourque as a Bruin) would be something else. They could just try to nail down the seven by getting both Bourque and Phil Esposito to do the honors as Esposito’s #7 is retired by Boston while Bourque’s #77 also hangs from the rafters.

  1. polegojim - Jun 9, 2011 at 10:15 AM

    Winning two games 12-1 is impressive Boston, but winning on someone elses ice all the more so.

    So far home ice rules – but the Stanley Cup Champs must prove they can win without the ‘edge’ of the last changes.

  2. warpstonebc - Jun 9, 2011 at 10:35 AM

    #2 is key. Everything else aside, Vigneault was out-coached in Boston.

    That being said, having last change seems to be the only thing that keeps this series tight. If the Canucks throw everything else in the wash and concentrate on this alone, the series goes the distance.

    • deepthreat - Jun 9, 2011 at 6:34 PM

      If you have been watching the games, you would know that they might want to concentrate on a few more things than getting the last change.

  3. govtminion - Jun 9, 2011 at 11:06 AM

    Part of me is looking at this from a momentum standpoint as well. Vancouver, with last-change in the first two games, managed two one-goal victories- one with less than a minute remaining in the third, one in overtime. Both of those were VERY close games that could have just as easily gone the other direction with a lucky bounce.

    Boston, with last-change in the last two games, absolutely throttled the Canucks. 4-0 doesn’t sound as jaw-dropping as 8-1, but the result is the same- Boston scored the goals they needed to score, and kept the Canucks from doing the same, all in convincing fashion.

    What I take from this is that the Canucks were able to barely scrape away two wins, while the Bruins simply flattened the opposition in the next two. If the Bruins can take momentum from those two huge wins, last-change might not save Vancouver- after all, if the whole Bruins squad is as fired up as they have been the past two games, it doesn’t matter who you put on the ice- they’re all a pain in the butt to play against when they’re like this. And they still need to find a way to beat Thomas, who now has allowed five goals in four games of this series- they need more production quick, because Luongo is showing some disturbing holes in his game.

    The difference between the two teams is shocking right now- and while it could just as easily shift back the other way in Game 5, it will require the Canucks to make some major changes and mental shifts.

  4. tommytd - Jun 9, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    Hey where are the Sedin sisters. My take: they’re just not gamers and they’re not used to playing in the bright lights. They folded their tent in the Chicago series and now it appears they’re folding their tent again!

  5. hystoracle - Jun 9, 2011 at 2:45 PM

    Game 5 is so huge for both teams. If Vancouver wins it goes 7. If Boston wins game 5 – Vancouver is done in 6. I’m seeing Boston in 6 at this point. Vancouver has no heart and no desperation in their game. Playing like a team that has already been defeated. Boston is playing hard, aggressive, with a lot of passion, will, and desperation. The biggest difference is Bruins have the better goaltender right now. And that could be the deciding factor.

  6. deepthreat - Jun 9, 2011 at 6:22 PM

    Vancouver played well the first two games and deserved the close wins, but I can’t see any way they can win in Boston.

    That is a lot of pressure on a team when they have to play mistake-free to win every tight, hotly contested, physical game at home or they are done.

  7. crusty14 - Jun 9, 2011 at 6:57 PM

    Vancouver should stop relying on their acting and diving techniques , it doesn’t seem to be working with the refs in this final round like it did for them in earlier rounds. Boston looks like they learned some things through the first two games and have adjusted things to repel the Canucks attack.

  8. tommytd - Jun 9, 2011 at 8:30 PM

    At this point, I think ALL the pressure is on V. They must win Friday night. If Boston breaks serve tomorrow night, I think that’s gonna just about do it. I don’t see B losing at home when a home ice cup clinch is a possibility. Right now, B is the better team and I hope they’re rewarded with a championship…cause they’re certainly playing like champions!

  9. lettercable - Jun 10, 2011 at 2:10 AM

    The Canucks win when they are allowed to use their speed and passing skills at will. They excell at scoring on power plays. They also win when Luongo has his head in the right space. They don’t do very well in a fighting game.

    The Bruins win when the referees let them intimidate the Canucks by not calling penalties.
    They also are winning because their goalie is playing top notch hockey.

    I hate the cheap shots coming from both the teams. The refs let these shots continue without punishing the guilty ones. I include the checking from behind, grabbing opponents sweaters when the refs aren’t looking, slashing the rear legs and upper arms where there is no padding, rubbing hockey gloves in opponents faces, cross checking from behind, using their none stop verbal agitating relentlessly, constantly using their hockey sticks as weapons.

  10. crusty14 - Jun 10, 2011 at 6:19 AM

    Lettercable, are you trying to say it’s the bruins who are doing all this mean nasty stuff you are talking about? Like Vancouver has never participated in a scrum after the whistle, given face washes, hacked anyone, bitten anyone,etc,etc . Give your head a shake! Both teams have participated in the extra curricular crap. It wouldn’t matter what two teams were there, that kind of stuff is going to happen! Vancouver fans are using this as a crutch as to why their team is faltering. You and Alain V should stop you’re whining and man up! Hockey is a physical game, stop yer crying!

    • lettercable - Jun 10, 2011 at 11:53 AM

      I am a hockey fan. I was born and raised in Toronto and the Leafs are my team.

      My two favourite players are Wayne Gretzgy and Bobby Orr for their sheer talent/hockey skills.

  11. crusty14 - Jun 10, 2011 at 6:20 AM

    Boo hoo hoo please mr. Ref tell them to stop they’re intimidating us!!! Lol

  12. wheresdapuck - Jun 10, 2011 at 7:50 AM

    Cunucks coaching needs a little lesson – I saw 6 straight line changes in Period #2 where the Bruins were holding the Cunucks offense zone. As soon as the Cunucks cleared the puck, a line change, and once again the Cunucks were on their heels. The Cunucks needed to stay out there work magic in the Bruins zone instead of dump & line change. It looked pathetic! That’s just bad coaching…

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