Following the Boston Bruins 1-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks in Game 1 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, Bruins head coach Claude Julien was noted as saying the following when asked about his team’s continued struggles on the power play: “As long as we’re able to stay on even terms with them when it comes to special teams, we’re all right with that.”
No, Claude, at this time of the year, you probably shouldn’t be all right with that.
Despite the fact I am a bit of a cynic when it comes to the prowess of the Boston Bruins and am generally ready to knock them any chance I can get, I am doing my best this month to drink a little more of the Kool Aid. This, however, is not what I want to hear anyone associated with the Bruins saying. There is no room for that “We’re just happy to be here” mentality. At this point in the season, it’s all or nothing.
A coach, however, does have to stay on a bit of an even keel and keep things emotionally balanced, so I can only hope what is being said behind closed doors is a little different. Regardless of what you think of them, the Boston Bruins should not be happy just being here. Even if they lost Game 1 in heartbreaking fashion, after watching Game 1, the Bruins do have a chance to beat Vancouver.
Coming into Game 1, the Canucks were favored 2-1 to win the Cup, and rightly so. Not only did they dominate the Western Conference all season long, but they also led the NHL in many statistical categories throughout the regular season. On paper they are a far better team than the Bruins, particularly offensively. Vancouver also combines the strengths of the Bruins three previous playoff opponents by matching Montreal’s goaltending, Philadelphia’s strength and depth, and Tampa Bay’s special teams. Even before they fell in a 1-0 series hole, winning the Stanley Cup was going to be an uphill battle for the Boston Bruins.
Yet, it can still be done.
One of the biggest questions when facing the Canucks this year has been whether or not you can slow down their offense? The Bruins definitively answered that question in Game 1, a most encouraging sign. The Bruins neutralized the Sedin Twins and the potent Vancouver offense. Goaltender Tim Thomas once again played like a man possessed, carrying the Bruins in stopping 33 shots before blinking with just 18.5 seconds left in regulation. It was the first goal Thomas had given up since 10:15 of the third period in Game 6 of the Conference Finals. The Bruins penalty kill also shined, shutting down all six Vancouver chances. It is on the other end of the ice the Bruins will need to turn their game around in order to turn this series around and it is not just the Bruins abysmal power play that needs to improve.
We all know the Bruins power play is just awful and it can be very well argued that it was the reason Boston lost Game 1, but the far more concerning trend that needs to be corrected is the Bruins lack of secondary scoring. First liners David Krejci and Nathan Horton find themselves tied for fifth in playoff scoring and first and second, respectively, in game-winning goals, but early on in the playoffs it was the second and third lines that carried the Bruins offense. Of late, however, that has not been the case as there has not been much offense coming from the later lines.
Through the first two rounds of the playoffs it was argued that the line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Mark Recchi was one of the best in hockey. The Bergeron line amassed a combined total of nine goals and 21 assists in the 11 games the Bruins played in their first two series. In the eight games since the start of the Conference Finals against the Lightning, the Marchand-Recchi-Bergeron line has recorded just four points, two goals and an assist for Bergeron, who missed two games with a concussion, and a goal from Marchand.
The trio of Krejci, Horton and Milan Lucic has been dubbed the “first line” for a reason and should do a bulk of the Boston scoring. Yet, this also means that they will routinely face the best defensive pairings their opponent has to offer and their number of opportunities will be limited. The rest of the Bruins forwards will have to step up for Boston to have a chance against the Canucks, particularly Bergeron and Marchand. Vancouver may be an offensively geared team, but they do have a strong defensive corps and a Vezina-nominated goaltender. A one-line attack from a team that really does not like to play offense will not suffice in beating the Canucks in four of the next six games. As predicted before the puck even dropped on the playoffs, the Bruins need contributions from all forwards in order to have success.
And success is still theirs to be had. Being happy to just be in the Stanley Cup Finals won’t cut it. Not from a team that has the potential to win.
It can be done.
About the Author
Written by Matt Preston
I'm no Heminway or Haggerty, but keeping the dream alive, even if I'm pretty sure my Nana is my only follower. Self-deprecation is key, grammar is optional.